April 2019 is the month set for Belizeans to vote in a referendum on what direction we are to take to refute the Guatemalan claim to our land.
We have an opportunity to put to rest the century old dispute brought on by our neighbour’s claim to the southern portion of our country.

The claim is a threat to Belizean sovereignty and ownership. If it succeeds it will seriously affect our resources and our peace of mind.
We can choose to do nothing and allow the claim to fester on, or we can resolve to meet this threat in the same spirit that we have met other threats and have persevered.

There was a time when Belize was successfully pro-active in meeting the Guatemalan threat. Under the leadership of our Foreign Minister at the time, Mr. Assad Shoman, we started an international lobbying initiative to tell the nations of the world about our ambitions to be independent and of our problem with Guatemala.

We drew overwhelming support for our cause from the international community.
But in recent years we have allowed Guatemala to seize the opportunity and move ahead of us in conducting a referendum which has advanced her claim, if not in substance, then certainly in the confidence it has engendered to re-awaken her fading dream for more land and sea.

Faced with this new aggressiveness, Belize has two choices. We can choose to do nothing, or we can choose to speak up boldly at international forums, including the International Court of Justice.

We can choose to bury our head into our pillow and pretend that all is well. But the problem will not go away. It will be there, as large as life, when we wake up!
If we do nothing, we should not expect that Guatemala will do the same. Our silence and our laissez-faire will provide more grist for her propaganda mill.
Guatemala will be able to show that she has made a genuine effort to settle the dispute by peaceful means and that Belize has been the unwilling party.
By her action and by our inaction Guatemala can seize the high ground in this dispute and gain international support for her position.

If Belize rules out arbitration as a path to a settlement, Guatemala can be expected to make the case that Belize is not committed, and not ready to do battle in defence of her sovereignty.

International support for Belize may not remain solid if we do not show ourselves willing to do our part to settle the dispute by way of a peace plan.
The Guatemalan claim is an issue which has its roots in colonial history and practice. This is what perhaps gives her the false hope that she can win at arbitration.

Our claim on the other hand is essentially a legal claim, based on occupation and reality and not at all dependent on Spanish colonial history or even on the 1859 Anglo-Guatemalan Treaty, which is a support but not a foundation for our rights.
At the ICJ the claim will be decided on legal grounds and on contemporary law for native peoples.

On legal grounds Belize is standing firm — not to be moved!

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