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At the headquarters of the Organization of American States (OAS) on Friday, delegations from Belize and Guatemala, headed by their respective Foreign Ministers, Wilfred Elrington and Harold Caballeros, met with OAS Secretary General, Jos� Miguel Insulza, to determine the date on which the simultaneous single issue referenda will take place in both countries in compliance with the special agreement between Belize and Guatemala to submit Guatemala's territorial, insular and maritime claim to the International Court of Justice.

In a cordial and cooperative atmosphere and with a view to advancing with the process, the ministers agreed that the simultaneous referenda will take place on October 6, 2013. To this end, the ministers stated that they would now take the necessary steps to begin informing the populations in their respective countries to sensitize them as to the territorial dispute, as well as on the need to find a peaceful and permanent solution to the differendum.

The secretary general congratulated both ministers for this important decision and reiterated the General Secretariat´s willingness to support the process, as well as to seek the concrete support of the international community towards this end.

The ministers also agreed that they would convene a high-level meeting during the month of June to examine compliance with the confidence-building measures, as well as to identify activities directed at strengthening cooperation between the inhabitants of the Belize-Guatemala Adjacency Zone.


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October 6, 2013 Is Referendum Day In Belize and Guatemala

Belize and Guatemala will have simultaneous referendums on October sixth, 2013. That was agreed to at a meeting held today in Washington DC at the headquarters of the Organization of American States. Delegations from Belize and Guatemala were headed by their respective foreign ministers, Wilfred Elrington and Harold Caballeros.

Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington is in Washington tonight and, via telephone, he told us that the date was decided upon because general elections have recently been held in both countries.

Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs
"Since we completed our electoral process early this year we are now in a position to try to decide on a date when that could possibly be done and so we met today to try to determine the date which would be most convenient to do it and we have decided that the 6th of October would be a convenient date.

We had to think in terms of getting the finances to do the education campaign that is necessary, we need to inform and sensitize the Belizean people as to exactly is involve in this referendum and then we would have to find the finances also for the holding of the referendum."

"I think that in the education process we will attempt to have both the pros and the cons put to the Belizean people; they must know everything that we do. They must know the risk that we run in going to the ICJ and the possible benefits that would be arrived from going that route. Everybody will be expected to pull their weight to educate themselves and of course to help educate the rest of the society to make the proper choice at the right time."

"In our meeting this morning the present Guatemalan Foreign Minister Harold Caballeros made it very clear to the meeting that his country was to get this dispute behind him. They will now resolve to try to concentrate on developmental matters. They did not believe that could be done successfully with this pain still hanging over both of our heads."

Jules Vasquez
"What is the position of Belize's Minister of Foreign Affairs in seeking a juridical solution?"

Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs
"As an attorney at law I believe that that is the way people must go in trying to resolve a dispute."

Funding for the education campaign, and the referendum itself will be solicited from an international Group of Friends.

Channel 7

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Is Belize ready for border dispute referendum?

Alexis Rosado

The date for the territorial dispute referendum has been set for October sixth, 2013. That date was confirmed by Belize's Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington who along with negotiators met with Guatemalan Foreign Minister Harold Caballeros at the Organization of American States office in Washington, D.C. If successful in both countries, the simultaneous referendum about Guatemala's territorial, insular and maritime claim may be pushed forward to the International Court of Justice. This would mean that the territorial dispute could be on the road to a final solution. According to the C.E.O. in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, this will only happen if the citizens of both countries agree.

Via Phone: Ambassador Alexis Rosado, Chief Executive Officer, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

"There is an effort by the parties, Belize and Guatemala working together with the OAS, to formulate an action plan and a budget so that we can prepare the ground for the referendum-that will include public awareness campaign and education campaign that should serve at least in Belize to inform the Belizean public about all the issues related to the subject so that when they go to the polls for the referendum, they will be fully informed in order to be able to make a decision, an educated decision."

