By Marion V. Ali
Jimmy Morales, 48, Guatemala’s newly-elected President, in his latest reference to Belize, was more diplomatic than when he first spoke of our country several months prior to being elected.
In his lengthy inaugural speech late last Thursday at Guatemala’s Miguel Angel Asturias Cultural Center, Morales made brief remarks about the Belize-Guatemala territorial dispute near the end of his presentation. But his language was much less abrasive than when he first referred to Belize as a territory Guatemala should actively pursue as theirs, during a television interview in the midst of his campaign to the polls.
“We want to advance on the issue of the territorial and maritime dispute with Belize, our neighbour, with whom we wish to develop a bilateral agenda of neighbourly cooperation,”
Morales told the assembly of diplomats in attendance. His words were welcomed by Prime Minister Dean Barrow, who was present. He told reporters who attended the event that he was “extremely optimistic” that there could be some common ground.
“There were some little hiccups right at the start, just after he (Morales) had been elected, but I think we got over those very quickly and when he came to Belize as a part of his regional tour as president elect, we got along well, and both of us engaged in some straight talk about what we expected from the relations,” Barrow said.
Morales, a former comedian by profession, focused his address on his people, and pledged to be a good example to them. He stressed on the importance of having unity in order to propel Guatemala forward, and underscored his campaign platform, that under his watch, there will be no tolerance for corruption. He also praised the anti-corruption movement and promised to provide money for quality education and health.
Morales won his seat in a run-off against Guatemala’s former first lady, Sandra Torres last October, following the resignation of the former President, Otto Perez Molina on corruption charges brought against him and his deputy, Roxana Baldetti.
Morales, who has no previous experience in politics, took over from interim President, Alejandro Maldonado Aguirre, forced to hold-over after the series of corruption charges against the previous leadership.
Aside from Belize, the swearing-in ceremony also saw representatives from Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Cuba, Ecuador and Venezuela in attendance. For the first time in 30 years, the US had a high-level representative present in the country, in the person of Vice President Joe Biden.