Features — 21 May 2016 — by Joaquin Magaña
Belize gained independence through hard work, intelligence, high-skilled diplomacy, statesmanship, bravery and courage!

In the late 1950’s, the then president of Guatemala, Miguel Hidigoras Fuentes, declared: “Belize will be ours by right or by might”. Notice that he said “WILL BE”, which makes clear, in the president’s own words, that BELIZE WAS NOT AND IS NOT for Guatemala. It is only because Guatemala’s Constitution says that Belize is for Guatemala, that they keep the unfounded claim, with absolutely no right to claim Belize. However, despite this, Belize, valiant and bold, lobbied tirelessly for international support in a very courageous manner, under the leadership of Hon. George Price, and achieved its independence with all its territory intact. The United Nations then accepted Belize’s independence with all its territory intact.

The crucial Independence movement had begun some years before the 60’s but became even more intense in the mid and latter part of the 70’s. Belizeans under the leadership of the incorruptible George Price were strongly motivated by the unstoppable desire of having a nation of our own with full sovereignty and territorial integrity, with borders from the Rio Hondo to the Sarstoon River, as our borders have always been. Belizeans wanted independence for Belize by all means. Those Belizeans thus felt compelled to be part of this colossal movement because of their love for Belize.

Belize had attained internal self-government in 1964. It was expected that Belize would become constitutionally independent within a short time; however, because of Guatemala’s unfounded claim, Belize was obliged to wait and had to garner enough support from the international community so that Belize could proceed to independence. First, Belize had to lobby for support from countries all over the world because Guatemala, its bully neighbour, had repeatedly been engaged in intimidation and was threatening to invade if Belize became independent. CARICOM, the Commonwealth of Nations, and the Non-Aligned Movement in August 1975 with 101 nations gave full support to Belize for a secure independence and TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY.

It was very difficult to get the Latin American countries to understand and support Belize’s position. In 1975 at the U.N. the only Spanish-speaking Latin American country that supported Belize was Cuba. In 1976, the president of Panama, General Omar Torrijos, was persuaded to support our cause. He accepted, and then proceeded to actively and vigorously campaign for the Belizean cause. Strongman General Omar Torrijos did so much to support and gain support for Belize’s independence. Among other Latin American countries, Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina, and Peru gave their support in 1979. In 1979 the Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua overthrew the Somoza dictatorship, Guatemala’s most committed ally. The new Nicaraguan government declared its full support for Belize. From 1975 to 1979, the United States ABSTAINED on all United Nations resolutions concerning Belize’s Independence, Sovereignty and TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY. Finally, in 1980, the USA changed its policy of NEUTRALITY, got down from the fence, and voted in favor of the U.N. resolution that called for the secure independence of Belize. This resolution was adopted in November 1980. It DEMANDED THE SECURE INDEPENDENCE OF BELIZE, WITH ALL ITS TERRITORY INTACT, before the next session of the U.N. in 1981. That same year, the Organization of American States (OAS) fully endorsed the U.N. resolution. This was an important victory, because until then the OAS had supported Guatemala.

George Price, Father of the Nation, led Belize to Independence on September 21, 1981. Belize finally attained its independence through hard work, high-skilled diplomacy, statesmanship, bravery and courage, despite the fact that Guatemala was always trying to intimidate Belizeans, and the U.S. and Britain were always willing to cede land to Guatemala to appease and solve the claim. Guatemala had stated that they would invade Belize, if Belize was granted Independence. Meanwhile, the UDP was against the independence movement and was asking for a 10-year moratorium.

So it was a psychological warfare by Guatemala to intimidate Belizeans into giving up self-determination and independence. Belize’s leader, George C. Price, never gave up; he always firmly and bravely said: “not a square centimeter”, while Philip Goldson said “not a blade of grass” was to be given to Guatemala. When will our leaders today be as brave and bold as these national heroes, George Price, Father of the Nation, and Philip Goldson? On September 25th 1981 Belize was admitted as a member of the United Nations. On the same day it became a full member of the Non-Aligned Movement, after having “Special Status” since 1976. In 1991 Guatemala recognized Belize’s independence, and the two countries successfully established full diplomatic relations.

Today Belizeans are so appalled and disgusted by the way in which Foreign Minister Elrington and GOB have cowardly relinquished all that was gained in 1981. Going to the ICJ might mean losing it all, losing Belize, our country we fought so hard to make. The efforts, the time, surmounting so many obstacles and giving all, cannot go down the drain. So many of us were part of The Peaceful Revolution in 1979 and beyond, fighting for Belize’s Independence; and surely if we had to fight for a Second Independence we would gladly be part of that fight again. BELIZE, OUR LAND Of The Free!!! We fought so hard in this battle until we won! We just cannot sit back and see it all go to Guatemala by going to the ICJ. Of course not!

NO, NO, NO. SAY NO TO Guatemala and NO TO the ICJ!!!

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