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#460655 - 03/21/13 07:42 AM No ICJ! Guatemala wants out of referendum  
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Guatemala wants out of going to the referendum on October sixth, and out of possibly taking the Belize/Guatemala dispute to the International Court of Justice. That’s the word from Minister of Foreign Affairs this afternoon as he returned from Sunday’s meeting with Guatemala at OAS headquarters in Washington. The news confirms what Guatemala had been signaling for some time now and it complicates the situation for Belize where a public awareness campaign is well underway. The proposals from the Guatemalans were sent to Cabinet and to the Opposition for their scrutiny and input late Sunday, and this afternoon, Elrington sat down with freelance reporter Mike Rudon as we attempted to find out what happens next.

Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs

“I would prefer to wait until we get response from the government and the leader of the opposition. But I can say generally that the Guatemalans don’t seem prepared to go ahead with the process at this time. They seem to have difficulty going to the ICJ.”

Otto Perez Molina

Mike Rudon, Reporting

That confirmation from Belize’s chief diplomat is no surprise, since more than a month ago Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina indicated as much to the Associated Press in Spain. Today, a visibly frustrated Elrington acknowledged that there are forces at play which make discerning Guatemala’s real intention very difficult.

Wilfred Elrington

“Every time they meet with us they say look we want to go to the ICJ, we want a YES vote; we would not want anything to prevent us from going to the ICJ and that is what they are saying publicly. I don’t know what they are saying privately because while they are saying that publicly, there are people in Guatemala who are now publishing this map showing Belize as part of Guatemala with a very thin line dividing us—broken lines. And then we have received word that they are now mandating their schools to use that map and even go back to that old position. So they are saying one thing, but certainly there are people in their country who are doing something very different and contrary to what is being said. So I think it is incumbent upon us to understand exactly what is in their minds.”

Wilfred Elrington

And even as he remains more convinced than ever that Belize should stay the course, Elrington acknowledges that he is concerned about what will happen next.

Wilfred Elrington

“That honestly is the big, big question that I have some real worry about because we don’t know what they will do. We know for certainty that the ICJ is the best thing for us. We don’t know whether they will back out having signed this agreement which the world expects them to honor. Are they going to in fact in the face of world opinion just break the agreement? Whereas that may be a very unlikely scenario, it is not a scenario that one cannot afford to contemplate. We have got to contemplate all the options; we have got to weigh all the options and based on those options, we have got to come to a decision as to a way forward. In my view, I think we would have to look at what would happen if in fact we decide to hold the course. I think we have to look at what we would have to do if in fact they decide that they would not stay the course and just tear up the agreement. That could lead to all kinds of situations which as I said I am to contemplate.”

The matter currently lies in the hands of the Cabinet and the Opposition, and Elrington will have to act on whatever is decided, but while the final move is out of his hands for the moment, he is crystal clear on what his recommendation to Cabinet will be.

Wilfred Elrington

“I think at this point, we should do all at this point to ensure that we comply with the agreement as we entered into in 2008. We should not give the slightest indication that we are not prepared to be bound by that agreement and to act in accordance with that agreement. That is my first and foremost position. Is that a position that is inflexible? I am always willing to listen to arguments and we would have to hear the arguments of our government, of the leader of the opposition, of the opposition people. This is a national issue; not a Wilfred Elrington issue at all; my only interest is ensuring that we get the absolute best deal for Belize.”

According to Elrington, he has not had any preliminary indication from Cabinet or from the Opposition on their reaction to the proposals. Mike Rudon for News Five.

Whenever Cabinet comes up with a response to Guatemala’s proposals after discussion with the Opposition that will be forwarded to the OAS, which will then convene another meeting where Guatemala will be given Belize’s official position. So for now Guatemala has confirmed its intention not to go to the referendum on October sixth. 

Channel 5

#460661 - 03/21/13 08:15 AM Re: No ICJ! Guatemala wants out of referendum [Re: Marty]  
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Minister Elrington quiet on Guatemalan proposals

Minister of Foreign Affairs Wilfred Elrington was not in much of a mood to talk when he returned from Washington today. His immediate counterpart was a no-show at the OAS headquarters due to a family emergency and much of the gathering was with OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza to discuss what to do next. A set of proposals from Guatemala on the next plans has been issued, but at the International Airport Elrington deferred giving details.

