In my last article to the Amandala on January 3 of this year entitled TENSION AT THE SARSTOON, I quoted from a report by Professor Paul W. Kahan who teaches constitutional law at several Ivy League universities in the U.S.A. and is considered an esteemed tutor in law. The quote was: “A state that will no longer assert power to defend its border is unlikely to continue as a state. The enemy penetrates its border.”
There is no evidence that I know of to suggest that the present behavior of the Republic of Guatemala is a direct result of Belizeans who have exercised their right to move about freely within our territorial limits. However, there are an abundance of examples that this is the modus operandi of that Republic; especially when there is a change of government.
Guatemala has insulted, embarrassed and humiliated Belize and Belizeans for many decades. They have issued stamps, maps, passports claiming our country as part of theirs. They have forced our diplomats out of regional meetings as they did with Belize’s High Commissioner to the U.K., Viscountess Ursula Barrow-Waverley, daughter of the late Raymond Barrow, whom the Guatemalans “forced” the Greek government to disallow Her Excellency to attend a European Union meeting of the San Jose X held in Athens 28 & 29 March 1994.
For five years Guatemala has issued postage stamps depicting Belize as part of their national territory. During the 1960’s when Gilmore Hinkson of the Belize City Post Office diligently carried out government orders to return all mails bearing such stamps, Guatemalan officials complained that they did not know what the fuss was all about with the deprecatory comment that, “George Price would be the first to use these stamps”(?).
When the giant Texaco Oil Corporation issued road maps of Guatemala with all the towns in Belize listed in the index under Guatemala, we (The Freedom Committee) wrote to the president of the company, Mr. Marion Epley, in November of 1967 demanding that the offending maps be removed from circulation. We were ignored for almost a year. I then asked a good Panamanian friend of mine who had a senior job with the company to “whisper” among his colleagues that Belizeans were planning to demonstrate against Texaco in three countries (Canada, U.S.A. and U.K.) Immediately we got a letter inviting us to their executive offices in one of their 17 floors the company owned in the Chrysler Building in New York City. It was not until Samuel Haynes asked Mr. Epley to tell us how many maps were printed and how many remained, that we learned how successful our campaign of telling Belizeans to ask for these free maps at any gas station, take them home and destroy them, had been. We left the meeting having received the promise that ALL remaining maps would be removed from circulation.
The Guatemalans first started to pressure the British about Belize in 1937 just after the coronation of King George VI. They had an able diplomat who was their Minister of Foreign Affairs; he was Dr. José Matos. Matos was a member of the League of Nations which through its Article 14 had control of the Permanent Court of International Justice (the PCIJ), which became the ICJ in 1945 as part of the United Nations.
The League of Nations had a period or window when any member could make a submission and there were heated discussions in September 1939 regarding those imperial powers which held colonial territories. It was under Dr. Matos’ watch that on 21st September 1939 Guatemala tried to abrogate the 1859 Boundary Treaty using the non-completion of the “cart road” of Article VII as its reason for so doing. Belizeans should know that Guatemala cannot unilaterally void a treaty after 80 years which they voluntarily signed and ratified four and a half months later. Furthermore, Article VII is irrelevant (non material) to the purpose of demarking a boundary. Abrogating this Treaty on this issue is an exercise in futility.
During the mediation conducted by the Ambassador Bethuel Webster there were those of us who were amazed at the amount of deception that was perpetrated on Belizeans. When the Hon. Dean Lindo and I were invited to address members of the British Parliament at a special meeting at the House of Commons in London, May 1968, I remembered how Dean explained to the MP’s the elaborate charade surrounding the presentation of the Proposals on April 27 at the United Kingdom embassy, Washington D.C. The Belize government went to expenses of airline tickets and hotel accommodations for eight members and three Opposition members to receive proposals that were already in the hands of the Guatemalans and the British. I got my copy through a back channel before members of the delegation which came up from Belize City.
In November of 1967 when Guatemalan president Julio César Meñdez Montenegro “invaded” Belize and camped at Hunting Caye with a party of 30 complete with naval vessel and airplane protection above, the Hon. Philip S. W. Goldson went to Government House to ask Governor, Sir John Paul, what he was going to do. The Governor – “Commander in Chief,” said he did not know what he should do. Are we in that same position today?
Exactly five months after Bethuel M. Webster presented his proposals to Belizeans in Washington D.C., the United States’ point man on the mediation in Guatemala, Ambassador John Gordon Mein, was assassinated on the streets of Guatemala City, reportedly by members of the Rebel Armed Forces. The Ambassador was the first United States Ambassador to be killed while on duty. He was the son of a Baptist Minister and was born on the 10th day of September 1913.