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Guatemala headed for referendum on territorial dispute

Posted By: Marty

Guatemala headed for referendum on territorial dispute - 10/21/17 12:27 PM

On Sunday, March 18, 2018, the people of Guatemala will go to referendum to decide whether or not to take its territorial dispute with Belize to the International Court of Justice.

Guatemalan media reported that the government announced the official date on Monday. On March 18, Guatemalans will answer either “yes” or “no” to the question, “Do you agree that any legal claim of Guatemala against Belize on continental and island territories and any maritime areas corresponding to such territories shall be submitted to the International Court of Justice for final determination and that (the court) shall determine the boundaries of the respective territories and areas of the parties?”

The Government of Belize has stated earlier this year that it does not intend to go to a referendum before the municipal elections, scheduled for March 2018.

In 2012, Belize and Guatemala had agreed to simultaneous referenda on October 6, 2013: however, Guatemala withdrew from the referendum arrangement, halting the process. Guatemala had argued that holding the referendum was an expensive exercise, and the country did not want to commit to it because it was unsure of Belize’s commitment to the process.

The Reporter

Posted By: Marty

Re: Guatemala headed for referendum on territorial dispute - 11/08/17 12:03 PM

What to Do About Odious, Offensive Guatemalan Map?

One topic the media pressed both Courtenay and Elrington on are the reports out of Guatemala that their government will start printing those offensive maps with Belize being a part of Guatemala.

Supposedly, it's part of their public education campaign on the ICJ referendum which is coming up in March, 2018. Press reports from Guatemala say that the education campaign will feature maps which will illustrate the territory of Belize as being part of Guatemala. There will be one dotted lines to note the borders between the countries and it should say "territory in dispute".

So, how will Belize handle these controversial maps, and how should it be handled? That's what both diplomats were asked, and here's that back and forth:

Hon. Wilfred Elrington - Minister of Foreign Affairs
"The information that I have received is that the Guatemalans, in their campaign, will be using maps of Guatemala that shows Belize included as part of their territory. Well that has always been their position. They have always taken the view that they were claiming the whole of Belize, and I have been at pains to say to the Belizean public that that is the case. Other people have suggested otherwise, but that has l always been their position, so nothing has change. What is now important is that we need to now educate our Belizeans to understand, and I hope we can now come together and agree that the claim relates to the whole country."

Hon. Eamon Courtenay, SC - PUP Senator
"How can the Foreign Minister being presented with that question, not say what he is going to do? 1, why hasn't a diplomatic protest been seen? 2, why haven't we engaged the OAS, who has superintendence over this process, saying that is an act of bad faith. 3. Why haven't the Government of Belize come out immediately with a press statement condemning it to Guatemala, and saying that it is just wrong? Why have we not galvanized our supporters on the international stage and said, 'This is going in the wrong direction?' And I guarantee you, that if Guatemala publishes a map like that, the Belizean people are going to reject any referendum held here, and rightly so."

"All I will say, is we need a foreign minister who is going to aggressively, consistently defend Belize's position and advance what is in our interest, and stop acquiescing and accepting things that Guatemala does."

According to our archives the Guatemalans started pushing out the map with Belize included in a dotted area as far back as 2013 where it has appeared at official forums such as the OAS.

Channel 7

Posted By: Marty

Re: Guatemala headed for referendum on territorial dispute - 11/16/17 12:05 PM

Guatemala Changes Referendum Date

Guatemala has changed the date on which it will hold a Referendum on whether to take their claim of Belize’s entire territory before the International Court of Justice to adjudicate.

In mid-October Guatemala’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal announced that it would be holding that exercise on Sunday, March 18, 2018. The date was later approved by Guatemala’s Congress and plans have moved forward. But Guatemalan officials have had to deal with their first hurdle – which is that that Sunday will be an important day for Catholics worldwide who will be celebrating Lent season. The specific date will be the Fifth Sunday of Lent and the fear for officials is that citizens would be dissuaded from participating in the political process. As a result, the date was changed to April 15, 2018.

With just over 21 weeks to go, Guatemalan electoral officials have proposed a budget of U.S. $40 million to fund the process which will involve a massive information campaign over 23 electoral districts to educate voters on the issue and to encourage them to participate.

They will be answering the Referendum question which will read in Spanish…“¿Está usted de acuerdo que cualquier reclamo legal de Guatemala contra Belice sobre territorios continentales e insulares y cual quiera áreas marítimas correspondientes a dichos territorios sea sometido a la Corte Internacional de Justicia para su resolución definitiva y que esta determine las fronteras de los respectivos territorios y áreas de las partes?”.

The question when translated in English is the same which Belizeans will answer when the referendum is held in Belize.

As for Belize, we seem to be a long way from such an exercise, although gradual steps will be taken. Belize’s Ambassador to Guatemala, Pat Andrews, has indicated that the plans as presented by Cabinet are for the municipals to be held, followed by re-registration, and then in late 2018 or early 2019 the referendum can come. But if the referendum does not get a sufficient yes votes in Guatemala, the Government of Belize says there is no reason for it to proceed.

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