Headline — 24 October 2014 — by Adele Ramos
Guat passport offensive

BELIZE CITY–In April of last year there was much public outcry over revelations that Guatemala’s passport, which highlights the country on a Central America map, had a mere dotted line dividing that country and Belize at our western border. Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington had told Amandala back in April 2013 that it was only recently that the Government of Belize had recognized that the Guatemala passports, which had been in use since the last administration, use the dotted line to represent the western border.

We have looked at the models of other Central American passports, and the samples for El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras, which are based on the same design template, all have their borders represented as solid lines, as is the case with the represented boundaries between Guatemala and the other countries which border it, on its passport. Guatemala’s passport representation of its border with western Belize is unique, despite the fact that other countries in the region have territorial conflicts.

“They [Guatemala] have a position [on Belize], and they don’t recognize that there is a boundary.” – H.E. Alexis Rosado

amandala-logoBelize Immigration Minister says, “…a lot of Guatemalans have permanent residence in Belize, and they go and come. They don’t need a passport.”

Prime Minister Dean Barrow had said that the Government is concerned over the depiction on the Guatemala passport, but he said that the passport had reportedly been in use since 2005-2006 and Guatemala did not intend to change it.

The key officials in Government at the time, 2005-2006, under the People’s United Party administration, with which our newspaper spoke, also said they knew nothing of the introduction of the controversial passport – which only came to light after reports that Guatemala was planning on introducing a new passport which included all of Belize as part of its territory.

That did not happen, and Guatemala had said that it would keep the same passport, with the western border depicted as a mere dotted line.

Prior to Barrow’s revelation, Belize Immigration Minister Godwin Hulse had told Amandala that “we are not going to accept the passport as legitimate.” Hulse added that Immigration officials would be asked to use the bio-data from the passport to prepare an entry permit—which the migrant from Guatemala would have to pay for.

Last week we saw an individual in Belize with two of those passports at a Belize City business, and the picture of those passports appears with this article. We subsequently called Minister Hulse to find out whether Immigration officers are putting official stamps in these passports, and he told us that he was not aware that those passports were in use. A key Immigration official at the western border post in Benque Viejo del Carmen told us that they have not seen any of those passports coming through. We were also told that no new procedures are in place to handle such offensive passports. Hulse told us that he would have to check to see whether any of those passports have been showing up at the border, as there may still be people traveling back and forth with them. He also said that a lot of Guatemalans have permanent residence in Belize, and they go and come using their residency cards, so they don’t need a passport.

Despite assertions by Government officials claiming they are not aware that the passports are still being used and previously that Belize would not accept the passport as legitimate, the fact that the passports were spotted just last week is enough evidence that the passports are indeed being used at this very time, October 2014. The Guatemalan passport viewed at the business place last week clearly shows just a dotted line between the two countries, as was also the case in 2013.

Honduras passport

H.E. Alexis Rosado, Belize’s new Ambassador to Guatemala, who plans to move on to the Embassy in Guatemala next month, told us that although Belize doesn’t like the depiction on the Guatemalan passport and would love to have a straight line, “they [Guatemala] have a position, and they don’t recognize that there is a boundary.”

So, Guatemala has “a position.” Is Belize’s position one of acquiescence, then? We have so far not gotten any answers from our officials to the question of why our Government continues to accept these passports when we can simply stop accepting them, as is our legal right, until the unacceptable dotted line is removed.

(Minister Hulse indicated to us on Wednesday that he would check into the matter so that he could provide more answers to us today, but our calls to him since this morning have gone unanswered.)

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