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The Jalacte Road

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Posted: Saturday, March 16, 2019. 4:35 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, Political Science Studies, Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala &  Universidad Mariano Galvez, Guatemala City.

The road or highway to Jalacte in the Toledo District bordering with Guatemala’s Santa Cruz Village in Belize’s southwestern border has been trafficable since a few years now and some level of trade is going on in that area. I took a mule ride to Santa Cruz Village, Guatemala, just to differentiate from Belize’s Santa Cruz Village which is casually on that same road to Jalacte, a couple of years ago. We had to cross a rocky creek, climb some hills. The region is pretty hilly and has a lot of potentials. Typical Guatemalan community with commercial vibrancy, at least at the time of the year I visited. The villagers in Jalacte commented that during the dry season the creek is crossable by and in 4 x 4 SUV’s. Guatemalan communities where there is good commerce grow very fast. You are talking about a country with almost 17 milion people. The most populated in Central America. Their population growth will have an impact on Belize with or without an ICJ resolution. That is, whether we go to the ICJ or not. These are natural  sociological, economics, and demographic dynamics. The U.S. is thousands of miles away and feeling the impacts. We are the immediate neighbour and less than a mile away or a few yards away in some cases despite the infamous adjacency zone. For them the pasture is greener on the other side and literally it is because we conserve the area while they exploit their area including deforestation and we also have a stronger currency; hence, the incursions. We all forget when it was the opposite. When Guatemala had a strong currency. When it was 2 Bze Dollars for a Quetzal. The Quetzal was at par with the U.S. Dollar. That attracted many people especially from Southern Belize to work in Guatemala with companies like the United Fruits Company in Morales, Izabal, famously known as Bananera. There are many Belizean decents in that area if we would do a census. Some Belizeans returned as the Guatemalan currency got weaker while others remained.

However, Guatemala as a state, has not done their part for the connection of this Jalacte Road. Ironically, in the 1859 boundary treaty, they wanted a cart road. In the 21st century, the government of Belize with aid from abroad have constructed a highway  to modern standards and with modern standards higher than that of the cart road they had wanted at that time though not as futuristic as could have been the idea, but it is there and traficable. Guatemala has done nothing to build the bridge over the creek that crosses the area and upgrade the road to Santa Cruz and from there to the main highway that connects that part of Peten to Guatemala City, the main metropolis of the country. This let me ask myself the question how serious are the Guatemalan decision makers and those involved with their claim over Belize? ARE THEY REALLY SERIOUS OR IS IT MERE CAPRICHOUSNESS?  Remember, Belize has no claim.. Some Guatemalans in the name of Guatemala are the ones claiming and doing so for over two hundreds and in all those over two hundred years, history has shown that it is mere caprichousness. There isn’t nor has been any systemic practice in their claim. Prove of it decades and decades go by and their claim remained in dormancy. Later, a president would come and has the caprichousness to reactivate the claim and another would come and sleep on it. It is not a policy of state rather the policy of a government. Our governments neither have been able to capitalized on this, rather are obliging us like in a crude dictatorship to accept the gamble of going to the ICJ with the argument that we have a strong case. All based on their opinions and that of some legal opinions and they forget that they are precisely that, legal opinions. That doesn’t take away the fact that they are opinions and are also in its written form. The intonation of those opinions in front of the judges would also be another issue but those are judiciary procedures matters. However, it is no secret that the intonation and articulation of arguments of the lawyer play an important role in courts. Intonation, articulation, and oration are also important in politics. Hello Mr. P.M!  The argument that we have an iron clad case is outrageiusly false. That doesn’t exist in law. More so, that judgement is done by human beings and not by robots.

Historically, Guatemala claims that it has a claim over Belize which has never been specific. However, it has done nothing or little infrastructurally about the matter but Belize’s team has allowed them to do a lot suprastructurally leading up to a special agreement that updates Guatemala’s claim legally or suprastructurally. It reminds me of the song where the lady says “You have the papers but I have the man”. Little does she realize that what counts are the papers at the end of the day. Guatemala as a state played a strategy of not caring about Belize from day one but they updated their legal instruments, thanks to our negotiators and are now ready to put them in front of the judges of the ICJ hoping to get something. If we, that is, if Belize decide to grant the ICJ its jurisdiction, and Guatemala’s wouldn’t get a blade of grass as they say, Guatemala wouldn’t have lost. However, if they would get something that would mean a lot  to them because they didn’t have it anyway. Keep in mind, though that they now have the papers. We legalized and updated their claim to 21st century standards. Their legal instrument is now in clearer English and up to date.

Guatemala never honoured nor respected Art.19 Transitory of their Constitution where it says that and I translate into English that the Government of Guatemala would promote social, economic, and cultural relationship with the people of Belize.” The government hasn’t promote anything. There isn’t any state policy as such or with such. It is their private sector in search for markets who have invested in Belize not the state. The interchange has always been people to people; the people of Guatemala and the people of Belize. Belizeans doing trade, seeking medical attention, doing tourism, seeking tertiary education, etc., etc.  The Guatemalan seeking jobs, doing trade, seeking an English based education, a “peaceful” environment, etc., etc. What better than the completion of the connection to the Jalacte road for that to happen and the gesture of good neighbours. Both Guatemala and Belize will benefit from this road. Do you know that goods imported from China via Guatemala’s Pacific port, Puerto Quetzal, would and will reach Corozal and  Mexico’s Quintana Roo, Yucatan and Tabasco using the Jalacte Road far quicker than when they go all the way through Melchor de Mencos. By that time, you are already at Chetumal taking a rest, having a beer or a shot of tequila. Less effect of driving fatigue on your body, less risk of hemorrhoids. Less wear and tear on your vehicle. Less logistics and transportation cost. Less cost of good to consumers. Quicker delivery of good to businesses and consumers. Better consumers satisfaction. Many more positives attributes than negatives. This Jalacte road could and will be  of vital economic importance to the economy of Belize if administered properly. There could be a quick connection to Big Creek Port for trade from China and the far east to countries like Jamaica, Grand Cayman, for example. Even to islands off the coast of Honduras like Roatan. Our southern touristic area like Placencia , Lubaantun, Nim Li Punit could benefit with regional and international tourism because the tourist who visit Antigua, Guatemala and/or Panajachel, Solola, and don’t plan to go to Tikal rather want to enjoy white sandy beach, they can enjoy Placencia and the southern cayes in a shorter length of time and even shorter to reach cayes like Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye. Flights from Punta Gorda, Independence, and Placencia would also increase creating better flight connections for national and international flights. Bringing with it development to that southern part of our country that it so yearns. That route can also foster quicker commerce to entire Belize. Belize is readily traversed from south to north and west to east and vice versa. History has shown us that the key to development is trade. Mr. Castro would say “clear the land.” I would say “open the trade”. Fair trade, that is! Fair trade.

Hope the government of Belize is already taking the necessary steps to make that Jalacte Road, as a new route, very productive to our nation in the future because there will also be challenges.

 

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