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Lisa Shoman’s Article on the Courtney Doctrine: My reflection

Posted: Friday, January 25, 2019. 5:21 pm CST.

The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.

By Dr. Gerald Zuniga:  On Saturday, January 19th, I read an article written by Ms. Lisa Shoman on Breaking Belize News with the title “The Courtney Doctrines” posted on Friday, January 18th. Here is my reflection.

Doctrines  have a special ingredient. They are institutionalized  The process of institutionalization usually takes time and has a space or place. For example, Mr. Chester Williams the newly appointed Compol could institutionalize his version or conceptualization of community policing and could be called Williams’ Doctrine. I  listened fully to Mr. Courtney’s interview that morning on Open Your Eyes, Channel 5. I fully agreed and agree with Mr. Courtney’s point of view not so on him restricting the rights to be voted neither defending private interest being a Senator because of ethical issues, intelligence mal usage, and high conflict of interest. However, what Mr. Courtney expressed was simply his opinion granted by our constitution. Saying it from a philosophy perspective, he expressed or shared his school of thought.  Hence, I always say that there is no such thing as capitalism or socialism. The person that exercises executive power always display and execute his or her school of thought and most of the time even challenging the constitution. This practice, however, eventually become a doctrine with the course of time and in concern countries with the help of coercive measures. The practice is normally given the suffix -ism. That being said, what is practiced in Cuba is Castrism. When you study socialism or communism as a political or economic theory, at no point you will read that you are not allowed to leave your country.  The same is seen in North Korea. You can say that the doctrine of our government is Barrowism. Even more so that the opposition party in the House is minimized. So many schools of thoughts can become theories in politics and economics and later become doctrines after their institutionalization as I mentioned earlier.. What I express here is my school of thought and not my doctrine. School of thoughts are formulated based on education and experience. Doctrine to me has the added ingredient of desire and you will also observe a high dosage of ego. I used the word education and not: indoctrination which is always the objective of many institution to create and maintain a status quo. One is also used as a propaganda Squealer style. If you read  Animal Farm by George Orwell, you know what I am referring to. However, an advantage of indoctrination is a more predictable pattern of behavior base on the homogenization of society. It has been observed as a sociological phenomenon that a wide diversity eventually leads to social injustice and even anarchy because humans are zoopolitikon. Their struggle for power is eternal. That could be discussed in another opportunity.

I fully agree with Mr. Courtney.  I., myself, as a Belizean citizen by birth with ancestry rooted for more than 200 years humbly and solemnly request from our Prime Minister  Hon. Dean Oliver Barrow a moratorium on this 2019 referendum. I remember the wave on Privatization in the 90’s and many countries followed the wave and most of the time without the consent of their citizenry and the necessary preparation in logistics and economic model see and feel the consequences. Hence our government decided to nationalize. The result of this measure, however, is not for this occasion.

Here are some reasons for me requesting a moratorium apart from those expressed by Senator Courtney.

1. Guatemala claims over Belize has been more political than legal but we legalized by poor negotiation practices by weak negotiation teams and strategy for years who were overwhelmed by Guatemalan negotiators. Language is very important in negotiations. Language barrier can indeed create a barrier. However, our legalization of the claim didn’t go thru the due process and violates both our Constitution and the Guatemalan’s. Whatever was negotiated should have been presented to the house for ratification and in both countries and that was never done. So the Special Agreement  is nulo ipse jure or null and void. Ms Shoman used the phrase”unfounded claim” in her article but only a court could rule that the claim is unfounded. Such ruling has not happened. That is precisely what we should ask the ICJ. Is Guatemala’s claim over Belize or part of Belize founded? Is Guatemala’s restriction of free transit on the Sarstoon River founded? What is observed internationally is that a river forming the boundary of two nations, the river is of mutual benefit?

I will not expound on the 1859 Boundary Treaty nor on the so unpopular Adjacency Zone. Those have been expounded on by the media and other means. The risk of incursions that they argue about is in the hands of our defense force. Not even the United States of America being a world power can defend  and secure their border from incursions. They need the help of a wall. But theirs is thousands of miles. Our is a little over a hundred. So the argument of incursion is naive. With all fairness to Guatemala, the incursions at our borders are not institutionalized, with the exception of the occupation of the Sarstoon River including its island. Those are rouge individuals on their quest for economic satisfaction. They even invade their reserved area like the Mayan Biosphere in Peten. Do you react when something happen to their citizens? Yes! It is the duty of a state to protect the life and human rights of its citizen. That is what a state is organized for . Do they use it for their political benefits and even exaggerate? Yes! Those are strategies in international relations and human beings are human beings. Watch what happens between Israel and the Palestinian  Territory.

2. The nation of Belize is young and fragile. When you are young you don’t go to mature peoples party. So the minimum we can do is visualization. How can we go about with our visualization process? It is important to internationalize the matter. We need to let the world know about this dispute. This is not a matter of territory. It is a matter of a nation and a nation is a state with its people and territory and whose human rights could be violated. Belize in 2019 is not the Belize of 1859. We also need to educate our nation on the matter. Not like the one I saw on Tv last Fiday on the evening newscast, where a group of high school students were addressed. That was futile and a waste of resources. That should have been done 2 – 3 years ago. That is poor targetting from a political marketing point of view and commercial marketing. The group addressed, the majority can’t vote on April 10th especially if no moratorium. Yes! The world needs to know about us. This referendum shouldn’t pretended to be a government type election. The outcome could be far-reaching. Let us try to play the game right with the right equipment, players, and strategies. We can’t afford to lose this game. We only have 8,867sq. miles that our forefathers bravely protected and cherished.  Will the coming generations be able to say the same about us?

