Leader of the Opposition People’s United Party, Francis Fonseca called an emergency press briefing to register his party’s rejection of Guatemala’s diplomatic maneuver last week to delay the October 6 simultaneous referenda.
Reading from a prepared statement at the PUP’s Independence Hall headquarters, Fonseca said: “On Sunday March 17, 2013 Guatemala put forward certain proposals that make clear its intention to breach its agreement with Belize to hold simultaneous referenda on October 6, 2013.”
“The simultaneous referenda in Belize and Guatemala that has been set for October 6, comes under the terms of an agreement brokered by the Organization of American States for the more than a century- old territorial claim of Guatemala over portions of Belize to be adjudicated at the International Court of Justice, in the Hague, Netherlands.
“The special agreement, or compromis, which was signed on December 8, 2008, by the foreign ministers of Belize and Guatemala, was hailed as a diplomatic breakthrough by the international community”.
Fonseca told reporters: “The People’s United Party rejects any proposal which violates the spirit and letter of the Special Agreement signed by Belize and Guatemala in December 2008.”
On March 13, the president of Guatemala, Otto Perez Molina, sent out a bulletin indicating that his administration wanted to delay its referendum.
Molina’s announcement was followed by a hastily arranged meeting with OAS Secretary General, Miguel Insulza in Washington, where Guatemala presented two alternative proposals.
A Belize delegation led by Foreign Minister Wilfred “Sedi” Elrington attended the talks, but Elrington’s counterpart, Guatemalan Foreign Minister, Fernando Carrera did not show up. Carrera’s absence limited Elrington’s participation in the bilateral talks.
Guatemala, however, managed to put forward its proposal which calls for postponing its referendum date until next year.
In addition, Guatemala suggested that Belize could go ahead and hold its own referendum on October 6. Guatemala also included in her proposal that Belize should amend its Referendum Act to make it similar to Guatemala’s.
As it now stands, under Belize referendum law, a 60 precent threshold must be reached at the polls for the results of the referenda to be legally valid.
In addressing these proposal, Fonseca said: “Neither option proposed by Guatemala is acceptable. Guatemala’s latest proposals raise serious concerns about its good faith in finding a just and definitive solution of this long-standing claim.”
Fonseca said that the PUP has consistently rejected Guatemala’s unfounded claim and has always remained supportive of any initiative that would lead to a definitive and just solution.
“The PUP does not support the holding of any unilateral referendum on October 6, 2013, or on any other date. We do not support the amendment of our national law to reduce our threshold participation in referendum, simply to accommodate Guatemala,” the PUP Leader said.
“The PUP calls on the Government of Belize to remain resolute in maintaining national and international support for our inalienable right to self-determination with full territorial integrity.”
Fonseca also used the occasion to announce that its representative on the Belize-Guatemala negotiating team, Senator Lisa Shoman, who served as ambassador and foreign minister, will not participate in future negotiations, if the government accepts any of Guatemala’s proposals.