Amandala Editorial

The Guatemalans say that they inherited rights to the Belizean territory from Spain. Well, Guatemala became independent from Spain in 1821, and the settlement of Belize already had a coat-of-arms in 1819 (featuring two black woodcutters, incidentally). To paraphrase the Bible, then, before Guatemala was, Belize is.

No one ever asks from whence Spain, a European nation, acquired rights over the Americas. The answer is that Spain was deeded rights by the Pope of Rome. Now the immediate question from infidels like ourselves is this: Exactly from where did a religious leader acquire the authority to give people’s lands to other people? And we suppose, “they” will say the Pope acquired it from God. An infidel would say, that is patently absurd. But the Belizean people are not infidels. It is believed that the majority of Belizeans belong to the Pope of Rome’s church. The same is true of the Guatemalans. The majority of them belong to the Pope of Rome’s church.

On June 7, 1494, a year and a half after Christopher Columbus “discovered” the Americas and claimed it in the name of the Spanish monarchs, the Pope of Rome drew a line, the Treaty of Tordesillas, to share the “New World” between Spain and Portugal, two Catholic nations of Europe. Everything on the eastern side of the line became Portugal’s, which is how Portugal acquired Brazil, and everything on the western side of the line was supposed to become Spain’s. (An original of the treaty, signed by Ferdinand II of Aragon and John II of Portugal at Tordesillas, now in the Valladolid province of Spain, is kept at the Archivo General de Indias in Spain and at the Arquivo Nacional da Torre do Tombo in Portugal.)

In those days, everyone in Europe was technically Catholic, but a few years later the Germans took the lead in breaking away from the Church, and the French and the Dutch and the English followed. The Germans were not really seamen. But the French, the Dutch and the English were. So they muscled New World territory away from the Spanish which had been given to Spain by the Pope, supposedly in the name of God. That is how you have Caribbean islands which are French, Dutch and English.

On the South and Central American mainland, the only English territories are what we know today as Belize and Guyana. We don’t know the history of Guyana, but we know a lot of the history of Belize. It was only the Pope who gave Spain the impression they owned Belize. What is giving the Guatemalans the impression that they own Belize is the fact that they are 40 times larger in population than Belize. This is the reason why the Guatemalan claim has substance – Guatemala’s size, and therefore military, advantage. Let’s be real. Let’s get real, Belize.

Because of her size, Guatemala will not accept any ruling of the International Court of Justice which does not please her. Do the Israelis pay any attention to the resolution after resolution passed at the United Nations year after year, and decade after decade? Absolutely not. The world is about power. Scholars sometimes refer to this as realpolitik [a depiction of foreign policy that should be based on considerations of power, not ideals, morals, or principles].

Why have the Guatemalans not done to Belize what the Israelis have done with Palestine – occupy it? That is the question we Belizeans should be debating, in order for us to develop a totally unified position on what our options are and where we are going.

In 1797, the Belizean settlers voted 65 to 51 to stay and defend this settlement from a much larger Spanish presence north of Belize. Why was it that the settlers of Belize believed that they could defend? This is another question we Belizeans should now be debating.

With the Guatemalan claim in mind, we absolutely welcome the initiative led by Senator Godwin Hulse which calls for Belizeans to formulate a unified position with the emphasis on defending Belize, as opposed to the confusion we are presently experiencing about the academic question of resolving the Guatemalan claim.

With respect, the position the Hon. Prime Minister has taken, and which he repeated Wednesday morning is vague. It is almost vacuous [devoid of substance or meaning]. Hon. Prime Minister is saying that perhaps the ICJ proposition will unravel in Guatemala before it reaches The Hague. We don’t want to hear this.

We realize now that the same thing happens to every Belizean who becomes Leader of Belize. They become appeasers [someone who tries to bring peace by acceding to demands]. This is referred to in diplomatic circles as “responsibility.” In fact, Belizean leaders are threatened by the British and the Americans. That is why it is that it was the people of Belize who had to defeat, in the streets, the Seventeen Proposals in 1968 and the Heads of Agreement in 1981.

Our elected Belizean leaders behave in a fearful manner. That is why a single Guatemalan businessman from Santa Rosa can threaten violence in the Belizean territory of Jalacte. Belize, an independent and sovereign nation, has to wait for the OAS to tell us what to do. This is undignified, and it is demeaning. At some point, we have to take the position of 1797. If not, Belize will become a regional joke.

All power to the people.