Wilfred Elrington – Minister of Foreign Affairs:
Basically, the proposals which the Secretary General of the OAS has put to us raised by the Guatemalans, in relation to the Referendum.

Minister Elrington clarified that both countries were actually invited by the OAS to attend and it was not as much of an emergency as it appeared during the interview we aired on Friday.

Wilfred Elrington – Minister of Foreign Affairs:
vlcsnap-2013-03-20-20h53m36s249Absolutely not.  I think that people misunderstood what happened.  I was not invited to Washington by the Guatemalans.  I was invited to go to Washington to see the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza, and that meeting was arranged because the Guatemalans wanted to put certain proposals to us.  And we indicated to them, when they came here for me, that the right way to do it is to put it through Mr Insulza.  So they did go and requested of Mr Insulza that he establish a meeting with us.  So really and truely, we did not go there to see the Guatemalans, as much as we went there to meet with Mr Insulza, with whom we met, a very good meeting.

A Cabinet decision comes by next Tuesday, but until then Mr Elrington is not much worried about Guatemala’s behaviour, but our own.

Wilfred Elrington – Minister of Foreign Affairs:
I’m not so much concerned about their deportment and their behaviour, as I am concerned about our behaviour. We must try at all times to be circumspect in our behaviour, certainly those of us at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs maintain that posture, to the extent that there is a view that the Guatemalans are not as circumspect.  I don’t really want to comment on that.
The Prime Minister is already [aware] of the information because we communicated back to him before.  And so I am pretty certain that he will give the green light for us to make a communication with the public as to what in fact is the present state of things.


#460735 - 03/22/13 07:53 AM Re: No ICJ! Guatemala wants out of referendum [Re: Marty]  
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Foreign Minister Discloses Guatemala’s "Iffy" Plans For Referendum Date

Yesterday we interviewed Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington and he held back on revealing the proposals for the referendum that the Guatemalans had taken to the OAS. But today in the House of Representatives, it seems he got the green light from the Prime Minister and was given special permission to make an announcement on a matter of public interest.

For most observers, it was more than interesting, it was quite surprising. Here's what the Guatemalans propose:

Hon. Wilfred Elrington - Minister of Foreign Affairs
"We were informed that the Guatemalans were making 2 proposals. 1, they wanted us to amend our referendum legislation so that our legislation will be identical to theirs in terms of the requirements for the referendum to be successful, just a simple majority vote. They said that if we did that, if we amended our legislation to confirm with theirs, they would then be prepared to agree on another date when we could hold simultaneous referenda, but they were not prepared to indicate when that date would be. And they were not even prepared to give a timeline. That was one proposal. The second proposal was that we would go ahead as planned, have our referendum on October 6, and if we had a successful 'yes' vote at that referendum, then they would prepared to hold their referendum at a date not later than the end of June 2014."

Prime Minister Dean Barrow - Prime Minister of Belize
"But I will say that I don't like what's being proposed by the Guatemalans, nevertheless, presumably after we've had a chance to analyze things closely - Hon. Leader of the Opposition has had a chance to do the same, and we can exchange views, we can take a unified national position."

Elrington says that Cabinet will review the proposal next week Tuesday, and the opposition representative who attended the meeting in Washington Lisa Shoman is also expected to brief her party. Thereafter, he hopes that government and opposition can come up with a national position which will be communicated to the OAS.

Channel 7

#460743 - 03/22/13 08:28 AM Re: No ICJ! Guatemala wants out of referendum [Re: Marty]  
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VIDEO: In his own words, Foreign Minister explains Guatemala's 2 proposals regarding the referendum. Will Cabinet bite Guatemala's bait or will the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition join in a resounding 'no' to Guatemala?

#461016 - 03/26/13 08:11 AM Re: No ICJ! Guatemala wants out of referendum [Re: Marty]  
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PUP Rejects Guatemala's ICJ Proposal; Urges Cabinet To Do Same

Tomorrow, the Cabinet will meet to consider the Guatemalan' proposal to move the date for the ICJ referendum.

And while the UDP party and government has explicitly supported the ICJ referendum, the PUP has been playing coy throughout, not taking one side or the other.

That is until today, when Party Leader Francis Fonseca announced that the party was rejected Guatemala's recent request to change the date of the referendum or to change Belize's referendum laws. Here's the entire statement from opposition leader Fonseca which was delivered two hours ago...

