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Belize not ready to hold ICJ referendum

BELIZE CITY, Fri. Apr. 13, 2018– On Sunday, the Republic of Guatemala, which has continued to assert a territorial claim to Belize, will hold a national referendum to determine if its territorial claim will be adjudicated at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in accordance with the Special Agreement (compromis) which both countries signed in December 2008.

While the Guatemalans had embarked on a very expensive public education campaign which, for the most part, contained a lot of questionable, misleading information about its claim to Belize, the Belize Ministry of Foreign Affairs has failed to mount any challenge to Guatemala’s blizzard of misinformation about its territorial claim to half of Belize.

At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there was once a “Referendum Unit” which had the responsibility of launching an education campaign to prepare Belizean voters for the holding of the ICJ referendum. The Referendum Unit has had a change of name and is now known as the “International Boundaries Unit.”

There is, however, a fundamental flaw with the International Boundaries Unit: Information about its work is difficult to come by.

This afternoon, when Amandala attempted to access information about the unit’s function, we were told that our questions could only be answered by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, or Belize’s Ambassador to Guatemala, H.E. Ambassador Alexis Rosado, who is not in the country at present, but who returns to the country from time to time.

Amandala understands that Guatemala has spent over 300 million Quetzals on its referendum. In Belize, however, the recently passed budget only contains around $50,000 for the ICJ public education program.

In his budget debate in the Senate, PUP Senator Eamon Courtenay said the funds for the ICJ education program that the government allocated “was a joke.”

Last February, the Organization of American States Permanent Council convened to receive the newly appointed Foreign Minister of Guatemala, Sandra Jovel.

At that meeting, Minister Elrington appealed to the OAS for non-financial assistance for the ICJ referendum process.

“I would just like to express my very deep gratitude for the genuine and heartfelt comments that you have all made in response to the presentations made by the Honorable Foreign Minister of Guatemala and myself. Many times countries like my own do more with nonfinancial support than with financial support. Nonfinancial support tends to go where it is directed and has tremendous benefits.

“No one can misappropriate nonfinancial support, whereas financial support can find its way in the wrong places. So I would like to encourage all of you to think about ways in which you can give us assistance,” said Foreign Minister Elrington.

A knowledgeable source that Amandala spoke to, told us that holding a referendum is a very expensive process and Belize would need around 25 million dollars to hold its referendum.

Apart from the monies needed to hold the referendum, the Government of Belize has also indicated that a voter re-registration must take place prior to the holding of the referendum.

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