Two days after the junta took office (1944) I was cunningly disposed of by being appointed the representative of the army to the Inter-American Defense Commission in Washington, D. C. Later, without being returned to Guatemala, I was appointed Ambassador of Guatemala to Great Britain with instructions to renew and revive Guatemala’s claim on Belize (British Honduras), the Guatemalan territory which Great Britain had occupied for over a century.
– pg. 38, MY WAR WITH COMMUNISM, Miguel Ydígoras Fuentes, as told to Mario Rosenthal, Prentice-Hall, Inc. 1963
Thus it was, while visiting the northern Department of El Peten on April 16 (1958), that he crossed over into Belize accompanied by the presidents of the Guatemalan Supreme Court and the Congress. Requesting that the sergeant on duty obtain permission from the British governor general for the party to proceed to the Belizean town of Cayo, some three miles away, he had his picture taken in front of the police barracks in Benque Viejo brandishing his “entry permit” – a copy of the Guatemalan constitution. When permission to proceed further was denied, he calmly returned to the Guatemalan side of the border proclaiming, “Belize will be ours by right or might.”
At first the Guatemalan newspapers reacted to the incident with outrage and Congress directed a protest to the British government coupled with calls for support from the other countries of Latin America. On April 17 Foreign Minister Carlos García Bauer handed the British Minister a note protesting the discourtesy the President of Guatemala had been shown “on the Guatemalan territory of Belize.” The British minister, Thomas Wikeley, refused to accept the note.
On April 21 President Ydigoras, in an emotional radio address directed primarily to the youth of Guatemala, stated that he had two major foreign policy goals – to peacefully reunite the nations of Central America into a single nation and to incorporate Belize into Guatemala. The latter objective would be achieved sooner or later if Guatemalans proved “worthy of this mission.” He went on to say that he wanted his country to maintain peace with all nations, “but if it is necessary to defend the rights and honor of the nation with arms, we will never hesitate to take them up.”
– pgs. 136, 137, MISUNDERSTOOD CAUDILLO: Miguel Ydígoras Fuentes and the Failure of Democracy in Guatemala, by Roland H. Ebel, University Press of America, 1998
Belize was always an under-populated area, “always” being a matter of the Baymen/slavery era and British colonial days. We are told, however, that there was once a large Maya population in this territory, in the centuries before Christopher Columbus, the Spanish Conquest, and so on and so forth.
The Guatemalans have been saying that they have rights to this country, on the grounds that they inherited those rights from Spain. But, where did Spain get her rights? As far us we can figure out, Spain received “rights” from the Pope of Rome through the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494. Okay, then, at the risk of being sacrilegious in the eyes of our native religious fanatics, from whom did the Pope of Rome receive his rights? One imagines the answer will be that the Pope derives his rights from Jesus Christ, who is said to be the Son of God, God being the Creator of everything our eyes can see and many things still invisible to us human beings. Christ is quoted by defenders of the Vatican as having said, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church.”
There was a time before Christ when the Maya were here in Belize. Back then, there was no one other than the Maya themselves to discuss territorial rights in Belize, so all disputes had to be settled amongst the Maya themselves. The territory we call Belize today was unknown to Spain, England, the rest of Europe, the Pope of Rome, and the Archbishop of Canterbury. All this slowly began to change after 1492. Europe, and the religions of Europe, entered (“invaded” would, of course, be the better verb) what the Europeans referred to as the “New World.”
Today, some of us Belizeans, who acquired our political independence from Great Britain in 1981, say that the Maya who are in Belize and seeking communal land rights in their ancestral home are really and originally from Guatemala, and these Belizeans seriously argue that if we begin agreeing to the Kek’chi Maya requests/demands, then Belize will become endangered by what is called “balkanization.”
There are people who believe in the philosophy of democracy who say that the majority is the right, whereas there are other groups, especially those in military fields, who believe might is really the right. The discussion is complicated by religion, because there are human beings who are supposed to be speaking in the name of Almighty God. Books exist, written by human beings, which are quoted as being the Word of God. The method of transmission from God to man usually becomes a function of faith. That is to say, I can’t prove it, and I won’t enter any arguments ad infinitum with you, but I believe it. Faith.
After God created Belize, the land and the sea were here for a long time before human beings came and settled here. As best we can figure out, those first human beings were Maya. After 1492, there came the Spanish, and in 1638 there came the British. By 1981, there existed a recognizable Belizean people who were mostly African and Maya, mixed with some British and some Spanish.
The point we would make here is that if you go back far enough historically in Belize, you will meet the Maya. This is a concept which we at this newspaper recognize, we accept, and we honor. If you go back far enough historically in Guatemala, you will meet the Maya. This is a concept which the Guatemalan oligarchy does not recognize, does not accept, and does not honor. In fact, this is a concept which the Guatemalan oligarchy vehemently and violently rejects, and it appears to us that they do so vehemently and violently reject in the name of God and Western civilization.
There are Belizean nationalists who say that Belize should accept the arbitration of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) with respect to the Guatemalan claim to Belize, because Guatemala needs a face-saving mechanism. On the other hand, other Belizean nationalists say that Belize cannot afford to expose its United Nations-sanctioned territorial integrity to the opinion of a court of judges.
At this moment, the question this newspaper would ask is: why would it be so important that Belize’s borders with Guatemala not be delineated and marked, unless someone wishes to alter these United Nations-sanctioned borders? The spontaneous, authentic and patriotic initiatives of the Belizean Territorial Volunteers (BTV) to mark the Belizean borders with Guatemala at Gracias a Dios, Jalacte, Garbutt’s Falls, and Aguas Turbias have been greeted with a sneering cynicism by the elected Government of Belize. The reaction of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition to the Government of Belize’s refusal to support these harmless but symbolically important BTV initiatives, amounts to lukewarm half-stepping. The two major political parties of Belize, then, are leaving the BTV out there to look as if they are warmongers or wild adventurers.
The Guatemalan claim to Belize is a “dispute” created by Guatemala which the British had several opportunities to resolve and settle. It would have cost the British some money, beginning in 1859, but the British don’t like to spend money on their colonies. The dispute was allowed to fester until Belize inherited the problem on our attainment of independence in September of 1981.
The United States, the United Kingdom, and the so-called Friends of Belize, have called for the dispute to be settled by a European court of judges called the International Court of Justice. When did the racist, imperialistic, enslaving, and colonizing Europeans become so “just”? Has anyone ever thought to ask the Maya of Guatemala and Belize, the original owners of the land, what they think of this matter? Of course not, because the Europeans do not consider the Maya to be of any material worth.
At the point at which Maya land rights became European (Spanish and British) land rights, there was a mixture of European violence and religion which prevailed over Maya historical settlement. Was that “just”? The Europeans, with their bloody hands, then quarreled and fought amongst themselves. Out of the quarrel between Spain and England has come a Guatemalan claim to Belize. That claim is an unjust claim. We reject it. In the name of Danny Conorquie and the ancestral Maya, we reject it.
Power to the people. Power in the struggle.