Hon. Francis Fonseca - Leader of the Opposition/PUP Party Leader
"On Sunday March 17, 2013 Guatemala put forward certain proposals that make clear its intention to breach its agreement with Belize to hold simultaneous referenda on October 6, 2013. The People's United Party (PUP) rejects any proposal which violates the spirit and letter of the Special Agreement signed by Belize and Guatemala in December 2008. Neither option proposed by Guatemala is acceptable. Guatemala's latest proposals raise serious concerns about its good faith in finding a just and definitive solution of this longstanding claim. The PUP has consistently rejected this unfounded claim while always remaining supportive of any initiative that would lead to a definitive and just solution. The PUP does not support the holding of any unilateral referendum on October 6, 2013, or on any other date. We do not support the amendment of our national law to reduce our threshold participation in referenda, simply to accommodate Guatemala. The PUP calls on the Government of Belize to remain resolute in maintaining national and international support for our inalienable right to self-determination with full territorial integrity."

Cabinet will meet tomorrow - and the early sense is that it may take the same position as the Opposition. Prime Minister Dean Barrow sad in the House of Representatives last week that he doesn't like the proposals. We'll wait and see though what tomorrow's meeting brings.

And some of the decision-making will be based on whether anyone feels the Guatemalans honestly do want to have a referendum on the ICJ. Foreign Minister Elrington says that's what they have told him - and he accepts it. But the Leader of the Opposition said he does not:

Hon. Francis Fonseca
"It's not my view that the Guatemalans want to go to the ICJ; it's not clear. In fact, their proposals would suggest to me that they have no interest in going to the ICJ any longer. Their options - the options that they - their changing positions, and certainly we believe is in breach of the spirit of that agreement, and so that must be of concern to us as Belizeans."

Fonseca also had strong criticism for Elrington who he says has done a disservice to the national interest with his public musings on Belize's Foreign Policy:

Hon. Francis Fonseca
"I think many people have cautions against the approach that the foreign minister is taking, not just the people who are supporters of the People United Party. Many other stake holders in Belize's development have cautioned against the approach he is taking. I think it is something the Government will have to take into account, which I believe he has done a grave disservice to the nation of Belize and to the people of Belize. He has made a lot of off handed comments that I believe have not serve Belize national interest, and I think the overall handling of the entire matter of the Government of Belize and by his ministry in particular, I believe leaves a lot to be desired."

Fonseca also announced that Lisa Shoman who has been involved in the discussions about the referendum first as Ambassador then as Foreign Minister and now as the Opposition's Representative will no longer be on the national negotiating team.

Quite notably, Shoman, who is known for her directness, attended today's press conference, but did not speak- and, in the end, was spoken for.

Channel 7

#461099 - 03/27/13 08:11 AM Re: No ICJ! Guatemala wants out of referendum [Re: Marty]  
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Government of Belize Responds to Guatemala’s Proposals

Belmopan. March 26th, 2013. The Government of Belize, having had occasion to review the proposals by the Republic of Guatemala as presented in writing on 17th March, 2013 to Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza, for the parties to consider postponement of the referenda for an indefinite period or for Belize to proceed on its own to hold a referendum on the agreed date, has decided to reject the Guatemalan proposals in their entirety.

The Government of Belize notes that tremendous efforts over many years and through successive administrations have been spent in finding a negotiated solution that would bring to a definitive end Guatemala’s unfounded claim to Belize, and that the failure of these attempts is what led to the signing of the Special Agreement by Belize, Guatemala and the OAS on 8th December, 2008. That Special Agreement provides for referenda to be held in Belize and in Guatemala simultaneously on the date of 6th October, 2013 and had also been jointly agreed upon by the Parties for the purpose of consulting the respective publics on whether or not the solution should be found in submitting Guatemala’s claim to the International Court of Justice. Any changes in the Special Agreement or the agreed dates of the referenda must therefore be jointly agreed upon.

The Government of Belize is today writing to OAS Secretary General Insulza to inform him that Belize rejects the proposals by Guatemala and to confirm Belize’s continued commitment to abide by the Special Agreement of December 2008, including the holding of simultaneous referenda as agreed on 6th October, 2013.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Belmopan, Belize.

#461101 - 03/27/13 08:22 AM Re: No ICJ! Guatemala wants out of referendum [Re: Marty]  
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GOB Joins PUP In Rejecting Guat Proposal to Change Referendum Date

Yesterday, the Opposition came forward and rejected the Guatemalan proposal to change the date of referendum on the ICJ. Today, Cabinet met in Belmopan and took the same position.

