Chronology would suggest that the 1939 “White Book” of Guatemala is the catalyst for Guatemala’s declaration in 1940 that the 1859 Anglo-Guatemalan Treaty was null and void, and the book, “Britain and her treaties on Belize (British Honduras)” by Jose Luis Mendoza (published in 1942) (a translation from the Spanish by Lilly de Jongh Osborne, 1959), is the catalystfor the Guat declaration in 1945, that the claim (an absolute reach) on Belize’s land should be enshrined in Guatemala’s constitution. One might assume that before that, before those publications, the fever for the claim was kept at a high temperature nigh exclusively by the ambitious, militaristic faction (true conquistadores past), which felt that Guatemala should fight the British for the Sibun to the Sarstoon, land which Guatemala had never occupied, but claimed as “an inheritance” from Spain.
Now it would become the doctrine of every man, woman, and child, beaten into their heads, that Belize was theirs, must be theirs. I am yet to read much of either, “book”, but have been treated to numerous choice excerpts in papers published by Guatemalan and American advocates for Guatemala’s ambition. I will read these Guatemalan favorites (when I get the full chance) but I have no difficulty in telling you that I don’t see how I will find better morsels there, than the ones they have forwarded in select papers to bolster their position.
I wager I will arrive at the same conclusion President Serrano (Jorge Serrano Elias, Guatemalan president 1991-1993) did, that there isn’t much there, and so it made far more sense to meet Belize as a respected neighbor. In the Amandala’s review of the year 1991, we find these two clips on the Serrano story: September 12…the love affair between Belize and Guatemala. Guatemala had recognized Belize’s independence; the two countries had exchanged ambassadors; and Guatemalan President Jorge Serrano was scheduled to visit Belize, along with Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari and Honduran President Rafael Callejas, for the Tenth Anniversary of Belize’s independence, on September 21…and, later…The Guatemalan military and political opposition stopped President Serrano from visiting Belize.
The Wikipedia says that Serrano’s “administration’s record was mixed. It had some success in consolidating civilian control over the army, replacing a number of senior officers and persuading the military to participate in peace talks with the URNG. He took the politically unpopular step of recognizing the sovereignty of Belize. The Serrano administration reversed the economic slide it inherited, reducing inflation and boosting real growth.”
Serrano fled Guatemala in 1993, and now resides in Panama. The Wikipedia says that, “Guatemala has made numerous unsuccessful attempts to have him extradited on charges of corruption.” But I don’t know any of that. All I know is he made the bold, honest step to recognize Belize. Friends are few. Cherish them.
President Serrano had to have read Guatemala’s best propaganda, and didn’t get carried away by any of it, like other Guatemalan leaders had. You know, it is proper to give a sensible man his due. This Guatemalan claim makes absolutely no sense and President Serrano, recognizing that, set about being a good neighbor. He took a risk to do what he did. It might be too provocative to offer him citizenship, safe harbor, in our country.
I pray you allow me. No, I don’t have the full fat on Mendoza. But what I have seen, some choice bits, I can’t resist. Now, one should not judge a book by its cover, well, at least not put too much into it, but the first sentence, another attention grabber, the”tone setter”, cannot be ignored. The game is to make you want to read more. Our good brother from across the border, Mr. Mendoza, achieved that. He hooked quite a few fish. Bah, he is no hero. That man caused a heap of problems for us.
The great beneficiaries of Mendoza’s stirring tale are the folk that lead in our countries. Over there, in Guatemala, politicians rattle sabers on the claim to distract their people from their follies. In Belize, our knowing that we have an enemy that might pounce if our internal problems get too intense has saved many a politician here from being ushered into early retirement. You know, maybe we owe Guatemala for peaceful change of governments at the polls. This enemy without has saved many an enemy within from being ripped from office.
