Leader of the Opposition People’s United Party John Briceno today said that the country has made no progress in the international front in stopping Guatemala from advancing its territorial claim.The PUP is also irked that their political rivals appear to have frozen them out of the Guatemala process – and now, it appears, they have taken themselves out. Briceno announced that the PUP would now not participate in the planned June 21 Washington talks on a protocol for the Sarstoon. Here is how he explained it and what the party now wants from Belmopan
Hon. John Briceno; Leader of the Opposition: If there is one issue that Belizeans expect us to remain united it is the Guatemala’s unfounded claim over Belize. It is for this reason that my party and I have done everything possible to work with the government in a bipartisan effort regrettably this effort has become a partnership of convenience by the UDP administration. We in the PUP represent 67,000 Belizeans that voted for us in the last election and we owe it to them and to every other Belizean to ensure that the government protects every single inch of Belizean land and water. That is why I have decided that until the government is prepared to work with us in a meaningful partnership on this issue we will not attend the talks in Washington, DC next week Tuesday. We in the PUP demand that Guatemala respect our territory and immediately stop their armed forces from entering Belizean waters. Two, we categorially reject Guatemala’s annexation to the Sarstoon and three, we call on the government for the appointment of a national team that will deal with the Belize Guatemalan differendum. The national team will have three objectives: 1. Coordination 2. Develop a cohesive strategy in dealing with this issue and 3. Internationalize Guatemala’s illegal tactics and behavior.
Briceno also attacked the OAS resolution as too much of a concession to the Guatemalans:
Hon. John Briceno; Leader of the Opposition: We are deeply disappointed in the resolution that was passed. The resolution clearly shows no progress made towards stopping Guatemala from annexing our portion of the Sarstoon River. In fact, the resolution deals mostly about restricting our efforts to bring or to inform the international community about Guatemala’s illegal annexation of our portion of the Sarstoon. What is extremely disturbing is that while the U.D.P. administration was negotiating a resolution and talking about peace in the Dominican Republic, the Guatemalan government was continuing their illegal activities in the Sarstoon and turning back Belizeans from visiting our territorial or sovereign territory
Hon. John Briceno; Leader of the Opposition: That is why what we are saying is that we respect the government and that is why we are not asking for an equal partnership for this matter but we are asking for a partnership of respect and throw out ideas, the way we treated them when we were in government, that’s the way we did. We had Ambassador Martinez around that table, we actually appointed Ambassador Martinez, a big know UDP to be our ambassador in Guatemala because we felt very strongly that this is not a political issue. But coming around and being around with the government and they refusing to listen and refusing to take advise and to treat us with the respect we believe that they should deal with us. Why are we going to be around? We are going to be on the side of the Belizean people. We are not saying that we are going to keep quiet when it comes to Belize Guatemala we are still going to stand up and advocate for insuring that we maintain and protect every single square inch of Belizean land and waters. So it’s not as if we say that we don’t have anything to do with this we are going to continue to be advocating but if the government does not want to deal with us. Why are we?
Briceno says he will meet with the PUP’s team of foreign ministers and then the National Executive to plan the way forward.