Diplomatic Incident At The OAS As Guatemala Flashes Map Inclusive of Belize As Part of Its Territory
A diplomatic incident has erupted at the Organization of American States involving Belize and Guatemala and it stems from a provocative map used by Guatemala in a video presentation showcasing our neighbor to the west where the OAS General Assembly will meet later this year. The incident happened on Wednesday at the OAS headquarters in Washington, D.C. and Belize’s permanent representative to the hemispheric body did not let it slip. He protested immediately and got the Guatemala representative at the permanent council to offer an explanation for the use of the provocative map. This afternoon, Love TV’s Patrick Jones telephoned Ambassador Mendez at his Washington D.C. office and asked him about the context in which the erroneous map was used by Guatemala.
“Yesterday in my regular meeting of the permanent council of the OAS, Guatemala was offering an update in the preparations being done in that country for the celebration for the hosting of the OAS General Assembly which will be held in that country in June of this year. As part of that update, they showed a very nice tourism oriented video and during that video there was a very fleeting image, it was very short on the screen of a map of Central America, showing all of Mexico and Guatemala in blue except Belize and Guatemala in yellow and that is what I had protested and it is not acceptable for Belize. If you look at what happened in the Permanent Council, the delegation of Belize, that is myself, we interrupted the Guatemalan Ambassador immediately; we expressed our protest at the use of a map that purported to show Belize as a part of Guatemala, in a subsequent intervention I stated very clearly that Belize would be formalizing its protest or reaffirming its protest in writing which has been done in a very strong diplomatic note addressed to the General Secretariat of the OAS and transmitted to all the member states of the OAS; Belize has reaffirmed its strongest protest at the use of any map that attempts to show Belize as a part of Guatemala. I do not foresee that this will have any substantial impact on the process per se; this is another unfortunate incident that we have to deal with as we continue. Our relations with Guatemala, at the official level deemed by and large are very good; we are very surprised at the use of the map, of this particular map at this time, it is very surprising that Guatemala would do such a thing in any place but especially at the OAS; we’re hoping that it will be worked out in a way that countries who have differences work it out and we’re hoping that it will not have any substantial impact on the process going forward.”
And while going forward Ambassador Mendez does not see any significant impact of the Guatemalan diplomatic misstep, the incident is important to note, given that the education campaign has started leading up to the October sixth referendum on whether or not the unfounded claim by Guatemala should be referred to the International Court of Justice in the Hague for final arbitration. That is why as soon as the erroneous map was shown Ambassador Mendez registered his disapproval before the permanent council.
“Thank you very much Mr. Chairman. When this video was shown in the general assembly in Bolivia, the delegation of Belize took the floor and protested the use of the map that shows Belize as part of Guatemala. Subsequent to that we were ensured that whenever this video was shown again, that image would be removed. Everybody is aware that Belize and Guatemala have a differendum, that it is being dealt with under the auspices of the OAS and hopefully it will be resolved at the International Court of Justice but it is still not resolved. The use of this video and this image put in serious jeopardy the process that we have undergoing with the good offices of the General Secretariat of the OAS and Belize cannot accept the use of that video. We protested it at the General Assembly and we once again register our protest. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.”
And to emphasize the importance of the diplomatic misstep by Guatemala, Ambassador Mendez emphasized his objection to the offensive man for a second time during yesterday’s meeting.
“Thank you Mr. Chairman. Following up on Belize’s point of order earlier, I just want to inform the Permanent Council that Belize will be formalizing its protest in writing via diplomatic note. We find the use of that map totally unacceptable, it shows Belize and Guatemala in the same color, all the rest of Central America, all the rest of countries with a different color; the implication is that it is one territory. As we prepare to go to the ICJ, this provocative use of this map is not acceptable to my delegation and we will be formalizing our protest in writing. Thank you Mr. Chairman.”
Belize’s permanent representative to the OAS Ambassador Nestor Mendez.
The simultaneous referendum to determine whether or not Guatemala’s unfounded claim to Belize should be referred to the ICJ for final arbitration will take place on Sunday, October 6. And while the education campaign leading up to the historic day is ongoing, Love News has gained possession of a document dating back to September of 1967 in which a British foreign ministry official was quoted in the Prensa Libre as saying that the British government was reaffirming its refusal to cede Belize to Guatemala. The British government spokesman in 1967 told the Prensa Libre newspaper that the possibility of ceding the territory of Belize to Guatemala was never discussed in London, even as the movement to Independence for Belize was starting.
Guatemalan 2012 tourism publication map shows Belize as part of Guatemala
Guatemala-Tourism-Publication-Map-1The Tourism Institute of Guatemala (INGUAT) published a destination book with a map of the country in which Belize is featured as part of Guatemala. The 2012 edition of the publication entitled “Guatemala – Heart of the Mayan World… 2012” is similar to Belize’s “Destination Belize”. The book was distributed by the Guatemalan Government to members of a Belize delegation during a media conference on January 14th. The conference was organized by the Central American Tourism Integrated System (SITCA) which falls under the Central American Integrated System (SICA).
Page 26 of the book shows Belize as part of a state (departamento) indicating that in such region, four languages are spoken mainly English, Spanish, Mopan Maya and Garifuna. As part of the geographical description of Guatemala, the book explains that they have two coastlines consisting of the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean.
Why is it an issue you may ask? Well it is no secret that Guatemala has a long standing territorial claim over Belize. The book with such controversial map on its pages, was given out at official SICA event, an organization that recognizes Belize as a country and not a part of Guatemala as indicated in the map. What makes it even more worrying is that INGUAT, the leading tourism institute of Guatemala, appears to be misleading its readers to believe that Belize (though not stated outright) is a part of Guatemala. In addition, the book was published during a critical time when both countries have agreed to decide within their country whether the claim should be taken to the International Court of Justice.
The matter has been brought to the attention of an official at the Belize Tourism Board, who said that they will review the publication and thereafter have the issue addressed through the Ministry of Tourism in Belize.
San Pedro Sun