74 F
Belize City
Saturday, March 28, 2020
Home Features Storm Warning

Storm Warning

There is a storm headed in our direction. Its timing is somewhat similar to the lethal hurricane that devastated Belize City on 10 September 1931. The only differences are that this man-made tempest is scheduled to strike on the tenth day of a different month and it is an unprecedented category eight storm with the power to split our entire Jewel in half.

The old-timers say that there are often ominous signs before such an impending disaster strikes. Ants swarm out from their underground nests and other creatures begin to act in abnormal ways. Dogs begin to bark and howl incessantly, farm animals become uneasy and flocks of birds are seen migrating to safety.

Similar signs are now beginning to be seen in Belize. We have seen mortal political enemies embrace and the two major political parties inexplicably stake their individual and collective fortunes on whether the storm will strike on referendum day or be delayed. We are already beginning to experience the outer bands of this storm as a constant barrage of deceptive propaganda being hurled at us by those hell bent on subjecting us to the fury of this tempest.

For example the extraneous words “before the next session of the UN General Assembly” have been surreptitiously inserted, by the proponents of the Government’s position, into the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 35/20 of 11th November, 1980, to falsely suggest that the directive limits the actions to be taken by the relevant organs of the United Nations to a period to of only one year from the date of that resolution.

This is a most flagrant distortion of the facts,  as the resolution really reads: “Requests the relevant organs of the United Nations to take such actions as may be appropriate and as may be requested by the Administering Power and the Government of Belize in order to facilitate the attainment of independence by Belize and to guarantee its security and territorial integrity thereafter.”

The significance of why this powerful United Nations resolution was repeatedly misquoted by the “Yes to the ICJ” proponents may well be because it suggests a viable and risk-free alternative path we may have chosen to resolve the territorial dispute we have with Guatemala.

And there are even more unnerving manifestations. Our two most famous deceased patriots have been raised from the grave and made to proclaim from gigantic elevated billboards, the very opposite of the convictions that they held while they were alive. It has even been reported that an image resembling Jesus has appeared on the internet to join the Council of Churches in their advocacy for the Government’s position.

At this point you may justifiably begin to wonder what ineffable force has driven us to such extremes and even earned us the unique distinguished ion of being the first nation in history whose leaders have adamantly committed to place their entire country on the chopping block of an unpredictable external court without even knowing how sharp the cutting blade will be. In order to understand this aberration we need to identify the superlative geo- political and financial forces inexorably hording us down a path where even angels may fear to tread. In other words, we must know who the hidden puppeteers are.

The truth is, in my opinion, that neither the British nor the Americans ever really intended for Belize to achieve independence with full territorial integrity and sovereignty. We were granted independence in 1981 because our insightful negotiators took advantage of the post-Second-World-War global decolonization impetus. They outmaneuvered Guatemala and her proponents by successfully lobbying for overwhelming international support for our cause at the United Nations. Undeterred by this temporary setback, our adversaries simply adopted a posture of strategic patience.

There is historical evidence to suggest that what the British wanted was for Belize to pay for their Article 7 breach of agreement obligation contained in the 1859 treaty by ceding a portion of Southern Belize to Guatemala, and what the Americans wanted was to make Belize a satellite of Guatemala in fulfillment of their promises to President Ydigoras Fuentes for allowing Cuban exiles to train in Guatemala for the 1961 CIA-inspired Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. It is my opinion that the desire of both these countries regarding Belize’s destiny remains unchanged. Consider the following facts:

All the proposed solutions made to date to solve the territorial dispute, culminating with the OAS-drafted 2008 Special Agreement signed in Washington, were drafted almost exclusively in favor of Guatemala, and the OAS has been, and continues to be, ominously silent in the face of the Guatemalan Armed Forces’ flagrant military occupation of the Sarstoon. Interestingly, with very few exceptions, so has our Government; one might justifiably consider this conflated with their unbridled efforts to influence a “Yes” vote in the April referendum to be chillingly portentous.

Despite denials to the contrary, the true origin of this Special Agreement Treaty was confirmed in a recent article in the Amandala newspaper written by Mr. Lindsay L. Belisle, former Boundaries Commissioner: “Minutes of Meeting of the Advisory Council on the Guatemalan Claim (ACGC) dated July 31, 2008 page 3. Chief Negotiator Ambassador Alfredo Martinez informed the ACGC that, ‘The OAS presented a Draft Special Agreement that would be negotiated by both parties outlining the process toward national referenda’.”

