General — 22 March 2017 — by Adele Ramos
Diplomatic relations between Belize and Guatemala not normalized

BELIZE CITY, Fri. Mar. 17, 2017–Almost a year ago, Guatemala’s Ambassador to Belize, Manuel Estuardo Roldan Barillas, was called back to Guatemala for consultations, and although a diplomatic note was sent out roughly 2 weeks ago announcing his resumption of duties in Belize, Belize Foreign Minister Wilfred “Sedi” Elrington told the media today that the Ambassador is in Guatemala—not Belize.

Elrington said repeatedly that Ambassador Roldan, who was visible last week in meetings held in Guatemala with Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, is not back in Belize.

“We would wish for him to come back. We are hoping that he’s going come back, but he is not in the country,” Elrington stressed.

Roldan was called back to Guatemala last year after the fatal shooting of a Guatemalan minor in the Chiquibul—this amid threats from Guatemala to mobilize its military to its southern and western border with Belize, as well as accusations that Belize’s military continues to violate the human rights of peasant farmers, without taking into account the attacks that have been meted out against Belizean patrols who have been trying to stem the tide of incursions and illegal encroachments into protected areas in Belize.

When we reported on the story of Roldan’s announced return to Belize on March 2, the Guatemalan Embassy in Belize would not go on record to confirm the return of the Guatemalan diplomat. All the Embassy would say to us is that the Ambassador is “not presently in office,” and attempts to get an official of the Embassy to take our questions proved futile, as no one else wanted to speak on the matter.

Meanwhile, Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Lawrence Sylvester, told our newspaper that Ambassador Roldan has not been in touch with him and up to Thursday of this week, he had not heard from him. Sylvester told us that Roldan was, in fact, in Guatemala.

However, our newspaper was reliably informed that the Embassy of Guatemala had sent out a diplomatic note addressed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the diplomatic corps in Belize on March 1, announcing Roldan’s return. This sparked protests in some quarters in Guatemala which felt that last year’s Chiquibul incident had not been adequately addressed—this despite the fact that an independent investigation commissioned by the OAS exonerated Belize of human rights violations as alleged by Guatemala.

We asked Elrington on Friday to clarify for us what happened with the Guatemalan ambassador, because our information was that there was a diplomatic note sent out to the diplomatic community in Belize and the Foreign Affairs ministry had also received a notification of his return on March 1.

“That note went far and near. It did go far and near. We didn’t send it out. I am not sure who sent it out,” he replied.

Elrington said that “…the suggestion is that [the note] came from the Guatemalan Embassy.”

He confirmed that Roldan was in Guatemala when the parties met with the OAS two days ago.

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