General

Guatemala’s ‘Comision de Belice’ replaced

SEDIGuatemala’s Foreign Minister Fernando Carreras announced late last week that his government has dissolved the Comision de Belice, the Guatemalan Council that was charged with handling all aspects of Guatemala claim to Belize.
Guatemalan media reported that Guatemala’s President Otto Fernando Pérez Molina ordered the body’s decommissioning, after it was confirmed that it failed to alert the authorities about Belize’s June 2008 amendment to its Referendum Act, which stipulates that 60 percent of the Belizean electorate must participate in any referendum for it to be valid.
In addition, Belize would need at least 51 percent of those who actually vote in the referendum on October 6th to vote “yes” to the process for it to be deemed successful.
Unlike Belize, Guatemala only requires a simple majority for the referendum to be approved, and it was felt that Belize’s high threshold puts the entire process at risk of failure.
Carrera, who met with Belize’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Wilfred Elrington on Tuesday in Belize City, spoke with Channel 7 News on the matter.
He said: “It has been a concern but as it is in politics, we have understood that that is your role and that is the way you want to solve this situation the referendum.
Although we have a concern that it is a very difficult threshold to reach for any country not just for Belize … We [would] have lots of problems in Guatemala to reach that threshold and maybe that’s part of our concern because we haven’t been able to do that in the past. But it’s your decision and it’s your rules, your legal framework.”
The change to Belize’s Referendum Act was made months before both governments signed the Special Compromis in December 2008, when they agreed to take the long-standing territorial dispute to the International Court of Justice if both electorates were to approve such a move by simultaneous referenda.
Guatemala has now appointed a new body to address issues surrounding her claim. It includes the Minister of the Interior, Mauricio Lopez Bonilla, Defense Minister Ulises Anzueto and the National Security Council Secretary Ricardo Bustamante.
That the Belizean amendment was passed only months before the signing of the Special Compromis was viewed as an act of bad faith, even though the reasons for which the Belize government had amended the Act had nothing to do with the Gautemalan claim.
The replacement of the Comision is no cause for concern as far as Ministry of Foreign Affairs CEO Alexis Rosado is concerned and he said as much to the media. The amendment to the Referendum Act was not carried out in secrecy. It was widely publicized and debated and in the House of Representatives.
Rosado said under the Special Compromis regarding the ICJ referendum, each country will follow its own laws and legislations, and the fact that our Act was amended a few months before the signing is neither here nor there.
Elrington was equally adamant that one thing had nothing to do with the other, and Belize is not under any pressure from Guatemala to change the Referendum Act again.
After years of petitioning for the matter to be taken to the ICJ, the Guatemalans finally agreed for the first time in 2008 that the dispute should be submitted to the ICJ strictly on a legal basis. This is in contrast to the previously demanded condition of going to ICJ under “Ex aequo et bono”, a condition Belize and the British resisted.
Ex aequo et bono (Latin for “what is just and good”) is a type of case in which legal codes may be ill-defined, contradictory, without precedent or non-existent. In such a circumstance the judge would be empowered to make a decision on a vague area of law based on what is considered to be fair or just in the given situation.

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