Posted: Friday, April 20, 2018. 9:20 am CST.
This article was written by Richard Harrison, Belizean investor in production and services businesses in Belize. He holds a Master’s in Business Administration degree from Lancaster University.
By Richard Harrison: The general reaction of Belizeans to the referendum vote of the Guatemalans is one of apprehension and fear….because the Guatemalan campaign was seen as very racist…as Belize is a very cosmopolitan society, quite unlike Guatemala…and even though 74% of the people decided not to participate….95% of those who participated voted YES to the ICJ….and since no threshold was required, the few will have determined for the many that the Guatemalan claim over Belize will be taken to the ICJ for a finite resolution.
The propaganda put out by the Guatemalan campaign was very clear….they are claiming half of Belize territory and maritime areas….even though some of their very educated people who voted YES say publicly that they are not seeking to take land….merely to finally settle this old dispute, leave Belize as is, and define the border…in an effort to reduce the chances of more Guatemalans dying in the “adjacency zone”, they say….which means that even among their YES votes, even the very educated have confused the official position of their government.
A small poll taken by one of the local media houses show that Belizeans are leaning at the moment around 90% towards the NO vote. Those speaking in favor of YES mostly worry that the international community would abandon Belize if it were to vote NO to the ICJ….leaving Belize to fend for itself against its much more powerful neighbour….but no one in Belize wants a change in the borders of Belize, established in Belize Constitution of Independence of September 21, 1981.
Belizeans have been using the social media to make their sentiments known….and much of it has been worry….concern…anxiety…fear…even as they share information and opinions surrounding the claim….and the pros and cons of allowing this claim to be decided by an international court…during a time when very few Belizeans trust their government, and especially their Foreign Minister…who they see as too complacent in the face of Guatemalan intrusion and control over our Sarstoon Island at our southern border with Guatemala. Belize government has been taking various cases to international and regional courts over the recent past with no success to show….and this is a cause of great worry that translates over to this case with the ICJ.
Belizeans must be confident…and while expressing strongly their will for self-definition and self-determination…..they should speak the language of peace.
Inflammatory, hate-filled language will not advance Belize’s best interest…we must be mature and intelligent…and speak clearly about our concerns and the things that we fear….without going into the gutters…without profanity and vulgarity…without hate and anger.
While both countries have committed to peaceful resolution of the dispute…which precludes the use of invasion or war as a solution, by both sides…educated Guatemalans who lead public opinion must also continue to express publicly that they have no designs over Belizean territory….and that they want for Belize to remain as is, with a defined border and peaceful relations….and the Guatemalan government should adopt the same narrative.
However, Belizeans should refrain from language that only serve to anger and cause distrust. Belize and Guatemala MUST live as neighbours…they have no choice in that geographic matter.
We should be open to all kinds of discussions and negotiations that are of interest to ordinary Guatemalans….especially those of the lower and middle-income, who are the ones that did not go to vote in their referendum….they are the ones that see Belize as a place of refuge….where they can go to find jobs and better livelihoods. Many thousands of them have families in Belize….and many of them benefit from remittances sent home to them.
They want more of their children to benefit from our higher level of primary and secondary English education…they want to be able to be legal Belizeans, which our National Constitution does not currently provide for, even though many thousands of them already hold Belize passports illegally facilitated by Belize politicians….they want to be treated as any guest, with cordiality, by our border officials and police….they want to be able to cross the border to buy and sell within the law…they want to travel for leisure in our country, or intransit, with more ease…they want to work legally and live the life of their dreams…and many of them even want their Belizean spouse and children.
Most Guatemalans who have traveled to Belize want Belize to remain as is…and Belizeans want to be able to go to Guatemala to enjoy their people, places and things. They want to go for medical attention, for higher education, to buy and sell legally, to take their tourists for site seeing, for leisure and entertainment and even to invest and save.
Belizeans do not claim any part of Guatemala…even though they know that the border line should be further west than it has been demarcated in practice. All Guatemalans know exactly where the border is, and where they can cross legally into Belize.
Thus, I recommend that Belizeans adopt a language of peace with Guatemala….after all, the Guatemalans desire us (even though some ignorant ones say they only want our land)….it is like a romance that is developing…a courtship that will take time…there should be no rush to intercourse and love…together…but separate and apart….FELICES LOS DOS!!
“Be yourself….especially do not feign affections…neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass” ~ Desiderata
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