Editorial

Editorial

The struggle for independence in Mexico began in 1810 with the famous “grito” of Miguel Hidaldo, one of the heroes of the revolution.

On August 24, 1821 Spain recognized the independence of Mexico in the Treaty of Cordóba. Three weeks later, on September 15 of that same year the Captaincy General of Guatemala made up of five provinces – Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicargua, Honduras and Costa Rica officially proclaimed their own independence from Spain.

It did not take long for the five to go their separate ways however, and on March 21, 1847 Guatemala declared herself an independent republic. Rafael Carrera, a military commander of the Captaincy regime, became her first President.

The young Guatemalan republic was tormented by instability and power struggles and in those difficult years which followed, sought help from other countries including Belgium, Britain and the United States.

Early Guatemalan regimes actively courted the American banana giant, United Fruit Company. At one point Guatemala donated large tracts of national land to this company in exchange for its promise to build a bridge.

The bridge was never built and over time Guatemela absolved the company of its commitment.
But it never forgave Britain for not living up to her commitment to build a dirt road to the sea as part of the 1859 treaty.

By the middle of the 20th century Guatemalan politics required a scapegoat, and President Jorge Ubico converted his country’s claim with Britain to a land dispute aimed at despoiling the people of Belize.

Guatemala never owned or occupied any land beyond the boundaries of the Captaincy General, but she found it politically expedient to claim the lower half of Belize.
Guatemala bases her claim on the doctrine of Uti Poseditis, which contends that as the inheritor of Spanish lands in Central America, Guatemala is entitled to claim the land on her east flank.

This doctrine of Uti poseditis is not a recognized protocol of international law. It is something peculiar to Central America where Spanish colonial hegemony allowed it to become established.

The Battle of St. George’s Caye took place on September 10, 1798, 23 years before Guatemala came into being. The Treaty of 1859 established the borders of Belize as they exist today.
Many in Belize are asking: If Belize has its established borders, why go to the International court of Justice to re-establish them?

The answer is that even though all the countries of the world recognize Belize’s borders, Guatemala, our bigger neighbour to the west, does not.
Guatemala has repudiated the 1859 Treaty in which she recognized Belize and her borders. She is using her old dispute with Britain to exert pressure on Belize to make land and sea concessions.

It is an old trick which bigger countries use against smaller neighbours. It is a strategy which President Putin used in 2014 to take over the Crimea, a province of the Ukraine, little bigger than Belize, and its strategic port City of Sebastapol.

Since Belize does not have the force of arms to deter Guatemala, we must look for a judicial resolution of this dispute as our best hope for future peace.

Only the ICJ can give us that!

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