A statement sent out this afternoon says that the Government "has decided to reject the Guatemalan proposals in their entirety."

The statement adds that quote, "tremendous efforts over many years and through successive administrations have been spent in finding a negotiated solution…and the failure of these attempts is what led to the signing of the Special Agreement by Belize, Guatemala and the OAS on 8th December, 2008."

IT adds, "The Government of Belize is today writing to OAS Secretary General Insulza… to confirm Belize's continued commitment to abide by the Special Agreement… including the holding of simultaneous referenda as agreed on 6th October, 2013."

This evening we caught Foreign Minister Elrington at his home where he said Cabinet decided unanimously:

Hon. Wilfred Elrington - Minister of Foreign Affairs
"The official response is that we will not deviate from the special agreement which we've entered into in 2008. The Government is going to stick to that."

Jules Vasquez
"So that means you all are going to - will not accept any variance of the date as proposed?"

Hon. Wilfred Elrington
"We will accept no variance as put forward by the Guatemalans to the OAS."

Jules Vasquez
"You have always supported a stance of flexibility and that in all manner, our country must show itself as the one who has gone the extra mile. Why didn't you go the extra mile in this case?"

Hon. Wilfred Elrington
"I don't think this is an occasion that calls for an extra mile."

Jules Vasquez
"Are you able to say if there was unanimity in prominence that this latest proposal should be rejected?"

Hon. Wilfred Elrington
"That was a unanimous decision, unanimous, there was no dissenting voice."

Jules Vasquez
"So then, what happens next?"

Hon. Wilfred Elrington
"Well, we will wait to see what will happen. We expect that the - once the Secretary General of the OAS receives our response, they will then convey that to the Guatemalans. And thereafter, we expect that we perhaps might be invited to another meeting and we will hear what is the Guatemalans final position, given our response to their proposal."

Jules Vasquez
"Will we have a referendum on or-"

Hon. Wilfred Elrington
"I'm still optimistic that we will; I am the eternal optimist. I think it would be in both our interest, in both Guatemala's interest and our interest for us to go and try to get it resolved once and for all."

Jules Vasquez
"We have tried negotiate with them. We are trying a juridical settlement, we cannot reach the - I'm saying that there is now a pattern of things breaking down, and if this thing breaks down - I know you don't want it to - but if this process which was consummated in the special agreement, if this process breaks down what next?"

Hon. Wilfred Elrington
"We will just have to find another process to resolve the claim. The claim has to be resolved, if for no other reason than we are neighbors. We are like conjoined twins; Belize can't pick up and go somewhere else and neither can Guatemala. So we are geographically and destiny bound to each other; we have got to find a way to live together peacefully."

GOB's position will be formally communicated to the OAS tomorrow. Elrington expects that it will be another three weeks or so before a meeting will be convened by the OAS.

Channel 7

#461166 - 03/28/13 08:09 AM Re: No ICJ! Guatemala wants out of referendum [Re: Marty]  
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Belize And Guat Agree On Major Cross Border Conservation Initiatives

Both the UDP Government and the PUP Opposition have rejected Guatemala's request to move the date for the referendum on the ICJ. And while things remains muddled at the official level, on the ground everyday there are transactions where Belize and Guatemala learn to live as neighbors. Earlier this month one of those came up when Friends for conservation and development arranged a summit with with officials from Guatemala's Division for the Protection of Nature known as DIPRONA. They met with officials from Belize's Forest Department, BDF, Police Department, Immigration and FCD staff.

Both sides discussed the environmental crisis faced in the Chiquibul forest. On the second day a field visit was made to Chiquibul and Caracol where they observed the illegal logging, xate trails and the farms along the western flank of the Chiquibul forest.

And, reciprocating, one week later on the 21st of March, FCD personnel attended a one day event in Poptun, Peten. The workshop was called "An Environmental Security Strategy with a bi-national focus: Chiquibul- Maya Mountains and South Peten.

By the end of the workshop two hotspot areas were identified, namely the Carrizal area located nearby the Colombia River Forest Reserve and La Rejoya area located near to Caracol as main trafficking routes for many illegal activities ranging from illegal logging to poaching and extraction of non- timber forest products.