Realistically, however, it is not at all surprising that the United States supports Guatemala in this dispute. Guatemala is their greatest ally and best friend in our region. Their relationship with the USA is comparable to the one that exists between Israel and the United States in the Middle East. American companies have massive investment interest in Guatemala. And their current president has made his “America First” policy abundantly clear. Belize, by comparison, is nothing but a troublesome and unruly nonentity.

Consider the following quote taken from GlobalSecurity.org: “In 1965 Britain and Guatemala agreed to have a United States lawyer, appointed by President Lyndon Johnson, mediate the dispute. The lawyer’s draft treaty proposed giving Guatemala so much control over the newly independent country, including internal security, defense, and external affairs, that Belize would have become more dependent on Guatemala than it was already on Britain. The United States supported the proposals.” In fact it was an American congressman, Bethuel Webster, who proposed that Belize be placed under the jurisdiction of Guatemala in the infamous Webster Proposals of 1968.

And the following is taken from a seminal background and study of the Special Agreement by Gustavo Adolfo Orellana Portillo who is the Assad Shoman equivalent for Guatemala:  “Following up on the aforementioned resolution issued by the UN General Assembly, an effort was made in 1977 by the governments of Guatemala and Great Britain to reach a settlement that included an area of continental territory south of Belize for Guatemala, as necessary compensation so that Belize’s forthcoming independence was recognized. The options that were analyzed, considered as base for the boundary-line south of Belize: in Guatemala’s view, Monkey River, meaning all of Toledo District; and in Great Britain’s view, Moho River, at the level of Punta Gorda.”

There are Belizeans still alive today who can attest to the bitter fight George Price had with the British not to have them cede territory to Guatemala as the condition for granting Belize independence.

Presently, logic indicates that our adversaries will do all in their power to ensure that a “Yes” vote prevails in the upcoming referendum.  At the local level political fortunes and aspirations for national hegemony are at stake and on the international plane, super- power foreign policy objectives, and there is evidence to suggest that the financial interests of important multinational companies committed to the unbridled harvesting of our valuable natural resources in the disputed area are on the line.

Already we have felt the awesome power of their overwhelming influence. The simultaneous referenda originally proposed to ensure that the decision of one party does not adversely influence the decision of the other have been changed to unfairly pressure us to vote “Yes to the ICJ”. Having everything to gain and nothing to lose, everyone knew how Guatemala would have voted in their referendum.

The sixty percent participation referendum threshold has been replaced by a simple majority vote to ensure that the result will bind us regardless of how many may choose not to participate. In other words, if only the foreign minister votes the country will still be legally and irrevocably committed to the destiny our adversaries have charted.

Unjustifiable and unreasonable conditions have been imposed that effectively prevent untold thousands of deserving diaspora Belizeans from voting. Significant numbers of Belizeans have been illegitimately disenfranchised by the Vital Statistics and Elections and Boundaries government-controlled departments. And all requests to postpone the referendum to rectify these injustices and irregularities have been unreasonably denied.

Even the unions and social partners have been uncharacteristically subdued in the face of this existential crisis. Usually they have been quick to flex their collective muscle over far less momentous issues. One would have at least expected their leaders to poll their membership to arrive at a united position on an issue of this magnitude. Instead the stance taken by their leadership could easily lead one to believe that they, like so many others, may have been compromised.

Although the PUP has finally committed to oppose the Government’s position, their opposition to date has been divided and until recently, more nominal than actual. The only totally committed opposition, the Peace Movement, is being frustrated in their attempt to obtain permission to scrutinize the election process in order to ensure fairness.

Having CARICOM observe the process offers next to no level of comfort that the referendum will be fairly administered and the results transparently tabulated. Such observers will not be able to immediately object and act to prevent any wrongdoings they might see.  These people will simply observe and later submit their report, which will then be as worthless as Belizean land title documents in territory that may be ceded to Guatemala after the results are declared.

Instead of providing the people with an unbiased presentation of all arguments for and against going to the ICJ as proposed, irrelevant facts have been cherry-picked to promote the Government’s position and confuse the voters. This is being done by means of a bogus one-sided education campaign funded partly by taxpayer’s money but mainly by donations from our disingenuous “friends” who in their role as the party who pays the piper, are entitled to call the tune.

