Headline — 15 March 2013 — by Adele Ramos
Guat prez wants to postpone ICJ to 2014

BOX: Belize law was in force before ICJ agreement, which affirms that the parties would observe their internal laws in executing the agreement, says CEO Rosado

Molina wants Belize to change referendum law

Belize and Guatemala to meet at OAS on Monday, March 18

Belizean and Guatemalan officials are due to meet in Washington, D.C., USA, next Monday, March 18, 2013, to discuss, among other things, a recent call by Guatemala president Otto Pérez Molina to seek a one-year postponement of the simultaneous referenda on the settlement of the Belize-Guatemala territorial differendum, currently programmed for Sunday, October 6, 2013.

In Guatemala on Wednesday, Pérez Molina announced that his administration would formally seek the postponement because of changes Belize had made to its Referendum Act back in 2008—changes which he argues would invalidate the referenda.

The June 2008 amendment to the Referendum Act means that beyond just a simple majority being necessary to decide in the referendum, a 60% voter turnout is also required on the Belize side to ensure its validity; however, Belizean officials have indicated that voter turnout has historically been higher than the set threshold.

Meanwhile, Belizean officials have underscored that the change in the law was made well before the special agreement or compromis to seek the ICJ resolution was inked by both parties in December 2008.

Speaking with Amandala today, Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Alexis Rosado, said the Referendum Act ought not to be an issue, since the special agreement acknowledges that both Belize and Guatemala must follow their respective laws in executing the agreement.

CEO Rosado said that it is out of the norm for Guatemala to be concerned about Belize’s internal process, and there may be other unstated reasons why Guatemala wants the referendum postponed.

Last week, news surfaced out of Guatemala that the Education Ministry is pushing the use of a controversial map of Guatemala which has Belize annexed—a map which Belizean officials had publicly protested as offensive when it was used by the Guatemalan representative at a recent meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS). The Guatemala official claimed that the map had been inadvertently used.

Apart from the referendum amendment and the map with Belize annexed, the delegations are also expected to discuss a set of confidence building measures drafted back in September 2005 and which remain in effect as a part of the OAS facilitation process.

Pérez Molina told journalists in Guatemala Wednesday that his desire is not to abolish the special agreement; however, better conditions are required to carry out the referenda.

The authorities at Guatemala’s electoral tribunal, Tribunal Supremo Electoral (TSE), continue to plan for the October 6, 2013 referendum, the report posted by the Government of Guatemala indicated.

Pérez Molina said that the referendum issue will be explored before the OAS, with the intent to urge Belizean officials to reform the Referendum Act in time for voting, which he proposes to push back to 2014.

He noted, though, that the decision cannot be made unilaterally but through the engagement of the involved parties, accompanied by the OAS.

The referendum date of Sunday, October 6, 2013, was fixed by the agreement of both parties last April.

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