Headline — 12 January 2016 — by Adele Ramos

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Jan. 11, 2016–A team of new government officials will be sworn in this Thursday, January 14, in Guatemala as that country’s recently elected president, Jimmy Morales, takes office, along with new members of Congress and Cabinet.

Chief Executive Officer in Belize’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Lawrence Sylvestre, told Amandala today that Belize Prime Minister Dean Barrow will be attending the inauguration, and he will be supported by the Belize Embassy in Guatemala City, through which, he said, the Prime Minister will be well served.

Sylvestre won’t attend, as he will be accompanying Foreign Affairs Minister Wilfred Elrington to Georgetown, Guyana, for the Friday, January 15, 2016 meeting of the CARICOM Council of Ministers.

Belize’s resident ambassador to Guatemala, H.E. Alexis Rosado, explained, in speaking with Amandala today, that there will be a series of ceremonies held in Guatemala City on Thursday.

A new Congress will be sworn in on Thursday morning and in the afternoon, Morales and the new vice president of Guatemala will be sworn in.

Later that day, Morales will swear in his Cabinet, which will likely mean that a new Foreign Affairs Minister will be appointed for that country.

Morales won two rounds of elections last year. Subsequently, in November, he paid courtesy calls to sister countries in the region. Initial reports out of Guatemala were that Belize would have been excluded from the itinerary; however, the evening before Morales visited Belize, official information was released that he was due to pay a courtesy call on Prime Minister Barrow in Belize City—making Belize the last stop on his tour before returning to Guatemala.

Morales’ visit was very likely kept low key because of discontent he had stirred within the Belizean community with comments he made during his pre-election campaign, saying that the loss of Belize would be deplorable. However, official sources told Amandala, that Morales has not pursued that line when meeting with Belize officials, and he has expressed support for taking the matter to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Back in 2008, Belize and Guatemala signed a special agreement setting a framework for the ICJ hearing—but only if the process is approved via special referenda held in both countries.
Last year, Belize and Guatemala amended the ICJ agreement to allow the countries to hold their referendum on separate days—rather than simultaneously—but neither country has yet gone to the polls.

We note, though, that the Guatemalans, including Morales, still maintain their unfounded claim over Belizean territory, which last year was manifest in the persistence by the Guatemalan armed forces to taunt Belizeans—and Belizean security officials—who ventured onto Sarstoon Island, shown on international maps as located within Belizean territory. They argued that the island is for Guatemala.

In December 2015, the Government of Belize broke ground at the mouth of the Sarstoon, the natural border between Belize and Guatemala, for a forward operating base, to police illegal activities by foreigners in the area, and that base is expected to be constructed this year.

In its last meeting for 2015, Belize’s Senate approved a set of 13 bilateral agreements signed by Belize and Guatemala earlier in the year. Even before the Belizean parliament approved the agreements, 9 of them had already been approved by Guatemala, Foreign Affairs officials confirmed today. We understand that Guatemala has expressed its intent to ratify the remaining 4, but the process had to be halted because of political disturbances in that country, which saw its former president, Otto Perez Molina, deposed well ahead of the conclusion of his term of office.


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