Jose Sanchez

"Going to the International Court of Justice-the referendum process itself-do both countries have to fully agree during the referendum process itself? Can one country say no and the other say yes to continue forward?"

Via Phone: Ambassador Alexis Rosado

"Oh no, no. Both parties, both countries, both peoples have to say yes for it to be able to go through."

Jose Sanchez

"What then would happen if one of the countries says no? Do we start all over again?"

Via Phone: Ambassador Alexis Rosado

"Well I won’t want to get there now. My interest is to make sure that we put all the-cover all our bases and make sure that the people are fully informed first and foremost. It will be the people's decision at the end of the day. The Belizean public will exercise their full democratic rights and sovereignty after all when they go to the polls and decide in a referendum. Now, umm, we don't know what will happen chu? But we don't want to speculate what may be the situation after that. The government is committed and we hope to engage all the stakeholders, the people of Belize in an honest, frank and open dialogue and discussion about all the issues involved. We hope that the debate, the discussion could be kept at a certain level that will be fair and objective. I know people have very strong views on it, but at the end of the day if we could all listen and learn and respect the different points of view and at the end of the day, it's the people that will decide."

Channel 5

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Attorney Godfrey Smith weighs in on Belize/Guatemala Referendum

Godfrey Smith

The date to hold simultaneous referenda to take the Belize/Guatemala claim to the International Court of Justice is set for October sixth, 2013. In both Belize and Guatemala, a massive education campaign is expected to commence to raise awareness on a decision whether the matter will land before the ICJ as the final measure to resolve the age-old territorial claim. Here in Belize, the education campaign is still in draft form but the debate is beginning to bubble. Attorney Godfrey Smith, who appeared as a guest on the Dickie Bradley Special on Monday night, shared his position on the matter, weighing in on the advantages of a favorable ruling for Belize.

Godfrey Smith, Attorney

"You cannot enforce, but what it does for Belize is it builds greater goodwill if the court definitively answers the question in Belize's favor. Then it is easier to prevail on the international community to support a process of clearing the border; for instance, sufficiently wide so everybody could see plainly where the border is. Right now, nobody wants to touch it because it's in dispute. So even though it's possible that Guatemala can say well after that they still don't recognize it, the point is that in practical terms-because what we are facing right now is practical difficulties: illegal incursions, illegal settlements, illegal harvesting of xate. With the ICJ case resolved in our favor, there are practical things that could be addressed; that would flow from that. People will stop be cagy. If you go to somebody right now in the international community and try to win support and say oh Guatemala has this claim to Belize, people because of how diplomacy works and international relations, will be very hesitant to say the Guatemalan claim is bogus, they are ridiculous, they're hard headed; we support you a hundred percent. That's not how it works. But with an arbiter like the ICJ saying so, then it is my view that many practical considerations will flow from that that will help Belize in the preservation of its sovereignty in a practical sense."

Channel 5

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The Unfounded Guatemala Claim Over Belize

A very concise and effective piece on why Belize should say "no" to the ICJ...

by Joaquin Maga�a Sr.

In 1838 - 1839 the United Provinces of Central America broke up giving rise to the new countries of Central America. Guatemala Claimed that Belize was administered by Spain as part of the Captaincy of Guatemala and that they had inherited this sovereignty, as a result of the breakup of the federation. They say Belize was passed to Guatemala, since Belize had been considered part of Peten or Verapaz region of Guatemala. The fact is that there is by far more convincing historical evidence, however, to strongly suggest that Belize was considered by Spain as part of Yucatan (Mexico) NOT of Guatemala; but in any case, Spain never ever occupied Belize.

During the 18th century the Spanish attacked the settlement (Belize) many times, and in 1717, 1730, 1754, and 1779 forced the settlers to leave. However, the Spanish NEVER settled in Belize, and the British returned and expanded their settlement and trade. On September 10th, 1798 was the last time that the Spanish attacked. The British side won what became known as the Battle of St. George's Caye. The Spanish retreated and NEVER again tried to control the settlement (Belize). The truth of the fact is that all attacks on the settlement came from the Captaincy of Yucatan (Mexico) NOT from Guatemala.

