“A third event of great importance during the Ydígoras (Fuentes) regime was his support for America’s policy with respect to Cuba. It was the dissatisfaction on the part of nationalistic military officers with his logistical support for the Bay of Pigs invasion that gave rise to the unsuccessful military coup of November 1960 and to the guerrilla movements subsequently led by those dissident officers. The ensuing guerrilla war, which produced 140,000 deaths and at least a million refugees, has only recently ended.”
– pg. xxii, INTRODUCTION, Misunderstood Caudillo: Miguel Ydígoras Fuentes and the Failure of Democracy in Guatemala, Roland H. Ebel, University Press of America, 1998
“After four months of exile, Lts. Marco Antonio Yon Sosa and Luis Turcios Lima, along with another officer, Alejandro de Leon, returned to Guatemala to launch the nation’s first full scale guerrilla movement named after the revolt which had failed four months earlier – the MR-13 (Movimiento Revolucionario – 13 de Noviembre).
– pg. 199, ibid.
This newspaper has described the murder of the Belize tourism police officer, Danny Conorquie, on September 25 at the Caracol Maya site by invading Guatemalan villagers/bandits, as a turning point in the historical development of the Belizean psyche. That murder was followed eight days later by another invasion of Guatemalan villagers/bandits, who threatened Belizean builders and a small Belize Defence Force (BDF) detachment who were about the construction of an observation outpost within Belizean territory near the western border with Guatemala.
Scholars and historians may decide that Belizean reaction on the ground to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) option, an option which was first accepted and proposed by the Belize and Guatemalan governments in late 2009, was the real turning point. No professional poll of the Belizean people has been taken, as far as we are aware, but it appears that the gut feeling of the Belizean masses is opposed to the ICJ option. If this is so, then it means that the Belizean people have become militant in their perspective on the Guatemalan claim to Belize.
There are many who have said that the “Guatemala claim” should always be preceded by the adjective “unfounded.” The more appropriate adjectives should be, we think, “colonial,” “imperialistic,” and “anachronistic.” This claim has no place in the modern world of participatory democracy. The claim is a dispute between Great Britain and Guatemala, wherein the Guatemalans claimed that they inherited rights from Spain, which had apparently been given those rights by the Pope of Rome. The British and the Guatemalans agreed to settle their dispute in 1859, with the United States presumably being an interested party. Just before World War II, when Germany’s Adolf Hitler was causing grave concern for the British, the Guatemalan dictator, Jorge Ubico, decided to revive the claim on the grounds that the British had not fulfilled all the terms of the 1859 treaty.
The Belizean people no longer care whether the Guatemalan claim is “founded” or “unfounded.” The Belizean people have decided that the claim is irrelevant to the Belizean people, and must be rejected. Previous to the ICJ option introduction, and along with its introduction, Belizean government officials, intimidated by the British, the Americans, and/or the Guatemalans on various occasions, have felt it their responsibility to keep reminding Belizeans how powerful Guatemala is militarily and how weak Belize is by comparison.
Belizean reaction to the ICJ option suggested to us that the Belizean people are no longer intimidated, and post-Danny Conorquie feeling appears to be that Belize has to do what Belize has to do in order to survive. Belizeans seem to have decided to stop retreating and to take a stand. If Belizeans have so decided as an expression of our collective will, then such a decision has serious social, political, and military implications.
Guatemala is a divided country. We have said to you before that Guatemala is almost like two different nation-states: one a wealthy First World entity, and the other an oppressed Third World reality. It is out of that Third World reality that the invasions of Belize territory are taking place in the west and the south, but these invasions are being orchestrated by the First World Guatemala, which is their oligarchy and their military.
Between 1960 and 1996, the two Guatemalas fought a civil war which some experts have claimed cost the indigenous Third World Guatemala as many as 200,000 lives. The Guatemala civil war was very bloody and very brutal. Serious scars remain on Guatemala’s national psyche.
The fundamental problem in Guatemala is the tremendous difference in wealth and resources between the First World Guatemala and the Third World Guatemala. By encroaching inside Belize, Guatemala is seeking to expand its national territory and resources, but Guatemala’s is a hard line neoliberal government: they do not entertain ideas of social justice and equality. There is a neo-European Guatemalan ruling class. These are the people who supported apartheid South Africa and who have always supported genocidal Israel. Guatemala is not as powerful as Guatemala appears, because Guatemala is divided.
The United States considers post-Arbenz Guatemala its most important Central American ally. This has been a problem for Belize over the last sixty years. The Americans want to pressure Belize to do what Guatemala wants. In line with this, the United States is complicit in Guatemala’s attempt to frighten Belizeans.
Great Britain left Belize a country divided by ethnic differences. Belize’s national will, where our survival options are concerned, is further weakened by religions whose international leadership comes from Italy, Great Britain, and the United States. Belize’s great national asset is that we have maintained our tradition of social justice. Nowhere is this tradition more on display than in the fact that we have absorbed many thousands of refugees from Central America, especially Guatemalans, over the past few decades, and these refugees have found a new and better way of life here than in their Central American homes. Belize has survived, and Belize has grown stronger.
Guatemala has now forced Belize to become militarized. This is not where we wanted to go. God knows, we would have preferred to go the Costa Rica way. But, it was not to be. There is evil in the world, and in Belize’s case that expansionist evil is to the west and south of us. Survival demands militarization.
Power to the people.