Editorial

Editorial

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise….
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!
Rudyard Kipling

The Prime Minister was right when he said: “Guatemala will not change, and we, sure as hell, will not!” !” .
The gulf which divides us over the territorial claim is huge. We can settle it by hurling our bodies at one another, or we can call in a respected authority like the International Court of Justice to settle our problem once and for all.
Those who say there is a third choice don’t know what they are talking about. Their intentions may be good, but they are mistaken.

There is one aspect of the Sarstoon Island controversy which nobody wants to talk about. This is a swamp and mangrove island, several acres in size, which has grown up at the mouth of the Sarstoon River.
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Belize claims this island on the strength of the 1859 Treaty. Guatemala claims the island because she does not recognize the 1859 treaty, and because the island is of strategic importance to her. She will not relinquish it without a fight, even if Belize were to recall her ambassador, slam shut the border gates and mobilize our young people for a war which we cannot possibly hope to win.

Guatemala is a relatively large country (population 16.38 million). She has lots of maritime resources on the Pacific side, but the Sarstoon River, and the Rio Dulce are the only rivers she has on the Caribbean side.
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Sarstoon Island splits the river in two. On the north side (the Belize side) is a channel too shallow except for the smallest of boats. The southern channel (the Guatemalan side) is wide and deep enough for large vessels. Belize needs to use this southern channel from time to time when we send our soldiers to relieve our remote outpost at Cadenas.

For years there was a cordial relationship between the Guatemalan Armed Forces and the Belize Defence Force, and Belize vessels could move freely without impediment. When it became clear, however, that there was a determined civilian move afoot to take over Sarstoon Island, the Guatemalans put their foot down.
“If you want to use our side of the river, you need to ask our permission” the Guatemalans are now saying. .

Now Belize offers free education to dozens of Guatemalan children who come every day from Melchor de Mencos and other nearby villages. This has been going on for years, and there are many adults, some of them in high places, who got their early education in Benque Viejo and San Ignacio. Belize has never exacted anything in return. Our people go in droves to shop at Melchor, and we contribute in this way to the Guatemalan economy.

We want to get back to that easy, friendly relationship because hostility between two neighbors is bad for all. .
The people who are agitating for confrontation and a hard line must be told that they are doing damage to Belize’s cause. We will gain nothing by hurling our bodies at Guatemala. If we are not willing to take our claim to arbitration, that’s fine. But we will have to live with the consequences.

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