In 1859 after years of negotiation and under some prodding by the USA, the Anglo - Guatemalan Treaty was signed. It contained 8 articles, the first declaring boundaries as they exist until today. Article 2, 3, 4, and 5 concerned the constitution of a commission to demarcate the boundary. Article 7 which was the reason for the dispute later, called on both parties to establish "the easiest communication (either by means of a cart road, or employing the rivers, or both united, according to the opinion of the surveying engineers), between the fittest place on the Atlantic Coast, near the settlement of Belize, and the capital of Guatemala". The problem with Guatemala is that its new constitution in 1945, declared Belize to be a part of Guatemala. As from then Guatemala has on several occasions threatened to invade Belize, prompting Britain to reinforce their protecting force in Belize. Guatemala then timidly subsides until future time.

The cart road was never built, and after sporadic negotiations over 80 years, Guatemala ended up repudiating the treaty in 1940, claiming that although it appeared to be a boundary treaty, it was in reality a disguised treaty of cession by which Guatemala ceded Belize to Britain. That article 7 represented the compensation to Guatemala and that since it was never fulfilled then the treaty was void and the territory reverted to Guatemala. But here, precisely was where Guatemala's mistake was; there are experts and historians that agree that Guatemala failed as much as Britain in complying to fulfill their part in that article 7. For that reason Belize remained with the same boundaries as it is today. Belize had become the colony of "British Honduras" in 1862.

With these facts in hand it becomes clear that Guatemala's claim is UNFOUNDED and it clearly shows they lack good faith as well; making them nothing less than a bully. Guatemala nor Spain has ever occupied Belize so they have never had rights over Belize. Guatemala did not even once protect, much less defend their so called sovereignty over the settlement (Belize). On the other hand the Captaincy of Yucatan, Mexico did it five times, but failed on the last attempt. The settlement which eventually became Belize was populated first by the indigenous people, then by the British, then their African slaves and on the latter part by the influx of the other ethnic groups and people that make up Belize today.

In 1964 Belize attained full Internal Self Government. Independence was to follow soon. The unfounded Guatemala claim delayed it. Belize needed to internationalize its cause to gain independence with all its territory intact. Not a square centimeter would be ceded to Guatemala was the Belize mantra. Belize had to lobby for international support to become independent. First it was CARICOM, then the Commonwealth, and around the world to lobby for support to self determination. Of great importance and impact was the support of the Non - Aligned Movement. In August 1975, Belize won the movement's full support for a secure independence and territorial integrity.

Finally, in 1980 the USA changed its policy of neutrality and voted in favor of the UN resolution that called for the independence of Belize. It demanded the secure independence of Belize with ALL Its TERRITORY INTACT, before the next session of the UN in 1981. It called for Britain to continue to defend Belize, and on all countries to come to its assistance. 139 countries voted in favor of the resolution, with 7 abstentions and none against, Guatemala refused to vote. It is important to note that UN resolution requested at the same time that the relevant organs of the UN to take appropriate steps "to facilitate the attainment of independence by Belize and to guarantee its security and territorial integrity thereafter". This thereafter is very important to Belize.

In concrete, Belize is not just a piece of vacant land, no; Belize is now a nation where the citizens, the people, had a right to self determination to gain independence. This was approved by the UN and became a reality. UN very clearly and unequivocally stated: to guarantee its security and territorial integrity THEREAFTER. Now the Anglo - Guatemalan dispute is between Britain and Guatemala NOT Belize; Belize is present in the negotiations to guarantee its territorial integrity and sovereignty. The settlement cannot include any land cession of the new independent Belize. The dispute cannot consider any Belizean territory; Belize has nothing to settle with bully Guatemala.

