H.E. Alfredo “Fred” Martinez, 60, Belize’s Senior Ambassador to Guatemala and most other countries in Central America, known more prominently for his role as Belize’s chief negotiator in the Belize-Guatemala talks held under the auspices of the Organization of American States (OAS), unexpectedly succumbed to illness on Tuesday night in Guatemala City.
A state funeral will be held for Ambassador Martinez, who is also a former Government minister, at 2:00 p.m. this Saturday, July 12, at La Immaculada Church in Orange Walk Town, where Martinez also served as mayor in the years prior to his career in the Foreign Service.
Amandala understands that Martinez’s body was cremated right after his death, and his ashes will be brought back to Belize. The embassy staff in Guatemala will be traveling home Friday for his funeral.
Foreign Affairs officials could not respond to our query into whether an autopsy was done before Martinez was cremated; however, we were advised that Martinez had been facing health challenges for nearly two years, although he continued to be a dedicated worker with an upbeat spirit.
Chief Executive Officer Alexis Rosado told Amandala that Martinez had, in fact, been hospitalized and under observation in Guatemala City since last Thursday, and he had received a text message from Martinez on Monday night saying that he was ill inside the Intensive Care Unit. Ambassador Martinez passed away Tuesday night and news of his passing was received here in Belize on Wednesday morning.
Rosado said that he had received a message from Martinez saying that he was experiencing a “full body chemical imbalance.” We asked him what this means, and Rosado said that he does not know.
We checked with a medical doctor here who told us that “full body chemical imbalance” means that the salts in the body, such as sodium, potassium, are not at the levels that they should be. We asked whether such a condition is not treatable, and the doctor signaled to us that it might be.
Rosado told Amandala that Martinez had not given any indication that he was terminally ill.
Foreign Affairs Minister Wilfred Sedi Elrington described Martinez’s performance as “stellar.” He told the media on Wednesday that he was not surprised to hear that Ambassador Martinez had passed away, because he appeared to be very ill when he traveled with the Belize delegation to the meeting of the Central American Integration System (Spanish acronym SICA), in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, less than two weeks prior.
“He was part of the Belize delegation to that Heads [of State/Government] conference and at that time we noted that he really seemed to have been quite ill. As a matter of fact, I remember urging him to go back as quickly as possible and I even asked him why he had bothered to come because he wasn’t looking too well at all,” Elrington told the media.
CEO Rosado said that the Belize delegation in Punta Cana, led by Prime Minister Dean Barrow, was very concerned about Martinez, but Martinez told them that he was getting better. Rosado said that Martinez was always happy to go beyond the call of duty.
However, indications are that for the past two years or so, Martinez had been seriously affected by other ailments. We were told that he had contracted dengue, and it was diagnosed a bit later than it should have been. Martinez had to be treated and it took a while for him to be restored to good health, and he had another medical setback when he contracted pneumonia, and did not know that he was suffering the condition, our newspaper was told.
Ambassador Rosado describes Ambassador Martinez as “a workaholic,” and he told us that he, in fact, worked at the embassy until he was hospitalized last Thursday.
Minister Elrington told the media Wednesday that Martinez played a pivotal role in ensuring that we had a peaceful relationship with Guatemala.
“He had an excellent relationship with his counterparts in Guatemala; he had a very good relationship with the Guatemalan government and he also had a very good relationship with the other ambassadors,” Elrington said.
According to CEO Rosado, Martinez was the longest serving diplomat in Guatemala, and he was second to the Dean of the Diplomatic Corp there, who is always the representative of the Vatican in that country.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Guatemala has conveyed its condolences. In a public notice published on its website, the Guatemala Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it greatly laments the loss and expressed its sincere condolences to Martinez’s family and the Government of Belize.
The Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) here issued a statement saying that Martinez served Belize devotedly through his long years in public office in Belize.
“Ambassador Martinez was an ardent and committed defender of Belize’s sovereignty and was dedicated to ensuring that at all times Belize was represented at the highest possible level with passion, grace, wisdom and great wit. He will be missed by all who had the honor to know him and work with him,” said the Opposition statement.
The PUP expressed condolences to Martinez’s wife, Annalisa Agnelli Martinez, his three sons: Carlo, Gianni and Etienne Martinez, and their extended family. (Within the last two years, Ambassador Martinez lost both his mother and brother.)
Ambassador Martinez was posted in Guatemala in 2003, when he was appointed by the People’s United Party administration, although he is a former chair of the ruling United Democratic Party.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs says that apart from being Belize’s resident Ambassador in Guatemala, Martinez also served as Non-resident Ambassador to the Republics of Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama. He has served as Belize’s Ambassador for Venezuela (1994-1997) and Cuba (1996-1997), but his first diplomatic appointment came in 1993, when he served as Belize’s Ambassador to Mexico – a position he held until 1997. From 1996-1997, he also served as Non-resident High Commissioner to Jamaica.
“In recognition of his outstanding work he was honored by the Government of Mexico with the Order of the Aztec Eagle, the highest award offered to Foreign Diplomats,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
Ambassador Martinez also had an earlier political career with the UDP. He was party chairman from 1990-1993. He was senator and Leader of Government Business in the Senate on two occasions, in 1984-1989 and again in the period 1997-1998, when he also served for a year as Minister of Trade and Industry.
Ambassador Martinez has been in the public service at least since the 1980s. Martinez was mayor of his hometown, Orange Walk Town, from 1985-1988 and from 1991-1992.
The OAS office at the Belize-Guatemala border issued a statement saying that it is deeply saddened by the passing of Ambassador Martinez.
“The OAS is greatly indebted to Ambassador Martinez, as Chief Negotiator for the Government of Belize, for his invaluable contributions directed at finding a peaceful and permanent solution to the territorial dispute between Belize and Guatemala,” the statement said.
It added that Martinez was a brilliant diplomat, and his dedication to his work, despite many challenges and obstacles, are commendable.
“He represented the best in the diplomatic service,” said the OAS statement, adding that Ambassador Martinez will be truly missed.
Rosado said that Martinez had many friends in Central America and abroad, and the condolences have been coming in from all over.
For those wishing to record their sentiments, a book of condolences has been opened at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Belmopan.