Features — 18 June 2016 — by Bilal Morris

The Belizean diaspora community in Los Angeles have been making big strides in internationalizing Belize’s struggle for self-determination and territorial integrity in the face of the recent Guatemalan military aggression against the nation state of Belize, with the recent annexation and occupation of the Belize Sarstoon River and Island in the southernmost bordering area of Belize. Concerned members of the Belizean community in L.A. came out on Sunday, June 12, 2016 at the Holy Name of Jesus School in Los Angeles, California to hear speakers from Belize, and in the Los Angeles Belizean community itself, present pertinent information and popular education about the Guatemalan military aggression on the Belize Sarstoon River, Belize’s chances of going to the International Court of Justice (I.C.J.) to settle the Anglo/Guatemalan dispute, and the present state of affairs in Belize surrounding the issue which has captured the minds and attention of Belizeans at home and abroad about the fate of their country Belize.

The popular education town meeting, which was organized by the diaspora grassroots Belizean organization, BREDAA (Belize Rural Economic Development of Agriculture through Alliance), presented information articulated by the Belize Progressive Party (BPP) political leader, Patrick Rogers, the BREDAA Chairman, Nuri Akbar Estrada, Belizean political analyst, Hubert Pipersburgh, and Garifuna Belizean professor of Philosophy at San Jose State University in northern California, Egbert Higinio.

The panelists addressed the long lasting claim by Guatemala to Belize, bringing Belizeans in the diaspora up to date with the recent series of Guatemalan military aggressions against Belizean territory on the Sarstoon River in the Toledo District, and in the deforestation by Guatemalan peasants in the Belize Chiquibul Forest on the western border of Belize.

BPP’s Patrick Rogers, presenting his party’s position on the issue, vehemently declared that the Anglo/Guatemalan dispute has been recently presented as the Belize /Guatemalan differendum, which has been a drastic and deliberate move by Belize’s former colonial masters, the British, to relieve themselves of Guatemala’s claim of Belize, and make it appear as though they were not the ones who created the problem from the onset by refusing to settle with Guatemala monetarily. Rogers stated that the British need to come back to the negotiation table and finish settling the Anglo/Guatemalan dispute rather than pushing the Government of Belize to go to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to settle the issue. He reiterated that the Anglo/Guatemalan dispute was never an issue for litigation at an international court but that it was to be settled through what Rogers called monetary compensation, that is, paying the Guatemalan military/oligarchy for the land down south of Belize at the Sarstoon area which British colonial settlers had acquired through expansionist policies.

In his presentation on the issue, BREDAA’s Chairman, Nuri Akbar Estrada, told the Belizean listening audience across the U.S. and in Belize that the Anglo/Guatemalan dispute is transnational driven and politically motivated, where Western foreign corporations have economic ambitions, and are pushing the present Government of Belize to settle the claim at the I.C.J., which has become a very unpopular position so far with many Belizeans rejecting it as an option. He emphasized the brutality of the Guatemalan military/oligarchy that killed some 200,000 Guatemalan Mayas in the 1960-1996 Guatemalan civil war, and their backers, the State of Israel and the U.S. government. Estrada reminded Belizeans that if the struggle for Belize against recent Guatemalan aggression does not wake up Belizeans to educate themselves more on this issue, and to act through resistance to the imperialistic onslaught that is presently taking place against Belize, seeing ethnic cleansing being committed against its black population as a part of the low intensity warfare that the powers-that-be have been orchestrating against Belize for centuries, then Belize one day will not be rightfully for Belizeans anymore.

The brilliant Garifuna Belizean intellectual, Professor Egbert R. Higinio, made a most interesting philosophical presentation on the Guatemalan claim, presenting the case that the imperial powers of Britain and Spain, who are the architects of the dispute, are hiding behind symbols and concepts to fool the Belizean and Guatemalan people that the Anglo/Guatemalan dispute is simply treaties and agreements, although they have hypocritically had their transnational corporations poised and ready to exploit the natural resources and oil-rich region of the South of Belize which Guatemala claims. Professor Higinio exposed the hidden agenda of the British government and its American counterparts in turning the Anglo/Guatemalan dispute into a transnational agenda for the exploitation of southern Belize by foreign capitalist corporations. He condemned the recent move to force Belize to settle the claim at the I.C.J.

Belizean political analyst, Hubert Pipersburgh, in his presentation at the Anglo/Guatemalan dispute Town Meeting made the case in his presentation that the Guatemalan military/oligarchy is using a strategy called “Effective Control” by annexing the Belize Sarstoon River and Island on Belize’s southernmost border with Guatemala. Pipersburgh established in his presentation that the Guatemalan military/oligarchy will use the annexation to convince the judges at the I.C.J. that since Guatemala has sovereignty over the Sarstoon, that the law which states that squatters’ rights is nine-tenths of the law should take precedence and thus will convincec the court at the Hague that Belizean territory in the South should be held under control by Guatemala. He reiterated that having traveled on Belize’s Sarstoon River several times, that there is visible evidence that such a scheme is what the Guatemalan military is presently implementing by their sudden occupation and annexation of the Belize Sarstoon River. He emphasized that Belize’s Sarstoon River is occupied and annexed in all respects by the Guatemalan military, contrary to what the government of Belize has been telling Belizeans that it’s not.

The BREDAA-organized Town Meeting was broadcast live to Belizean audiences in the U.S. diaspora through the popular Belizean internet radio, Radio Belizemix, owned by Los Angeles-based Belizean, Wil Johnson, and in Belize through Mood FM 106.5 FM of Lords Bank in Belize. It was the first time ever that a Belizean town meeting in the Belizean diaspora was broadcast live via internet radio directly to Belizean audiences at home and abroad. The historic event drew some seventy plus passionate Belizeans to hear and see the electrifying moments captured in real time by Belizean photographers and filmmakers, Clyde Gillett and Franzwah Estrada of Garivision. In addition, hundreds of Belizeans listened through live streaming across the Belizean diaspora in the U.S. and in Belize, and thousands of listeners around the world were also able to listen through the live streaming. More highlights of the historic town meeting will be shared through video soon right here on Belizean Legends.

BREDAA want to thank the administration and staff of Holy Name of Jesus School in Los Angeles, California, for allowing the use of their auditorium to have the historic town hall meeting of Belizeans in the Los Angeles community. A great sense of gratitude is owed to this Catholic parish and its outstanding church school that have served the Los Angeles Belizean community for many years now.

(Photos by Belizean photographer and filmmaker, Clyde Gillett)

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