My question is: why take the dispute to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) if UN has declared Belize independent with all its territory intact? Well that's it. All has been said by UN, and clearly too. After all even if ICJ would declare that Guatemala's claim is unfounded, is null and void, ICJ has no power to oblige Guatemala to accept that decision. Guatemala, after the case, can still refuse to accept the decision of the International Court of Law and continue claiming Belize if they so wish.

Going to ICJ is waste of badly needed money and time. If Guatemala didn't invade Belize before, or right after independence when they were furiously red hot and humiliated by UN's resolution, it is very unlikely they will do it now or in the future. If they would dare to invade, they would immediately be expelled by UN as no nation can invade another.

So let us not be intimidated by anyone. If we roll "our tails" like a frightened puppy Guatemala will be encouraged to persist in their nonsense. Belt up Belizeans, Belize is definitely not for grabs. Belize is for Belizeans with all its territory intact. Like it or not. Let us stand for our right no matter what. Let Britain and Guatemala settle their differences leaving Belize alone with its existing borders intact. Our territory is not for any sort of negotiation with no one. All of Belize with its existing borders is for Belizeans, period.


Response from a friend....

To paraphrase Abba Eban, Israel's former foreign minister, the the Guatemalan never miss a chance to miss a chance.

Belize's interest in going to the ICJ would be.

1) sovereignty over its territory ( like we need a far away court fi tell we that Belize da fi we )

2) free up resources it currently devotes to the dispute (some of it is already bank rolled by the UK)

3) cooperation with its closest neighbor ( Belize have more spanish speakers than english speakers need i say more )

4) end Guatemalan civilian incursions into the Belizean territory

Belize going to the icj will not address most of these points litigation rarely breeds cooperation and Guatemalan civilian incursion into Belize would continue no matter what. the question becomes why Guatemala-a sure loser at the ICJ-is pushing for an ICJ solution ?

1)Guatemalan politicians gain a great deal from a submission of the case to the ICJ because accepting a negotiated settlement with Belize a politician could easily be seen as weak and lose political capital. Guatemalan politicians gain deniability for whatever decision the Court makes by forcing a popular vote on the ICJ issue, the politicians put the issue in the hands of the people, thereby shifting responsibility away from themselves

2) With time, Guatemala could exert more pressure on Belize to negotiate a settlement with Guatemala that is more advantageous to Guatemala than the OAS proposals

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Commentary: Belize, land of the free... for all?

by Frank Edward Paco Smith, Jr. (JP)

The government of Belize, with the support of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, has acceded to the recommendation of the Organisation of American States (OAS), to proceed with a simultaneous referenda involving whether to take the matter of Guatemala's unfounded claim on Belizean territory to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The date is set for 6th October 2013 and, given the significance of the matter, it is high time that Belizeans wake up and, as we say in our local parlance, "Sleep wid yo own eye". Translated, it means, check the facts for yourself and make your decisions based on your own view.

There are some very influential Belizean politicians, diplomats, legal scholars, representatives and political party fanatics of the current, past and aspiring variety, who are touting the "benefits" of Belize taking the matter to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). To this I say hogwash.

Let me begin by stating unequivocally that, if you are a Belizean whether by birth or naturalisation or even a friend of Belize, then ask yourself, "What is the significance of 21st September 1981?" For those of us who hold our Belizean identity as true and being in-line with the elements which go hand in hand with our nation's independence, there should be no question whatsoever as to the significance of the aforementioned date. In short, it is the day which is recognised, internationally, by virtually all nations and according to international and regional bodies (e.g. United Nations, CARICOM, SICA, ACS and, ironically, even the OAS, as Belize's Independence Day.

But let us not stop there. Under the UN Charter, Belize is accepted as a full-member, with its territory intact. Now, what does that mean? As I interpret it, Belize is acknowledged as an independent, sovereign territory, WITH ITS BORDERS INTACT. Please note I did not give mention of any sort of "Adjacency Zone", as the OAS would like Belizeans to believe. No, we have a western border with our neighbour to the west and it is recognised by all who matter.

