Guatemala to Hold Referendum on Belize


The Guatemalan Congress has reportedly voted that a referendum will be held on Sunday, March 18, 2018. The last time a similar referendum was proposed was in 2015. Territory disputes between Belize and Guatemala, especially for lands on the Caribbean shore, have been ongoing on since the early 19th century. Q Costa Rica (QCR) reports:

The question posed will be, “Do you agree that any legal claim by Guatemala against Belize on continental inland territories and any maritime areas corresponding to those territories be submitted to the international court of justice for final determination and that it determines the boundaries of the respective territories and areas of the parties?”

Guatemalans will be able to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no.”

Belize is also to hold a referendum on the same Belizean–Guatemalan territorial dispute territorial dispute. However, an official date has not yet been set.

Belizean–Guatemalan territorial dispute
The Belizean–Guatemalan territorial dispute is an unresolved binational territorial dispute between the neighboring states of Belize and Guatemala. The territory of Belize has been claimed in whole or in part by Guatemala since 1821. The present dispute originates with imperial Spain’s claim to all New World territories west of the line established in the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494. England, like other powers of the late 15th century, did not recognize the treaty that divided the world between Spain and Portugal.

Guatemala declared its independence from Spain in 1821, and Great Britain did not accept the Baymen of what is now Belize as a crown colony until 1862, 64 years after the Baymen’s last hostilities with Spain. This crown colony became known as “British Honduras”.

Under the terms of the Wyke–Aycinena Treaty of 1859, Guatemala agreed to recognize British Honduras, and Great Britain promised to build a road from Guatemala to the nearby Baymen town of Punta Gorda. This treaty was approved by General Rafael Carrera (“supreme and perpetual leader” of Guatemala), and Queen Victoria of Great Britain without regard to the Maya peoples living there.

In 1940, Guatemala claimed that the 1859 treaty was void because the British failed to comply with economic assistance provisions found in Clause VII of the Treaty. Belize, once independent, claimed this was not a treaty they were bound by since they did not sign it. Belize further argued that International Court of Justice rulings [2][3][4] and principles of international law, such as uti possidetis. Belize further argued that International Court of Justice (ICJ) rulings and principles of international law, such as uti possidetis juris and the right of nations to self-determination, demand that Guatemala honor the boundaries in the 1859 treaty even if Great Britain never built the road as promised.

Negotiations proceeded for many years, including one period in the 1960s during which the United States government unsuccessfully sought to mediate, but these talks did not include residents of Belize. Between 1975 and 1979, Mexico, Nicaragua, Cuba, and Panama changed their stances from supporting Guatemala to supporting Belize. A 1981 trilateral (Belize, Guatemala, and the United Kingdom) “Heads of Agreement” was encouraged by the United Nations, which had already recognized Belize’s independence. [. . .]

[Photo above: San Pedro, Belize, a town in the south part of Ambergris Caye, in northern Belize. Tourism is the largest industry in Belize.]

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