Features — 28 May 2016 — by Joaquin Magaña
Be alert, Belizeans!

Guatemala is so poor and has perpetrated genocide on its own people, so how can they still continue with their unfounded, null and void claim over Belize?

Guatemala’s history of genocide against its own people cannot be ignored or forgotten, much less swept under the rug, and the current poverty situation in that country is alarming and disheartening. Don’t think that the acts of genocide in Guatemala are confined to the past — the Guatemalan military and oligarchy are still present and active. The police and the military run the government and the country. Guatemala is a state dominated by organized crime, an unrepresentative and unresponsive political party system and a fragmented civil society in which the marginalized indigenous population struggles relentlessly to make its voice heard. The vast majority of the leadership is comprised of the ruling class and high ranking ex-military personnel.

Guatemala does not have a tradition of a constitutional democracy where the rights of its indigenous people are respected. In fact, Guatemala does not respect the rights of its indigenous people. A Guatemalan court not long ago found Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt, the former dictator who ruled Guatemala during one of the bloodiest periods of its long civil war, guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity. He tried to do away with the Maya Ixil ethnic group in El Quiche Department. Former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt was found guilty of the genocide of more than 1,700 indigenous Ixil Mayans during his 1982-83 rule. Of the 200,000 people who died in that war, roughly 25% were women. That is another atrocity: Guatemala’s government is anti-feminist. Guatemala has the third highest femicide rate in the world. Sexual violence is reported to have been “at very high levels and used as a tool of war”. They raped, tortured and murdered tens of thousands of women and GIRLS. The dozens of Ixil witnesses who survived to give their testimony, proved that the military killed, tortured and raped the indigenous population. As de facto president, Rios Montt knew atrocities were being committed and did nothing to stop it.

Estimates from 1979 indicate that less than 2% of the population owned over 65% of the land, and that situation has not changed significantly in the last 25 years. Guatemala’s land inequality is among the most skewed in the developing world. In addition, women have been consistently denied the right to hold land, both legally and traditionally. In 2000, over half of all Guatemalans (nearly 60%, or about 6.4 million people) lived in poverty. Even though international comparisons of poverty are difficult due to various measurement differences, available evidence does suggest that poverty in Guatemala is higher than in other Central American countries. It is also generally deeper and more severe. More recent statistics indicate that the percentage of Guatemalans living in poverty has been rising and is now estimated at closer to 64%, with slightly over 30% living in extreme poverty — a level where families are unable to obtain the minimum daily caloric intake of food. Malnutrition among Guatemalan children is extremely high – among the worst in the world.  In terms of child growth attainment, Guatemala has an overall stunting rate of 49% of all children under five. Malnutrition is highly correlated with poverty and is much higher among rural and indigenous children than among their urban or non-indigenous counterparts.

Poverty in general is significantly higher among the indigenous population. Over three-quarters of the indigenous population live in poverty. There is a “poverty belt” in the Northern and North-Western regions of the country which is populated primarily by indigenous groups. Guatemala is among the most unequal countries in the world in terms of wealth distribution. The population distribution in Guatemala is characterized by a large “low-income” majority and a very small “high-income” minority. In addition, there are significant inequities across ethnic groups and geographic areas. It is calculated that the top 1% of the population own or control 65% of the wealth, and that the top 5% own or control 85% of the wealth in Guatemala.

According to a World Bank report entitled Guatemala Economic DNA, released in 2014 in Guatemala City, the poorest 40 percent of the country’s 15 million citizens lived on just $1.50 per day (1.16 euro) in 2012 — down from $1.60 in 2003. It’s the only country in Latin America where the poor have been getting poorer. Poverty so frequently leads to a high increase in the murder and delinquency rates in a country, and such is the case in Guatemala. Presently Guatemala has one of the highest murder rates in the world. Under these nefarious circumstances, President Jimmy Morales wants to change the Guatemalans’ perception of reality, but all in vain. He wants to incorporate Belize into Guatemala when he/they cannot govern, cannot run the country in a safe, equitable and orderly manner. Guatemala is in crisis, yet they want to take over Belize. This is insane. Belizeans will NEVER allow it!

Guatemala is presently going through serious civil crises where the indigenous peoples along with other marginalized citizens are organizing huge demonstrations against Jimmy Morales’ government because he has not responded to the needs of the people in an equitable manner. On his part, Jimmy, who is a puppet of the military and police, is frantically trying to divert the nation’s attention from the real issues of poverty, crime, delinquency, bad administration and ill treatment of the indigenous peoples of Guatemala by reviving and pressing Guatemala’s unfounded claim over Belize and also even threatening to invade Belize. However, many people in Guatemala have realized that Jimmy is just bluffing and also diverting attention from the real problems they are experiencing by pushing through the null and void Guatemalan claim over Belize once more.

Proof of this is what the Archbishop Oscar Vian of the Archdiocese of Guatemala declared recently. The Guatemalan newspaper, Prensa Libre, lately issued a report in which Archbishop Oscar Vian speaks out about the Belize/Guatemala territorial dispute, saying that it should have been resolved over 40 years ago and that it is now only being used to divert attention from the daily problems that Guatemala faces. Archbishop Oscar Vian from the Archdiocese of Guatemala made a call to Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales to strengthen dialogue with Congress and other Guatemalan executives, lawmakers and political parties to decide what is best for their country regarding the dispute.

The report ends with the Archbishop reprimanding Guatemala for resorting to threats instead of dialogue. According to him, those actions are reprehensible and only take the country back to its early years in which it resorted to killing people in order to end a discussion. Guatemala, ever the bully, is always trying to scare Belizeans into accepting the proposal to go to the ICJ, which Guatemala expects will be of total benefit to them. GUATEMALA WANTS BELIZE, YET IT CANNOT EVEN FEED ITS PEOPLE OR TREAT ITS INDIGENOUS PEOPLE AND CITIZENS WITH RESPECT AND DIGNITY.

My fellow Belizeans, if you love Belize, say NO to Guatemala and NO to the ICJ!!!

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