Posted: Tuesday, October 2, 2018. 1:22 pm CST.
By Richard Harrison: The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.
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.
Should the dispute with Guatemala be left to future generations?
The Government of Belize says it is engaged in an “education” campaign to inform Belizeans so that they can make the best decision to vote in the referendum planned for April 10, 2019. The referendum will decide if the age old dispute should be submitted by both countries via “special agreement” to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
The strange, suspicious thing is that the education is only about the “pros” to go to ICJ…nothing about the “cons”…it is basically a one-sided “yes to ICJ” campaign…nothing about risks and downsides…nothing to gain, only to lose…the largest chunk of the budget coming from foreign geo-political actors, at the behest of both of Belize’s overly corrupt governments.
One of the principal arguments used by promoters of “yes to ICJ” is that they do not want to leave the dispute to their children and grandchildren…”lets settle this thing once and for all” they would say….”we should seize the opportunity” since if we don’t, “the international community will abandon us, and God forbid, we may face invasion from our much bigger and stronger neighbour, Guatemala”.
The threat of invasion theory has already been debunked in a separate article, so this article will deal with the argument that the dispute should be settled NOW and not left for future generations of Belizeans.
This is an empty-barrel argument from several view-points:
- The dispute is over 150 years old, and thus more than 7 past generations of Belizeans trusted our generation enough to have passed us the baton. Only a generation that fails to invest in their children in ways that increase their capacities and capabilities, over and above their own, would naturally have some reticence in leaving the dispute to future generations.Thusthis argument reflects on “yes to ICJ” proponents that they are not investing in their children and building confidence in them…they think their children and grandchildren will be weaker, more poor, less prepared and of lower ambition than them. They need to take a good, long look in the mirror.
- Only two generations ago, Belize and our British allies were getting prepared for a military invasion by the military/elite government of Guatemala…Radio Mopan and Radio Amatique were bombarding us with propaganda regarding Guatemala’s claim…very large billboards at our border proclaimed “Belicees deGuatemala”….and Guatemalan school children were given their daily dose of indoctrination “Belice es Nuestro”. Today, our Foreign Minister repeatedly describes Belize-Guatemala relations as friendly….there is no more mass media campaigns across our borders…there are no large billboards or other claims at the border….and thousands of Belizean and Guatemalan students have studied together in Belize primary and secondary schools and Guatemalan universities.
- In April 2018, Guatemala held its own referendum on taking the dispute to the ICJ, and only 26% of voters turned out to vote…95% of those voted in the affirmative….74% thus expressed no interest in the claim. The proponents of “yes to ICJ” in both Belize and Guatemala were quick to claim that thisturn outwas “democratic”….as that is one of the basic requirements for taking disputes to the ICJ…so even the Belize diplomats betrayed the democratic concept enshrined in the Belize Constitution, which requires a 66% majority turnout on issues such as borders, which is the essence of the dispute. Having engaged in absolutely no negotiations that benefit the people of Guatemala, already 74% of the people don’t care for the claim…imagine if we would engage in deep and broad cross-border cooperation, collaboration, coordination, cohesion and even collusion…in education, health, environment, tourism, agriculture, trade, investments, etc….that number would rise steadily over few years to over 90%, and the Guatemalans will be the ones to tell their government to drop the unfounded claim…and rightfully so.
- The 150+ year old claimhaveseen many peaks and throughs…depending on the political rhetoric of the ruling president…those like Morales who came to power with the backing of the military/elite are more prone to hype the dispute…the more civilian presidents have not engaged in sabre-rattling…indeed, one even recognized the independence of Belize in 1991. President Morales is facing many internal challenges and his term in office ends within the next 9 months…thus tensions raised by his rhetoric may very well disappear and the urgency feeling for dispute resolution will subside. In truth and in fact, Belize-Guatemala relations have been mostly good over the past 150 years…and has been getting better as there are more exchanges and growing respect and understanding…trust factors still need a lot of work, because our cultures are very different.
- A generation of Belizeans who would have some moral authority to make life or death decisions for future generations…like deciding to negotiate, litigate, gift or gamble with Belize’s sovereignty and territorial integrity…has to be a generation that have the country with full employment, low poverty, surplus economy, living in safety and full freedom of rights, able to own, use and enjoy ANY part of Belize freely, with good education and health services, adequate development infrastructure, optimal international relations and awareness of our true position, and a medium-long-term security arrangement for our #8867….none of which the current generation can boast. Those self-righteous ones arguing for urgent end to the dispute must get off their laurels and start to produce some of these requirements before they start making life or death choices for future generations.
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