Those who are trying to inform the people of the danger that this storm represents are almost never invited to Government- sponsored “education” forums and are being denied funding for their presentations. In fact their efforts to warn us of this potential impending disaster are funded by themselves. On the other hand most of the “Yes” advocates are paid government employees or hired guns with apparent unlimited access to finance. The only “courtesy” that has been extended to the “No” proponents is police surveillance by the state.

To add insult to injury they have deceptively offered us the illusion of choice in a non-binding referendum in which it appears that mainly the “Yea Sayers” will be allowed oversight. This has been cleverly orchestrated to wash their hands of the damage this impending storm may inflect. After we begin to suffer the dire consequence of a wrong decision, those who may not have already fled like migrating birds to their well-feathered foreign nests will simply say, “Do not blame us, for it was your choice”.

Our only hope of diverting this looming disaster is to make the correct decision on referendum day. And this can only be done if we are told the truth about our current situation. So let me try to do so.

Regardless of what may be said of the British at the time we attained independence in 1981, they left us in possession of a land title document which while not being completely ironclad was not far from being so. Even though there is sufficient historical evidence to suggest the 1859 treaty was in fact a treaty of cession disguised as a boundary treaty, under this cleverly worded 1859 treaty there was no way the Guatemalans could make any legal claim that would have enabled them to acquire  Belizean territory or rights over our sovereignty.

You may recall that such rights had been articulated in the Government-endorsed, but vehemently people- rejected, proposed Heads of Agreement Treaty. Interestingly we presently see many of the items contained in that infamous document being incrementally implemented. A case in point is the newly constructed paved southern road from Punta Gorda into Guatemala.

There is also no provision in the 1859 treaty which would have allowed Guatemala to have a court to alter the immovable boundaries that that treaty had established. Furthermore even their alleged   non-fulfillment of Article 7 could not have been levied against Belize as was noted by Sir Elihu Lauterpacht et al in their 2001 Legal Opinion on Guatemala’s Territorial Claim to Belize.

“The allegation of Britain’s non-performance of that Article relates only to the period of Britain’s rule in British Honduras. Any responsibility of Britain that may have arisen during that period is Britain’s alone and cannot have devolved upon Belize”.

Tragically, however, the successive Governments we elected to protect our country since 1981 have dropped the ball and seriously compromised our territorial integrity by allowing the Guatemalans to incrementally vitiate the 1859 treaty and the immovable boundary it had established. Their first mistake was their failure to maintain a clear, jungle-free Western boundary line and conduct regular military patrols along the border as the British had done.

This failure encouraged Guatemalan peasants driven by economic and population pressures to enter Belize illegally and harvest our natural resources in remote areas. They even established settlements like Santa Rosa inside Belize by rightly claiming that they did not know where the border is located. The Guatemalans then used this as an excuse to persuade our negotiators to enter into the OAS-supervised Confidence-Building Measures reminiscent of proposals that had been previously advanced and rejected by the Belizean people.

Our borders were then seriously compromised when our negotiators formally agreed with Guatemala that our then international border, which had been recognized by the entire world except Guatemala, was not really a border, but only an adjacency line.  After this fiasco even Google Earth replaced our solid international boundary line with a dotted which represents divisions within a single country.

But even before this they had issued a 1992 Joint Statement in which they formally agreed with Guatemala that there were no clearly defined borders between the two countries and consequently resolved that there was a need to conclude a new boundary treaty to establish the correct position of our shared boundaries with Guatemala.

Although it is true that the portion of our Western Border from Garbutt’s Falls to the Mexican frontier, that was unilaterally demarcated by the British, runs slightly West of due north of the Garbutt’s falls meridian, which is contrary to what was clearly articulated in the 1859 treaty, the worst that could be truthfully said is that the portion of our border north of Garbutt’s falls was inaccurately demarcated. Notwithstanding this small demarcation error, the fact is that 1859 treaty did give us clearly defined boundaries with Guatemala.