3. The Belizeans in the diaspora should be invited to participate.That is our leaders’ moral responsibility and obligation with them. That is also a recompense of their remittances which plays in an important role in our unjustifiably weak economy. There are ample technologies for this to be a reality if there is the political will. Allowing the Central American nationalized recently to vote is very risky based on the navel-string phenomenon and even subconscious identity issues.

4. With Art. 19 Transitory in Guatemala’s Constitution it is in vain going to the ICJ. if the majority vote yes. This is because the resolutions from the ICJ are not binding and that such resolution if we go there, must be presented to the Guatemalan in another referendum according to their constitution based on that same Art. 19.  The derogation of such article by Guatemala’s House of Congress, which is the only institution that can do it, should be tantamount to even considering going to the ICJ. This move to the ICJ could be a waste of resources in the millions of dollars. Guatemala’s referendum was already around $80,000,000USD. Or maybe around $5,000,000,USD. Money yearned by infrastructure, job creation, health, and our education system, etc.

4. The resolution from the ICJ is not binding and with Art. 19 Transitory in Guatemala’s Constitution make it shaky than firm. Say hypothetically the UN Peace Force or Stabilization Mission (MONUSCO) is asked to reinforce the resolution, Guatemala had been a part of such mission both in Haiti and the Democratic Republic of Congo for years. About 14 missions were sent to the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Guatemala has important diplomats with influence on the Security Council. Wouldn’t there be an influence? Wouldn’t it be like the rat watching over the cheese?

5. The Guatemala/Belize Dispute had already been resolved. It was resolved in 1992 by Ex-president Jorge Serrano Ellias and was executed by his foreign minister at the time Alvaro Arzu Irigoyen who also became President of Guatemala from 1996 – 2000. Mr. Arzu died last year. According to Guatemala’s Constitution Art.183, it states that it is the faculty of the President “To direct the foreign policies and international relations; celebrate, ratify, and denounce treaties and agreements in conformity with this Constitution.” Their constitution is clear. Foreign affairs is prerogative of the presidency so Ex-president Jorge Serrano Ellias executed his constitutional rights. Hence, Guatemala established diplomatic ties with Belize since. Diplomatic ties are established with states and states must have a recognized boundary which is also paramount of beginning a member of the United Nations. We lost a precious moment to follow up. That recognition should be challenged at court. That is what should be taken to the ICJ if so be the case.

6. There is what is called in politics: political moment. It is a special moment normally of political benefits based on political events and mass psychology. Mr. Morales, President of Guatemala must handover executive power on January 14th at 2:00 p.m. in 2020 but his government is one of the least popular in Guatemala’s recent political history. Though legal, his government is delegitimized. Their referendum reflected that. Added to that, the unpopular and illegal move according to Guatemala’s Constitutional Court of Morales’ breached of agreement with the United Nation on the CICIG Program. Is this a sign that a possible resolution from ICJ wouldn’t be respected? We might say that he will leave office in less than a year. However, there is a history of such breaches. Also, that his ex-foreign minister, Mr. Carlos Morales, could be candidate for vice presidency with Sandra Torres of the UNE party. The possibility of winning is worthy of consideration. Confidence is very important in international relations. Who they follow up with Jimmy Morales’ stance on Belize?

7. Do we have leverage in a renegotiation if granted a  moratorium or a no win in the referendum? Yes! We need to design a specialized fully bilingual team versed on Guatemala’s politics, affairs, history and law and with a resolution of conflicts skill. This is not a matter of international law. Public and private international laws are based on principles. The resolution of this dispute is political and not legal. That is my humble point of view. In all civilized societies, the court is the last resource for the resolution of conflicts. We are seeing a trending in the opposite direction because of poor negotiating skills, economic gain, pride, and egos. However, a state territory is not a private matter. It is of the public domain. Hence, the approach should be well analyzed and approached. We are neighbors and we should be in good terms. Guatemala has a positive balance of payment with Belize and such is very important for their economy. Also, as I always say any disaster here in Belize, Guatemala could be the first. to jump in before any Caricom nation. We are only a few mile apart.We need each other. Belize should negotiate with Guatemala a dry canal to foster trade. Such a canal could benefit Campeche, Yucatan, and Quintana Roo in Mexico. The distance from Guatemala’s Pacific ports to Belize is a matter of hours and goods would reach Chetumal, Cancun, etc in a matter of hours than  days or weeks when ships have to continue their journey to Mexico’s Pacific ports then the goods are transported hundreds or thousands of miles to Mexico’s fast-growing market on its Caribbean Coast. This could be a source of income for us. Our border line then could be used to contruct a modern highway for this purpose.

The majority of Guatemalans consider us as their neighbor. It was reflected in their referendum which result I still don’t see the statistical explanation for us to even hold a referendum. ” Belice es nuestro vecino” is more institutionalized than “Belice es nuestro.”. For more than 25 years, the “Belice es nuestro” is deinstitutionalized.  Yes, it was used in the early 90’s and before as a political gimmick. However, the political candidates never presented a plan to their nation on how to resolve the matter. Proof of it, Belize had not been a part of their map. Who would occasionally express his opinion on Belize in the press was Juan Francisco Reyes Lopez, who was vice president from January 14th, 2000  – January 14th, 2004 He died a week ago, on January 10th.

I still believe that we have patriots. The luscious and most beautiful part of Belize without hurting susceptibilities could be at stake. We need to convert this game into a chess game and we are intelligent enough to win.

I tried to put emotions aside and instead used the tools of political science to write this article.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Zuniga

Studies in Political Science

School of Political Science

San Carlos Univsersity


Mariano Galvez University

Guatemala City


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