Guatemala official suspends referendum

The government of Guatemala has announced that it will not hold a referendum in October.

An article posted on the official website of the government of Guatemala says that on Monday, President Otto Perez Molina sent a letter to the Congress of the Republic, notifying the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, that the call to go to referendum on October 6 is suspended.

Guatemalan Foreign Minister Fernando Carrera, made a report outlining the factors why Guatemala does not want to proceed: the government has not provided their citizens with sufficient information to the public about the significance of the referendum, as well as the perceived disadvantage that Belizean law requires 60% voter participation for the referendum to become legitimate.

He also said that Guatemala is unwilling to spend Q270 million (quetzals) on a referendum that might produce a “no” vote on Belize’s side.

Carrera maintains that Guatemala is open to dialogue with Belize and the Organization of American States on setting a new date for the referendum.

H.E. Alberto Ramdin, Assistant Secretary General of the OAS, visited Belize last week and said that on matters of the referendum, the public should only give credence to official OAS reports instead of media coverage.

CEO in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Alexis Rosado reaffirmed that statement and added that if Guatemala does attempt to change the referendum date it would violate the 2008 Special Agreement.

In 2005, both countries signed the “Agreement on a Framework for Negotiations and Confidence-Building Measures between Belize and Guatemala.” The signing was facilitated by the OAS.

Article five of the CBMs states that the Secretary General of the OAS shall recommend that the countries submit themselves to “either the International Court of Justice or an International Court of Arbitration, Juridical Bodies established under International Law for the solution of controversies,” if issues cannot be solved in negotiations

The SG made the recommendation to go to the ICJ in November 2007 and in December 2008, both countries signed the special agreement and among other things resolved to present the issue to the citizens of both countries in simultaneous national referenda.

The CBMs, the special agreement and the move to settle the territorial dispute at the ICJ, has sparked serious criticism from many activist groups including Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action, the Belize Territorial Volunteers and Belize Sovereign and Free No ICJ.

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