Recommendations were made for a Joint Operation Center at each of these two spots and two control spots where the presence of authorities would be established.

Channel 7

#461847 - 04/06/13 08:54 AM Re: No ICJ! Guatemala wants out of referendum [Re: Marty]  
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Commentary: Belizeans must stand together against Guatemala

By Wellington C. Ramos

The Guatemalan Foreign Minister Honorable Fernando Carrera and Belize’s Foreign Minister Honorable Wilfred Elrington were supposed to meet on March 17, 2013, in Washington DC to continue their discussions on the proposed simultaneous referendum that is scheduled to be held in both their countries on October 6 this year.

Before the meeting, the Guatemalan President Otto Perez held a press conference in Guatemala City in regards to the meeting. He called on the government of Belize to change the scheduled date of the referendum and to amend Belize’s constitution to remove the 60% approval requirement for the passage of all referendums in the country. This demand was raised earlier in negotiations with Guatemala and the government of Belize made it clear to the government of Guatemala that Belize will never agree to that demand.

When Belize’s Foreign Minister Honorable Wilfred Elrington arrived in Washington DC, the Guatemalan Foreign Minister Fernando Carrera failed to show up but sent a representative from his office to represent him and his government in the discussions. The representative from Guatemala told the Secretary General of the Organization of American States Honorable Jose Miguel Insulza and Belize’s Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington, that their Foreign Minister Fernando Carrera was unable to attend because he had to go to Rome for the inauguration of the new Pope Francis.

The Belize foreign minister then left the room and had the Belizean ambassador to the United States Honorable Nestor Mendez represent Belize in the discussions between the Guatemalan representative and the OAS Secretary General. A letter was brought by this representative to the secretary general of the OAS and the foreign minister of Belize and his delegation. It was later revealed that in this letter, the government of Guatemala was asking the government of Belize to change the date of the referendum to another date and again to amend its constitution to remove the 60% requirement for approval of referendums.

I am a Belizean whose grandmother was born in Livingston (Labuga) Guatemala. I still have a lot of relatives living in Guatemala along with my Garifuna people. In the country of Guatemala the indigenous Maya, blacks, Garifuna and the Mestizo people have no rights whatsoever and the Guatemalan government has and is still committing several human rights violations against these people. This is the main reason why from the formation of that country, thousands of Guatemalan citizens from these ethnic groups continue to flee Guatemala to come and live in Belize peacefully.

Currently, a former president of Guatemala Efrain Rios Montt is on trial for slaughtering thousands of indigenous Maya Indians during his reign as president. The current President Otto Perez Molina himself is a former General of the Guatemalan Army who served from 1966-2000 and attained the rank of Chief of Military Intelligence.

In 1983 he supported General Oscar Mejias to overthrow President Efrain Rios Montt out of office and in 1993 to overthrow another President Jorge Serrano out of power for negotiating with the Belize government and other internal problems with his government. President Serrano was placed on a plane and forced into exile to Panama where he still resides up to this day.

According to an Associated Press news story published January 12, 2012, President Otto Perez said that there were no killings of 200,000 indigenous Maya Indians done by the Guatemalan military to his knowledge despite the fact that there is more than enough evidence available to support the allegations.

This statement is being made by him to get the United States government to lift the current ban on military aid to Guatemala after 36 years of civil war. This ban was imposed in 1978 by President Jimmy Carter for human rights violations committed against the Maya Indian people. President Perez is working hard for the United States to lift this military ban but it took two weeks for President Obama to congratulate him when he became president of Guatemala.

Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, said in an Associated Press article: “The army has a role in border security and in protecting against external threats, but it needs to demonstrate that it is accountable to civilian authorities for atrocities during the internal armed conflict”. He is the Chairman of the sub-committee that funds the US State Department on international aid programs.

With this type of reputation that Guatemala has, what is Belize hoping to get out of any negotiations with this government?

I think we will be better off exposing Guatemala’s human rights record over the years to the world and the effect Guatemalans who are fleeing their country into our country are having on our land, people and country to force them to accept Belize as a sovereign nation.


#461868 - 04/06/13 10:21 AM Re: No ICJ! Guatemala wants out of referendum [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 2003
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Pres Perez Molina is as guilty as Rio Montt and as they
have done for yrs in Guate, they want to deflect attention from their own ills and have the populace focus on the Belize land issue. These guys are monsters

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