Legal Opinion: The Belize/Guatemala Dispute
March 3, 2019
Review of Legal Opinion, “The Belize/Guatemala Dispute” prepared by Prof. Stephen Vascianne, CD. of February 2019
March 3, 2019

Why I will vote Yes on Referendum Day (Part 2 of 2)

Posted: Sunday, March 3, 2019. 8:43 am CST.

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

By Osmany Salas: When Guatemala voted Yes in their Referendum some months ago, they voted for its Claim to be considered based on international conventions (treaties), international custom, and past ICJ decisions. That is specified in Article 2 of the Special Agreement that was signed by both countries. It is important for Belizeans, especially the younger generation, to understand how much effort and time it took to get Guatemala to this point.

Guatemala has tried to get a piece of our jewel over the past 150 years. First, Guatemala wanted a road, then they wanted some of our territory, then they wanted all of our territory, then back to only some, and now (like one of their former Foreign Ministers said) they just want “to get off the hook”. The Guatemalans know that we will never agree to give up any part of our land, islands and maritime territory to settle the claim. Now that Guatemala has agreed to request the ICJ to make a determination “in accordance with applicable rules of international law as specified in Article 38(1) of the Statutes of the Court”, we have them where we want them. Almost. We must not let the ICJ opportunity slip through our fingers.

If we take the Claim to the ICJ, we will have Guatemala by its proverbial balls. But for that to happen, we need to vote Yes.

If we vote No, Guatemala’s military will not invade us, I am certain of that. No mek nobody fool you. Guatemala has a lot on its plate and we are now living in another time. The threat of outright military invasion in our Central American region, I am sure, is of the past.

Whether we vote Yes or No, we will still have all the issues and challenges we have now to deal with come April 11th. Whether we vote Yes or No, we will still need to fight for a better Belize.

However, several things will happen if we vote No. This is not fearmongering. These are very obvious facts:

  1. We will not get rid of the unfounded claim.

The Guatemalan Claim has been hanging over our collective heads for most of Belize’s history. I do not want the generations that will succeed mine to be faced with years of uncertainty and anxiety: Our much larger neighbour to the west will continue to claim what is rightfully ours, increasingly flex its muscles in the Sarstoon River, and undermine our territorial integrity all along the western border. The generations that follow us will not forgive us if we don’t move to get rid of the Claim now, especially when they find out how close we were to do so.

  1. We will not get along with our neighbour to the west as we should.

As long as the unjust and unfounded Claim hangs over us, we will not get along well with Guatemala. We must get rid of the Claim so that we can trust one another and focus on expanding bi-national initiatives and agreements at all levels to benefit both our peoples. We will get along much better with a neighbour that no longer has any pretensions over any part of our jewel.

  1. Our western border will not be demarcated.

Only neighbouring countries can carry out the demarcation of their shared boundaries. We will always know where our boundaries are but, as long as the Claim exists, Guatemala will not recognize or respect it. Let us not ignore the fact that, when Belize became the 156th member of the United Nations in 1981, the Guatemalan claim was not resolved – it continued and continues to hang over our heads. Guatemala will never settle out of Court without getting something in return, which is why negotiations failed and will never succeed in Belize’s favour. It will not happen overnight, but after the ICJ rules in our favour, Guatemala will have to eventually amend its Constitution to remove that insulting and anachronistic “Belice es nuestro” clause.

  1. The Claim will continue to be a major obstacle.

Not one square inch, not one blade of grass! We have said that, and we’ll forever say that. However, as the population in the Petén keeps growing exponentially, it will be harder to protect our blades of grass from being trampled by encroaching Guatemalans if the Claim is alive. We’ll still have the major task of protecting our borders against encroachment with a favourable ICJ ruling, but our task will be much more difficult if the Claim still exists. It will be better and more cost effective for us to deal with a neighbour that recognizes our border, much like we do with Mexico. Settling the claim, in other words, makes good economic sense. We have so much to gain if we put the Claim behind us sooner rather than later, and so much to lose if we don’t.

We must therefore take the fight to the ICJ, as all the countries who supported our Independence are urging us to do. We are not alone! We must go there to fight for Belize with the same passionate patriotism and nationalism that secured our Independence. With everything that I have read, I know that we are well prepared to face Guatemala at the ICJ and secure a favourable ruling.

There will be detractors, much as there were in the years leading to September 21, 1981. But that must not dissuade us because our position is a just one. Not only that, but we have legal title to all our land, as well as insular territories and associated maritime areas. The ICJ must agree with that, as they have done with all other border treaties and as international law obliges them to do. And then, finally, Guatemala will “leave we Belize alone”… our Belize, as described in Schedule 1 to our Constitution.

For the voters who are still undecided, who are still wavering one way or the other, it is your duty to inform yourselves so you can make up your mind. Do not allow anyone (not even me through this article) to tell you how to vote. Place your country above party and partisan politics. Read from the many papers, pamphlets and reports that are available online, at the libraries and at the many information sessions. Reach out to people (or people who know people) from both sides of the debate. Help to organize information sessions in your school, your place of work, your association or organization, your neighbourhood, your constituency, your church, your village, your town or city. It is your duty as a citizen to do your part during these next 6 weeks. And then come out to vote on Referendum Day. After all, Belice es nuestro! Belize is ours!

Note: The views expressed in this article are not necessarily the views of the Belize Network of NGOs.


Advertise with the mоѕt vіѕіtеd nеwѕ ѕіtе іn Belize ~ We offer fully customizable and flexible digital marketing packages. Your content is delivered instantly to thousands of users in Belize and abroad! Contact us at mаrkеtіng@brеаkіngbеlіzеnеwѕ.соm or call us at 501-601-0315.


© 2019, BreakingBelizeNews.com. Content is copyrighted and requires written permission for reprinting in online or print media. Theft of content without permission/payment is punishable by law.


  • Galen University
  • Belmopan Aggregates
  • Belmopan Aggregates
  • larry waight
  • Belmopan Aggregates
  • cahal pech village resort
  • Galen University
  • Shindaiwa
  • Belmopan Aggregates