By Marion V. Ali
Prime Minister Dean Barrow left Belize on Wednesday for Guatemala, where he joined other world leaders in witnessing the swearing-in of his Guatemalan counterpart, Jimmy Morales, as president on Thursday.
The government’s press office informed that Chief Executive Officer in the Office of the Prime Minister, Audrey Wallace and Belize’s Ambassador to Guatemala, Alexis Rosado also accompanied the Prime Minister on his trip.
While the two countries have had a longstanding dispute over land, Belizean and Guatemalan leaders have been civil towards one another and relations have always had an air of diplomacy. In December, Morales visited Belize as part of a familiarization tour of Central America, prior to taking over office.
The 46 year-old former comedian takes over from Acting President, Alejando Maldonado, who took over presidency last September, amidst a hail of allegations of corruption, which eventually led to the resignation of Otto Pérez Molina as president and the imprisonment of his deputy, Roxana Baldetti.
In the presidential run-off elections held in October, Morales trounced former first lady Sandra Torres at the polls by a ratio of 67 percent to 32 percent. Manuel Baldizon, of the Democratic Freedom Revival Party, originally thought to be the front runner leading into the elections, lost major ground during the spate of allegations and eventually dropped out of the race, on grounds that he disagreed with the results of the first round of presidential elections on September 6th that cast him in third place.
Around 7.5 million people registered for the elections. Members of the armed forces (Air Force, Army, and Navy), the imprisoned, and Guatemalans living abroad were not allowed to vote.
Among the delegates at the inauguration was US Vice President Joe Biden. During Barrow’s absence, the Minister of National Security, John Saldivar acted as Prime Minister, until Friday, January 15th, 2016, and Deputy Prime Minister, Gaspar Vega, will act as Prime Minister until Sunday, when the Prime Minister returns.