You see, the entire process to which the GOB has acceded didn't begin with the signing of the Compromis in 2008. Nor did it start with the recent decision taken this past April to move forward with the simultaneous referenda. It began quite some time ago, in a rather insidious fashion. From a conservative standpoint, one could argue that it truly became institutionalized once the then GOB tacitly accepted the notion that our western border with Guatemala was comprised of a so-called "Adjacency Zone". Hence, when I speak of this topic, it has absolutely nothing to do with party politics because, as far as I have discerned, both major political parties (the UDP and the PUP) are implicit in this debauchery.

The aforementioned took place under a PUP government and, under the previous UDP government, the then (and current) Minister of Foreign Affairs sought to characterise our border as being artificial or manmade. Well, in his true legal fashion, being the wordsmith that he is, an attempt was made to clarify his statement. Nonetheless, no matter how one slices it, whether artificial, manmade or whatever adjective one chooses to affix, it is our border; one which is internationally recognised and in turn, lends credence to our territorial integrity.

Getting back to the question at hand, "What is the significance of 21st September 1981?" If Belize's Independence Day holds even an iota of meaning to each Belizean, then its consequence should never be the subject of inquiry. Let me be as clear as possible. Despite the "legal opinions" of our purportedly learned compatriots, who speak to the strength of Belize's case, as it relates to the Guatemalan claim on our territory, I implore you to allow common sense to prevail.

If, on 21st September 1981, Belize became recognised as a sovereign, independent nation, with its territory intact, why in the hell should we even consider going to court for a decision? The simple fact that the GOB, along with Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, have endorsed such a move is extremely dangerous, for it demonstrates that there exists the possibility that Guatemala's claim may hold a degree of merit. That, my friends, is utterly disconcerting.

Nonetheless, we (collectively) have empowered the GOB to make such decision. Now it is time for true PEOPLE POWER to prevail. Although I believe it to be both unfortunate and unnecessary, the Belizean electorate has the golden opportunity to let the powers that be, whether in Belmopan, Guatemala City or at the OAS Headquarters in Washington, D.C., know that neither Belize nor its standing shall be subject to the jurisprudence of the so-called learned individuals at the International Court of Justice.

Simply put, it would be insane for Belizeans to vote to go to the ICJ. For most, the fundamental reason should (by now) be clear. There is no reason to seek the validation of Belize's past and present existence. To do so, would prove foolhardy. In plain and simple English, why enter into a legal proceeding, in a foreign court of arbitration no less, for something that needs not be explored. Please note that I referred to the ICJ as a 'court of arbitration'. That is significant because such a body is bound to adjudicate the matter by means of mediation and settlement, which inherently implies that something must be given-up by both parties.

I have never been much of a gambler and, when dealing with Belize's status, my inhibitions are exponentially increased. In layman's terms, let us use an analogy. It is as though you and your neighbour are at the riverside. Your neighbour decides to go for a swim. Upon this engagement, he/she begins to complain about the salinity of the water. Well, you are safe and secure on the riverbank and have no need, nor inclination to test the waters, so to speak. Why then, would you endeavour to be drawn into going into the river? But beyond that, based on the concerns of your neighbour, there is absolutely no reason to venture in, because you are at the river and its level of salinity is irrelevant. But the important thing to realise is that if you opt to enter the water, therein lays many inherent dangers; none of which you would have been subject to had you remained on land. Chief of amongst them is the possibility of losing something that should be dear to you� your life and/or livelihood.

I will be the first to admit that the above is a very basic attempt to demonstrate why Belize must vote NO TO THE ICJ on 6th October 2013. Yet, it is important that Belizeans and friends of Belize understand that there is no reason for us to jump into the water, because we could very well end up losing some of our territory. The old adage, "�Don't go into the kitchen, if you don't want to get burned", comes to mind.

