Ambassador Alfredo Martinez contemplates alternative referendum date

It may not be on October 6, 2013, but Belize and Guatemala, sooner rather than later, must decide on a date for a simultaneous referendum to send the territorial dispute to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).  Backstopped by the Organization of American States (OAS), the two sides met in Washington D.C. last week and OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza, according to Belize’s Ambassador to Guatemala Alfredo Martinez, has gotten tough with the Guatemalans. Despite all that, says the Ambassador, it may be difficult to get any assurances from them on a date before 2014.

Alfredo Martinez – Belize’s Ambassador to Guatemala:
vlcsnap-2013-05-13-21h42m41s35With all due respect to our neighbors. we don’t get any assurances from them on anything.  That is part of the problem.  They can promise but they won’t live up to it.  To begin with, we need to get them to agree that: Yes, there will be a referendum. The way they had posed it initially was: We are postponing “sin un dia”, that means without a date, an open process. We pressured them, no it is not an open process. It is a process where for you it is a luxury.  For us it is a matter of survival, and therefore it cannot be an open process.  So we’re willing to go back and discuss, and if we don’t hold it in 2014, then there’s no assurances when it will be held.

But Ambassador Martinez also pointed out that it must be held soon because after 2014 both countries will be going into political campaigns.

Alfredo Martinez – Belize’s Ambassador to Guatemala:
It’s the last window of opportunity, political opportunity.  By September 2014 is the Presidential Campaign, 2015 is the Presidential Campaign and election, so that is out for the referendum.  The 2016 a new Government takes office, but then Belize has a general Election Campaign in 2016/2017,  And by the time the Belize Government takes office, settles in, that’s 2018. And  that’s five years too many. In the meantime this situation is critical.

As far as calls for a boycott of the process, Martinez says that only makes Belize look bad.

Alfredo Martinez – Belize’s Ambassador to Guatemala:
A boycott is not going to lead us anywhere, and I’m not here asking for a yes or a no. All I am asking is for people to go and vote.  The reason being is this: We always depend of the support of the international community.  The same international community that we would then turn to and say “Listen, can you give me a defense guarantee?.  Can you come in and flush out Guatemala?  Can you do this for this one?”  Then they would tell you, “But hold on.  Why should I send my monies to keep the peace, or send my children to defend you, when you did not even have the courtesy to lift up your pen and vote yes or no?  That is a heavy argument. Therefore as responsible Belizeans a boycott is not going to help.  As responsible Belizeans we should make sure that we are there, and no matter what we vote, yes or no, that we ensure that our wishes are known, so that any Government, whether it be a PUP or a UDP Government, or any Diplomat, that have the moral authority to show the international community, “See.  The people say so.  It is not us. Therefore we must abide by the people’s wishes.”

A decision by the Guatemalans is expected before June.

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