The new US Ambassador to Belize, Carlos Moreno, 65, arrived in Belize over the weekend and is due to assume official duties tomorrow, Tuesday, after presenting his credentials to Belize’s Governor-General Sir Colville Young.
Moreno will then take over from Chargé d’Affaires, Margaret Hawthorne, who has been leading the US Mission in Belize since the departure of the former US Ambassador to Belize, Vinai Thummalapally, in 2013.
The US Ambassador Designate, a native of Los Angeles with Mexican parentage, is accompanied in Belize by his wife, Christine.
In a video produced by the US Department of State’s Bureau of International Information Programs in October 2013, Moreno said, “The words ‘Equal Justice for All’ serve as a guiding principle for me and for a free democracy.”
He added that, “As a former California Supreme Court justice, I understand and respect the judicial process and will work with the government and people of Belize to uphold the rule of law and protect human rights.”
He is reputed as the lone California Supreme Court Judge who voted against Proposition 8, which calls for a sustained ban of same-sex marriage in that state. His deployment to Belize comes at a time when the local LGBT community has been advocating internationally for international pressure to get Belize to excise its sodomy laws, amid a court claim challenging the constitutionality of the criminalization of sodomy.
In his presentation back in October 2013 to the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, Moreno first highlighted the crime and security issues with which Belize is faced.
“These are challenging times in Belize. Gang-related violence has soared in recent years, and Belize now has the sixth highest per capita murder rate in the world, and the third highest murder rate in Central America,” he said.
He added that more than 40% of the population live below the poverty line, and 50% of the population are under the age of 25, making Belize the 3rd youngest population in the Western Hemisphere.
“With limited educational and economic opportunities, Belize’s young people are increasingly vulnerable to recruitment by gangs and criminal organizations that utilize the country as a major transit point for trafficking drugs, illicit precursor chemicals, weapons, and people,” he said.
Moreno also said in his October 2013 video that, “As your ambassador, I will devote my time and energy to build cultural bridges and exchanges and expand our business and trade opportunities.”