Highlights — 23 April 2013 — by Adele Ramos

Belize will not accept that passport as legitimate; entry permit will have to be bought at the border: Immigration Minister Godwin Hulse

Amandala has been informed by a Foreign Affairs official that although Belize has still not gotten an official undertaking from Guatemala that it will desist from changing its passport cover to reflect its unfounded claim over Belizean territory, officials from both sides of the border have been discussing the matter.

Belize Immigration Minister Godwin Hulse told Amandala this week that “we are not going to accept the passport as legitimate.”

What immigration officials in Belize would be asked to do, said Hulse, is to use the bio-data from the passport to prepare an entry permit—which the migrant from Guatemala would have to pay for.

As our newspaper has previously reported, Guatemalan officials have said that the new passport, which will have a map on its cover as the current one does, should now reflect the territorial differendum with Belize on its cover.

A sample image shows Guatemala and Belize separated by a dotted line—not a clear border as international maps depict—in line with other offensive maps that have been popping up lately.

When Amandala asked Foreign Affairs Minister Wilfred Elrington to comment on the passport issue earlier this week, he pointed to what China has similarly done, in including other Eastern territories on its passport, and how the other countries responded to what he called “the Chinese provocation”.

“We in Belize, to my mind, have to be guided by what these more mature and experienced countries do,” Elrington said, adding that Belize cannot afford taking a “kneejerk” approach or taking on “positions that are inimical to our interests.”

Speaking subsequently on the matter, the immigration minister said that the Guatemalan citizen could not be faulted for having to obtain a passport with a map that offends Belize. He also said that Belize can’t stop trade activities with Guatemala.

The Opposition People’s United Party recently issued a strong statement saying that if they were the ruling administration, they would not allow Guatemalans to travel to Belize with the passport. The PUP, furthermore, called on Belize to boycott the OAS General Assembly to be convened in Antigua, Guatemala, in June.

There have been concerns expressed by Belizeans that the “offensive map” with Belize annexed would show up at the meeting; however, Belize has issued an official call to the OAS, asking it to ensure that no such offensive material is printed or broadcast at the meeting. The OAS’s Assistant Secretary General Albert Ramdin indicated while in Belize earlier this week that the OAS will caution all member states, not just Guatemala, against offending other members at the meeting, because all parties should feel encouraged to attend and participate.

Earlier this year, a Guatemalan official attending an OAS meeting in Washington used the offensive map in a presentation on the upcoming General Assembly. Belize’s Ambassador to the OAS, Nestor Mendez, protested. Guatemala claimed that the map had been used inadvertently; however, since then Guatemala’s use of the maps has increased. One of the most recently debated instances of this is the proposal for the new passport.

Elrington has said that if the offense happens at the June General Assembly of the OAS, the Belize delegation will walk out of the meeting.

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