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Guatemala’s president-elect Arévalo visits Belize

HeadlineGuatemala’s president-elect Arévalo visits Belize

Photo: Prime Minister, Hon. John Briceño, and Foreign Minister, Hon. Eamon Courtenay meet with Bernardo Arévalo’s delegation

by Kristen Ku

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Dec. 18, 2023

President-Elect of Guatemala, Bernardo Arévalo, made a key diplomatic visit to Belize on Friday, December 15, during which he met with Prime Minister of Belize, Hon. John Briceño, and Belize’s Foreign Minister, Hon. Eamon Courtenay.

Arévalo’s arrival at the Philip Goldson International Airport kicked off a series of engagements, including a closed-door discussion at the Laing Building and a subsequent luncheon hosted by Prime Minister Briceño. While details of the conversations are not public, areas of bilateral cooperation and regional concerns were on the agenda.

Minister Courtenay explained to reporters the importance of the visit, stating, “After he won the election, the President-elect informed PM Briceño that he would visit Belize as soon as possible. This was in fulfillment of that promise.”

Topics such as trade, migration, narco-trafficking, and regional cooperation within the framework of SICA were reportedly discussed.

Arévalo’s visit, which precedes his official inauguration set for January 14, 2024, occurs against a backdrop of legal and political crises in his home country.

Arévalo’s road to the presidency has been anything but smooth. After winning the presidential race, the president-elect faced efforts from within key governmental institutions to block him from office, triggering protests and tensions within the country.

His progressive stance, particularly his anti-corruption stance, has been seen as a threat by individuals among the Guatemalan elite, leading to attempts to strip him of immunity and prevent the peaceful transition of power.

However, the recent intervention by Guatemala’s top court, which ordered Congress to guarantee Arévalo’s swearing-in, is a crucial step forward for the president-elect and his supporters, despite ongoing hurdles, including steps taken to discredit his party, called the Movimiento Semilla (the Seed Movement), and efforts to trigger his arrest.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Eamon Courtenay noted Belize’s recognition of the Guatemalan elections as free and fair and its expectation of a lawful transition of power.

In response to concerns that Belize’s warm reception might reflect poorly amid Guatemala’s contentious political crisis, Hon. Courtenay stated, “Belize believes that the elections in Guatemala were free and fair. This has been confirmed by the TSE and the Constitutional Court. We expect that the authorities will respect the will of the people as expressed in the elections.”

Former PUP government minister and local community historian Hector Silva weighed in, noting the uniqueness of Arévalo’s visit before officially taking office, a move quite different from typical presidential protocols.

“It is very unusual for any president before he takes his seat as a president and is sworn in, that they leave their country to go and visit their counterparts or neighboring nations as other [official] presidents,” he highlighted.

Silva suggested that the visit, while described as “cordial” by officials, may have deeper implications, given the current Venezuelan crisis, both countries’ ties with Israel, and the ongoing territorial claims over the Sapodilla Cayes by Honduras—a matter which has seen objections from both Belize and Guatemala.

Nevertheless, Belize anticipates a lawful transition of power in January as Arévalo has extended an invitation to have Briceño present in Guatemala for the ceremony.

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