DPM Vega addresses Belize Guatemala issue 7th Summit of the Association of Caribbean States

Early last week,  PlusNews had informed the nation that Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar Vega would step down to allow Patrick Faber to become Deputy Prime Minister after one last representation of the nation internationally. That representation took place at the 7th Summit of the Association of Caribbean States held in Havana, Cuba, June 2nd – 4th. Also at the meeting was Guatemala’s President Jimmy Moralez. Deputy Prime Minister Vega, in his speech to the body, took the opportunity to inform the 25 members, 10 associate members and 27 observers from South America, Europe and Russia, of Guatemala’s shift in foreign policy towards Belize. It has become necessary, Vega told the group, for Belize to call on its friends in the region to be aware these developments.

Hon Gaspar Vega, Deputy Prime Minister: This is in relation to the centuries old territorial dispute which we inherited from colonial days. This shift in policy manifests itself in the potentially dangerous practice by armed Guatemalan military personnel to prevent Belizean citizens, military and civilians, from their traditional free and unimpeded ingress and egress of the Sarstoon River, the mid channel of which vlcsnap-2016-06-07-09h21m44s827constitutes the southern boundary of our country. This boundary was agreed upon in the boundary convention of 1859 between Great Britain and the Republic of Guatemala. This right of ingress and egress has been exercised without let or hindrance from the late nineteenth century. Indeed, the Belize military routinely utilizes the said river for the changing of the guards and the re-provision of our southernmost military base which today is only accessible by river. Our fisher folk in the South, among others also utilize the river as well to earn their living. This new posture on the part of our neighbor Guatemala poses great threat to the preservation of our peaceful coexistence and is a threat to stability in our hemisphere. It constitutes a clear and present existential threat to our sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Vega told the Latin American Heads of States that Guatemala’s military behavior on the Sarstoon is in contravention with the Cumbre de la Comunidad de Estados Latino Americanos (CELAC) agreement.

Hon Gaspar Vega, Deputy Prime Minister: It is also in direct contravention of our commitment in paragraph two of CELAC’s proclamation of January twenty-ninth, 2014 which articulates our permanent commitment to solve disputes through peaceful means with the aim of eliminating the use of threats or the use of force.” Under these circumstances, and given the seriousness of the situation, Belize calls upon the members of this august organization to join with the countries of the ACP and the Commonwealth in urging both parties to fully abide by the agreement on the framework for negotiations and confidence-building measures of 2005 which commit both countries to refrain from the threat or use of force and lays out a verification process to address border incidentsvlcsnap-2016-06-07-09h21m40s344

Vega concluded by saying that in the Spirit of Cooperation, the Belize Government in 2008 signed the Special Agreement which binds it to hold a Referendum to decide if the Nation is to take the case to the International Court of Justice, ICJ.

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