Still, there is another worrisome matter that Guatemala may raise at the ICJ. This concerns the 1893 Mariscal- Spencer treaty that defined our Northern boundary with Mexico. It is being argued by the “Yea Sayers” that this treaty gave us ownership of our territory north of the Aguas Turbias parallel which the 1859 treaty does not cover.
The truth is that this treaty may simply have defined our Northern boundary with Mexico since it is questionable that the territory south of the Mexican border and north of the Aguas Turbias parallel ever really belonged to Mexico in the first place. There is an 1823 map which shows this area to be a part of the Kingdom of Guatemala. So those who live in the north had better not believe that they are safe from the coming storm. Guatemala might simply be deceiving us into believing that their claim is only from south of the Sibun River. See map.

Now a treaty is simply a formal agreement between two or more countries. The one sure way that the derivatives arising from any agreement between two persons or countries can be invalidated is by mutual consent and agreement. And the only way a boundary treaty or what it had established can be rubbished under international law is to conclude a later treaty that contradicts what the earlier treaty had established, in our case immovable versus movable borders.

Knowing this they continued to undermine our defense by concluding a new Special Agreement boundary treaty that supersedes the 1859 treaty and empowers Guatemala, under Article 2 of this treaty, to lodge any and all their legal claims against Belizean territory and sovereignty.

 Furthermore, under this new treaty, the court has been empowered to alter our borders so that Guatemala can be awarded our territory as compensation for any and all of their three centuries of claims that the court may uphold. The shield that had protected us since 1859 was thereby rendered impotent.

Sadly none of this was inevitable. In 1981 we had not only the 1859 treaty to protect us, but also the potent United Nations resolutions. There was no valid reason for our negotiators to depart from the script the British had followed and to relinquish the advantages the patriots who had successfully lobbied the nations of the world for our independence with full territorial integrity had achieved. Inexplicably however, they allowed Guatemala to incrementally lead us down the rabbit hole in which we presently find ourselves.

While we would all want to find a satisfactory resolution to the Guatemalan Claim, the one being proposed in this April referendum is simply an extremely bad deal. The dubious rewards cited by the “Yea Sayers” are simply not worth the possible loss of up to half our country. It is indeed true that no deal is better than a bad deal.

Consider these facts, even if the ICJ judgement favors Belize the only arm of the United Nations that can enforce its judgements is the Security Council. The composition of this organ of the UN includes five permanent member countries, all of which have the power to prevent the enforcement of any ICJ judgement by simply exercising their veto.
Of those five there are three that we know of who definitely favor Guatemala over Belize. These are the United States, Great Britain and mainland China— since unlike Guatemala, we have supported Taiwan in preference to mainland China. If any one of these countries decides to exercise its veto, the Security Council will be powerless to enforce any UN resolution to force Guatemala to comply with the court’s decision. And we well know Guatemala’s track record of disrespecting UN decisions that displease them.

They have ignored, with impunity derived from the acquiescence of the OAS and our disingenuous “friends” who in reality run things on the international plane, the confidence building measures as evinced by their military occupation of the Sarstoon. They moved their embassy to Jerusalem in defiance of the United Nations, disrespected the UN resolutions on our territorial integrity, and more recently expelled the United Nations anti-corruption personnel after having endorsed the anti-corruption measures.

Also do not be misled by the “Yea Sayers” contention that since under the Special Agreement Treaty the court will be obliged to evaluate all of Guatemala’s claims on a strictly legal basis using Article 38(1) of the court’s statute there is no claim that Guatemala can make that the court will uphold under this Article. Likewise, do not be fooled by their contention that the integrity of the ICJ judges is impeccable and above reproach.

There is one claim Guatemala can make that will most likely withstand legal scrutiny. They had even received a legal opinion from an eminent international jurist to that effect. This is their breach of agreement claim against the British. This claim will almost certainly be upheld under “the general principles of law recognized by civilized nations”, contained in Article 38{1} of the ICJ statute.

Additionally even though Article 38(2) that deals with fairness and equity cannot be applied as Guatemala had desired a form of equity called infra legume that complements the application of Article 38(1) to be used by the ICJ. Taken together, this may well result in a valid legal claim being upheld by the court. And who knows what other claims they may make that the court might uphold?

Interestingly, the integrity of the ICJ judges has been recently questioned, as some have been found moonlighting on the job. Political interferences have also been cited by one judge who recently resigned from a similar organ of the United Nations.

Similarly, do not be misled by those who try to scare you with their suggestion that if we do not vote “Yes” Guatemala may take our country by force. Under present international norms such actions are no longer tolerated. Additionally, the only thing that has prevented Guatemala from attempting a hostile takeover of Belize since the British withdrew their defense guarantee 25 years ago is this and their incessant desire to preserve the sanctimonious image they strive to project to the international community.

