Minister of Foreign Affairs speaks about Belize/ Guatemala Emergency meeting this weekend

Today Minister of Foreign Affairs Wilfred Elrington outlined the plans for the Belize delegation to attend an emergency meeting in Washington, D.C. this weekend called after Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina told the press this week that Guatemala is seeking a postponement of the October 2013 referendum on its territorial claim going to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Belize is under pressure to change its referendum act to remove the 60% participation threshold for this referendum, but Guatemala also faces internal pressure over its education process in the run-up to October. The meeting on Sunday and Monday represents a do-or-die moment for the OAS-endorsed process and today, the Minister said he was prepared to listen to his Guatemalan counterparts.

Wilfred Elrington – Minister of Foreign Affairs:
Initially, at this present stage we’d like to think that we have an agreement, and that we should be bound by the agreement.  I think it is incumbent on us, however, to listen to what the Guatemalans are saying, and also listen to what the Secretary General of the OAS is saying, and then we brief our cabinet, and then we take instructions.

But all indications are that Belize is not planning to make any changes. Because time is short, Belize, says Elrington, wants this matter resolved as quickly as possible.

Wilfred Elrington – Minister of Foreign Affairs:
vlcsnap-2013-03-15-21h02m05s78The quicker we can get rid of this issue, in my view, the better.  So to that extent, I certainly would be inclined to acquiesce to their proposal for an adjournment, at all. And I don’t think that would be the position of our Delegation. I haven’t talked to Lisa yet, from the Opposition, but i don’t think that she would be amenable to any adjournment or extension of the date.  I don’t think so. That is not our thinking.

According to Elrington, his Guatemalan counterpart who visited Belize a week or so ago did not bring up the issue of the referendum and Guatemala has never claimed that that is the issue preventing them from going ahead. There are internal pressures particularly from members of the former Comision de Belice who oppose the current process, as Elrington tells PLUS News.

Wilfred Elrington – Minister of Foreign Affairs:
I think the Comision de Belice is an organisation that has always had a rabid attitude towards the claim.  They are very very gung-ho, and very forceful, and apparently they do have some influence in the society. So what they say has got to be given weight. They have been very active. Just like some Belizeans they’re very active and want to derail the process.  It’s not only on Belize soil that you have people who want to derail the process. In Gualemala you also have people who want to derail the process.  They understand why they want to derail the process, as it has always benefited them. I don’t know why we would want to derail the process, because I am sure it will not benefit us.

Both countries would need to vote yes to move the process forward, but if Guatemala does drop out, Elrington says, Belize can and just might go forward on its own.

About the Author