As for those who advocate going to the ICJ, I shall not cast aspersions on whether or not you are patriotic, for no one has an exclusive franchise on this very significant element of nationhood and nation building. Yet, I will postulate that it may very well be a case of them looking at the forest, but failing to see the trees. I express this notion in a reserved fashion, for good reason, as one of the tactics employed by those who recommend going to the ICJ involves calling for emotions to be taken out of the decision.

Although admittedly a subject of extreme importance to the well-being of Belize, which inherently lends to emotional constructs, I can assure you that more so than emotions, I call on the Belizean electorate to take a common sense view on the matter. Unfortunately common sense is not all too common. The applicability of this notion is heightened, especially when partisan politics is inserted into the mix. Hence, my continued request that Belizeans take off their political blinders and approach this matter from the perspective of being a Belizean (or true friend of Belize) and one who knows the significance and unquestioned nature pertaining to 21st September 1981 and all that we have achieved as an independent, sovereign nation, that is recognised by world bodies and governments with our territorial integrity intact.

In the ensuing months, the GOB, along with its cohorts, will embark upon a public information campaign concerning the impending simultaneous referenda. I take this opportunity to appeal to the Belizean electorate to not be hoodwinked by the eloquent words of those who are legal scholars, elected representatives and current, former and aspiring ministers of government and ambassadors. Indeed, they can sell you dreams, as they do in accordance with our constitution every five years or thereabouts. But it is time for our people to understand that the words of the Hon. Philip S.W. Goldson are more significant than ever - "the time to save your country is before you lose it."

To all concerned, think about it. Think of what it means to be Belizean. What does it mean to be the lifeblood of a sovereign, independent nation that is already recognised with its territory intact? How foolish it is, to agree to go to a foreign court of arbitration to adjudicate a matter in which you need not be involved but, worse, once you decide to participate, you alone have the most tangible/physical resource(s) to lose?

There are political party fanatics who, once their chosen affiliation were to place a broom stick on the ballot, would attempt to find a means by which to justify voting for that broomstick. Belizeans, you know that is our reality, albeit sad but true. Since it appears that a bipartisan approach will be employed by the powers that be, given our political acumen and tendency to toe the line where politics is concerned, it is all the more worrisome for those who are not inclined to follow the leader. For this reason, I urge you to look at our reality.

My fellow Belizeans and true friends of Belize, please be informed and do not leave the bone for the shadow. Do not be influenced or manipulated by political elements. Use your common sense and make an informed decision.

I titled this article, "Land of the free� for all?", because when I look at our geo-political history, it beckons one to ponder whether not only our society, due to social degradation, but also our physical national space, is up for grabs! It is thought-provoking statement, given Belize's history of: political deception, the self-enrichment and self-aggrandizement of and by our elected officials, our traditional dependency on political entities for guidance and the sense of playing "politricks" with issues of national importance. Whether it be: the selling of Belizean passports, the tacit acknowledgement of an "Adjacency Zone" where our western border exists, the buying of votes during the electoral process, the infamous secret accommodation agreement or most recently the nationalisation of key industries to purportedly benefit of the Belizean people�the list goes on. Neither major political party is exempt from scrutiny as it relates to the aforementioned.

The bottom line, this is not an issue to take lightly. Put politics aside and do what is in the best interest of our nation. For me, it is clear that Belize stands the most to lose, by going to the ICJ. It is for these and a plethora of additional reasons that we must educate ourselves and hopefully come to the conclusion that a NO vote to the ICJ is best for Belize� not a select few. This is neither about notoriety nor fame. The crux of the matter is steeped in knowing your Belizean history and identity and not bending to the whims of whomsoever. Do not allow even those to whom you have granted the honour of governing, the opportunity to allow others to question our nation's territorial integrity, on any front.

Remember, 6th October 2013 is a date that shall prove significant in the annals of Belizean history. Please ensure that you participate in the referenda and make the resounding voice of the people be heard - Vote NO to the ICJ, for the benefit of our nation!

Belize Sovereign and Free - NO ICJ, please check out our Facebook group of the same name.

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