They also well know that given the United Nations resolutions on Belize’s sovereignty and territorial integrity they would incur the condemnation of the world if they tried a military takeover. These deterrents will not cease to exist if a “No” vote prevails in the upcoming referendum.

Be advised, however, if we vote “Yes” and subsequently receive an unfavorable judgement at the ICJ, all our protection will have evaporated and Guatemala will exuberantly waltz in with the support of the world to legally acquire whatever the court may have awarded her.

We have lived with this problem ever since our ancestors settled Belize centuries ago. We can and should continue to live indefinitely as we are until a better deal is presented. And there are better alternatives. For example, we could bypass the referendum completely and immediately apply directly to the United Nations Security under Chapter 7, Article 39, to halt the Aggressive Occupation of the Sarstoon by Guatemala. All we would need to do so is the political will of our Government.

At this point I would like to re-emphasize that this Special Agreement Treaty formulated by the OAS is the Holy Grail long sought after by Guatemala and their brilliant accomplices. It effectively abrogates our 1859 treaty and opens the door for Guatemala to legally subsume Belizean Territory. This Compromis (Special Agreement) affords them an overwhelming strategic advantage at the ICJ.

It is imperative that you understand that both the respective governments of Guatemala and Belize have already committed to have the International Court of Justice resolve the territorial dispute using this odious Special Agreement Treaty as the court’s terms of reference. The April referendum is simply for you to give them your blessing to proceed as they have already agreed. Once you have done so you will have absolutely no further say in whatever may transpire and will be irrevocably obliged to accept whatever the ICJ decides.

Another point you should be aware of is that if a “Yes” vote prevails chaos will ensue even before the court hands down its decision. Property held by people in areas they believe might be ceded to Guatemala will lose their value as their owners desperately try to sell before they become worthless. Those living in the south will become anxious to migrate because of the possibility that they may become stateless refugees. If you reside in that area this would be the most egregious violations of your fundamental constitutional human rights.

Even conduction of the referendum constitutes a partial implementation of the Treaty and strengthens its legality since Article 7 of the Treaty requires the upcoming referendum. Also Article 6 states, “This Special Agreement shall enter into force upon the exchange of instruments of ratification, and remain in force unless and until terminated by agreement of the Parties. “This means this treaty, once implemented, can only be terminated by the mutual agreement of Belize and Guatemala. Do you see Guatemala readily agreeing to that?

So our best hope of removing this albatross is to have a court establish its illegitimacy based on constitutional violations or by applying Article 46 of the Vienna Convention on Law of Treaties or some other applicable law. An injunction obtained to stop the referendum before it is preformed would be our best option. Of course such a ruling may have to reach the CCJ to succeed since it is logically unlikely that any local judge would risk their fragile tenure by displeasing the elected executive.

In conclusion it seems apparent that those with the deep and bottomless pockets who run things locally and on the international plane have covertly prepared a banquet at the International Court of Justice. We are being coerced to go there with all the inimitable and formidable power at their disposal. However, in my opinion, the place that has been arranged for us is not to be seated at the banquet table, but to become the main course of the meal set for Guatemala.

Our only hope of surviving this looming disaster is to batten down and resist this evil tempest that is coming our way with all our collective might. The three red storm warning flags have already been raised and now only the people, with God’s help, can save the people from the lethal embrace of this impending tempest  that our disingenuous “friends”  have so insidiously orchestrated.

- Advertisment -

Most Popular

Belize “under quarantine”

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Mar. 26, 2020-- COVID-19 (coronavirus pandemic) has seized the world and turned it upside down, creating new social norms around the...

Woman charged for “Spreading False News” amid COVID 19 crisis

ORANGE WALK, Thurs. Mar. 26, 2020-- An arrest for “spreading false news” happened today in these times of COVID-19 crisis. In a report this evening,...

Some bus owners suspend runs

BELIZE CITY, Wed. Mar. 25, 2020-- In the wake of social distancing guidelines set by government, which include a rule that prohibited more than...

Curfew imposed for children under 16

BELIZE CITY, Wed. Mar. 25, 2020-- A regulation which was signed and enacted today, has established a curfew that requires children 16 years and...