Features — 22 June 2019
Fry never trust big fish

Media in Belize have been playing up the fact that the candidate who got the most votes in the election that was held in Guatemala on June 16, to choose a new president, has some blood relationship with us. Sandra Torres, a former First Lady of Guatemala who is now the candidate with the most votes in the first round of the Guatemalan presidential election, is a sister of a prominent Belizean, Mrs. Narda Garcia. Narda is also the wife of a high-ranking PUP, former Corozal Southwest area rep, Dr. Greg Garcia.

Sandra Torres is not the only candidate in the Guatemalan presidential pool of hopefuls with connections to Belize. Her running mate, Carlos Raúl Morales, spent some of his youth in Belize, and is married to a Belizean lady, with whom he has fathered two sons.

In the Guatemalan system, if a candidate doesn’t get 50% of the vote in the first round, there is a run-off between the top two candidates. Torres got only 25% of the vote, so she is set for a run-off on August 11 against Alejandro Giammattei, who came in second with almost 14% of the vote. Intriguingly, it is likely that more Belizeans were sympathetic to Thelma Cabrera, a Mayan roots candidate who leads the Movimiento de Liberación de los Pueblos (MLP). She garnered a substantial 10 plus % of the vote, relative to what the other candidates polled.

Equally intriguing is that 13% of Guatemalans left their ballots blank or spoiled their votes. If they had given their votes to Cabrera, it would be Torres versus Cabrera on August 11. We definitely would have had to take a poll then, to see who in Belize was riding with whom.

It is natural that we are drawn toward Ms. Torres. Blood is thicker than water, as we all know, and we cannot sneeze at the potential. However, that potential could be mined. Sometimes a friend can be dangerous. We have heard of many women being humiliated by nude pictures posted by friends who had a dangerous enemy lurking inside them. Countless times we have heard people say that their loved one was called out to his death by a friend.

We really would have to keep our guard way high if Ms. Torres takes the crown over there. One of the first things we’d see would be pictures of our Narda and Ms. Sandra in loving family embrace. She’d be over here for barbeque in Corozal, at that place where the milky waters kiss the shore, and her sister would be over there, taking the grand tour with numerous paparazzi in trail. Shortly after, there’d be stepped-up cultural exchanges, and educational exchanges, and committees to jointly explore trade and environmental issues.

Friendship is good. But we have to be wary. Big countries are like big fishes¯they have a history of trying to swallow minnows. The American exportation of culture is more potent than their giant weapons. They are not content with flooding our minds with their propaganda and culture. They insist on playing the bully when no one in this hemisphere wants to fight them. Fidel didn’t want to fight them. Chavez didn’t want to fight them. AMLO doesn’t want to fight them.

We trip over our feet to get the Americans to exploit the oil resources in our country. They don’t need to wield the big stick for that. Fidel only wanted them to be a little more reasonable. Chavez only wanted them to be a little more reasonable. They just love to make us feel small.

We voted to go to the ICJ, so who sits as president in Guatemala may not be as critical as it was before, where our territorial integrity is concerned. But we would be foolhardy to relax, even if we believe that the ICJ will rule 100% in our favor. There is nothing made by man that can’t get washed away by the tide.

It matters if the president of Guatemala is outwardly bellicose or friendly, but what lies behind the grimace or the smile is more important. We know there are a number of ways to catch a fish. That big fish over there has ambition, and it is relentless, expansionist. We know its history.

Guatemala was very much in the engineer’s seat when the Federal Republic of Central America was formed in 1823. That didn’t work out. Guatemala would later quarrel with Mexico and Honduras over land issues. And they would force us into going to the ICJ, over land.

We have heard that Puerto Barrios, a port in the Izabal district in Guatemala, is on lease from Honduras. The Izabal district is in Guatemala, so how can this be? I am as close to 100% as you can get, that that is a remnant from a bygone time.

We have as fact that the British agreed to help the Guatemalans build a cart road to the Atlantic Coast (Article Seven of the Anglo-Guatemalan Treaty). It must be that the Guatemalans were making a power play for this territory (fighting Honduran interest), and the British were about helping them.

Possession, occupation, we have heard, is 9/10ths of the law. In the 1850s there were few people living in the Izabal District, and there were some British and Belgian business interests. The matter between Honduras and Guatemala would go to arbitration before a panel headed by an American, and Guatemala won, the decision being made in 1933.

In my column of 25 October, 2018, I wrote some about this story: “According to the arbitration story on http://legal.un.org, Honduras claimed the territory between the Motagua River and British Honduras, and this claim embraced ‘the Golfo Dulce and the so-called Amatique coast region and excludes Guatemala from the northern coast on the Atlantic Ocean.’

“Honduras’s claim was based on Spanish papers, mainly a royal cedula of 1745. The arbitrators (American, Guatemalan, and Honduran) pointed out that ‘the territory of the Intendencia of Honduras was intended to correspond to that of the Bishopric of Honduras, but there was no precise delimitation of the extent of that bishopric.’

“The arbitrators pointed out that in its first Constitution (1825), Guatemala had claimed the area, and it showed effective occupation with an 1836 decree to quarantine the area during a cholera breakout in Peten, Izabal, up to the mouth of the Motagua River.”

In the Guatemala versus Mexico business, again it was the Americans who came to their side to help them recover a piece of land that they had given up. This is taken from the same column, the source of this piece coming from a paper, “American Policy in Guatemala, 1839-1900”, written in 1954 by Warren Albert Beck, B.A., M.A. The following are a few excerpts from Beck’s paper:

“In 1842 Santa Anna [Mexican president] … led an army into Soconusco and simply annexed the province by force … she (Guatemala) did what she was to do throughout this boundary conflict with Mexico, first protest vigorously, and then appeal to the United States for support … By way of even further admission that the claim to Chiapas and Soconusco was not too well-founded, an offer was made by Guatemala to renounce all claim to the disputed area if Mexico would pay an indemnity of $4,000,000.

“Of vital importance to Guatemala was the fact that forfeiture of the disputed area would mean that effective contact with the district of Peten would be lost. Only a narrow corridor would have remained, and Mexico could have expected soon to claim the entire region .… on May 8, 1899 treaty ratifications were completed, with Guatemala retaining the area she claimed … this boundary conflict is an important chapter in the story of American policy in Guatemala because it well illustrates the great dependence that Guatemala placed upon the United States as its protector against the aggressive designs of a more powerful neighbor.”

After clearing up its border issue with Mexico, 1899, with the aid of the Americans, and winning the case against Honduras, 1933, an American arbitrator presiding, Guatemala turned its focus on Belize. The British said NO to Guatemala’s proposal for an American arbitrator. Interestingly, when Belize rejected West Indian Federation, and insisted on independence from the UK, an American would devise the Webster’s Proposals of 1968, which would have made Belize a colony of Guatemala. However, in 2002, Paul S. Reichler, an American lawyer representing Guatemalan interest, would tell them to leave Belizean territory alone.

They say that a leopard never changes its spots. Ms. Torres from Melchor de Mencos, even if she has genuine love for Belize, can’t change Guatemala. The land matter now at the ICJ, we can now expect Guatemala to make greater efforts, more advances to absorb our culture. We have to be especially concerned because our leaders are not investing anything much in ours. It will be interesting on August 11. It won’t change what we have to do. We have to take care of ourselves.

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Deshawn Swasey

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