By Marion V. Ali
The United States says it respects the decision that Belize has taken to allow Colombians to visit the country without visas – a move that took effect at the start of this year.
The US, which has long assisted countries like Belize where drug transshipments from South America to North America are commonplace, responded this week to questions which The Reporter posed to the US Embassy in Belize regarding Belize’s decision.
Public Affairs Officer at the embassy, Emilia Adams, after consultation with her superiors, said: “The U.S. respects the sovereignty of Belize and official decisions regarding country specific visa protocol in Belize.”
Despite Colombia’s notoriety in the manufacture and trafficking of cocaine, Adams said that the U.S. and Belize “enjoy a strong bilateral relationship and work together on many important policy issues that impact both countries.”
Adams went on to mention the Central America Regional Security (CARSI) Initiative which the U.S. Embassy works on along with Belize. Among other objectives, the partnership works to disrupt the movement of criminals and contraband within Central America, and to foster enhanced levels of coordination and cooperation in the region with other international partners and donors that combat regional security threats.
When the protocol took effect, Belize’s Foreign Minister, Wilfred Elrington told The Reporter that while the government is mindful of what other countries say, Belize’s primary interest is that our country develops and creates employment.
He was referring to Belize’s prospects of improving our tourist trade in light of South America’s weather pattern and Belize’s seasonal tourism industry.
Elrington reported that Copa Airlines has expressed an interest in flying to Belize but asked for visa-free entry for Colombians in order to ensure the viability of its flights.
The beginning of Copa flights to Belize would provide Belize with year-round tourism since South Americans travel most during Belize’s summer months when they have winter weather, in contrast to North Americans who like to travel during what in Belize compares to their winter months.
Elrington observed that Colombia today is a very different from the Colombia of 20 years ago.