I’ve kept you waiting too long, for the excitement, so here goes the grand opening of this 1942 story, which most likely was the catalyst for the inclusion of the infamous “Belice es Nuestro” clause in the Constitution of Guatemala in 1945. Mendoza’s books says: “The only alternative left to the Republic of Guatemala is to appeal to the conscience of civilized nations to protest against Great Britain’s procedure against a small and weak nation…”
The first thing that jumps out here is the crazy irony of it. Guatemala absolutely CANNOT make such a statement at this time. But let’s go back to 1859, some 150 or so years ago. The history of this region says that certain countries got their borders after Spain massacred the Maya, the Aztec, and the Inca. Didn’t Mendoza see that no country that depended on Spain for its borders could make such a statement?
We really need to know which Guatemala this guy was writing about. Is it the Guatemala of our roots brothers and sisters, the Maya? Or is he writing about the Guatemala of our conquering rich brothers and sisters, the Europeans? Let’s see, which one committed the genocide? If Guatemala was making its claim in the name of the Maya, the genocide in the latter part of the 20th century blew that away. If Guatemala was making its claim in the name of the Maya, how come they don’t have any power over there?
On Page 112 we are told, “The ridiculous assumption that in 1798 there had been a “conquest of British Honduras” is not worth mentioning.”
Our buccaneer forefathers fought Spain. They were defeated many times, but after every defeat they came back. It wasn’t until 1798, when help came via Jamaica to join the forefathers in the Bay at the time – Creole white and brown and black – that they were able to conquer.
In his opening line, Mendoza says “weak” Guatemala wasn’t able to fight the British. The fact is that Guatemala was too busy beating up on her indigenous people, and expressing “ambition” with her neighbors – Salvador, Mexico, and Honduras.
Let’s get real here: if the ICJ is a wild court, and it gives Guatemala the Sibun to the Sarstoon, there would be an immediate move to secede. Sibun to Sarstoon would declare its independence from Guatemala, and rejoin the Hondo to the Sibun.
Belize is different from Guatemala in so many, many different ways, but I’ll just use this one example. Was there ever any doubt where Belize (British Honduras) stood in WWI and WWII? No. Now here’s what the Wikipedia says about our neighbor to the west.
“At the beginning of World War II, fascism was seen as a positive alternative by some Latin American leaders and groups that were impressed by Germany’s Adolf Hitler and Italy’s Benito Mussolini. President Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic, for example, admired Hitler for his style and his militaristic rallies. Similar views were held by Jorge Ubico and Maximiliano Hernández Martínez, the dictators of Guatemala and El Salvador, respectively…
…Germany’s embassy in Guatemala City served as the distribution center for Nazi propaganda in Central America…Between September 1939 and late 1943, the propaganda focused on German victories and the superiority of its military equipment. From Guatemala the propaganda made its way to the German embassies in other countries, often as packages aboard the Salvadoran airline TACA.”
The last plum I was able to pick, in my passing glance, appears on page 113. Mendoza explains how the USA participated in the chaans of Guatemala. Here goes: “The United States left to the diplomatic skill and astuteness of the Republic to take advantage of this door of escape by refusing to accept the British claims. However, they forgot that Guatemala was a weak nation, without possessing cannons or men of war, quite incapable of winning such a battle from the powerful Great Britain, and, above all, after the Government of the United States had given its consent to the dismemberment of Guatemalan territory.”
Aha, the Americans “forgot that Guatemala was a weak nation.” But in 1942 they weren’t that any longer. They had settled their border issues with El Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico, and now they were ready to bully poor, weak, little Belize. Aha, America abandoned them after giving “its consent to the dismemberment of Guatemalan territory.”
Flat out I’ll tell you these comments are shocking. The truth about Mendoza is he got carried away, transported. It happens. He should have been brought to earth. Respectfully, I say no more, except for this: We are aware that there were a few Nazi agents in Belize. They were dealt with. What a wonderful thing the daam Gestapo Hitler didn’t have control of this strategic little Jewel and its fantastic, historic reef.