The issue of the referendum to decide whether to take Guatemala’s age-old, unfounded claim over Belizean territory to the International Court of Justice has returned to the fore in Guatemala. Their press is reporting that Guatemalan Foreign Minister Carlos Raul Morales is on a regional working tour in which he is lobbying for support for the referendum among mayors, governors and indigenous leaders.
In his meetings and discussions, Morales has indicated that the Guatemalan Government plans to hold a referendum this year, but has not given a specific date.
One media has quoted very dramatic and controversial statements by Morales that if the dispute continues there will be [quote] “more murders, more destruction” [unquote].
The Guatemalan Government hopes that a majority of their citizens vote to take the matter of Guatemala’s territorial claim before the Court.
In August of last year, the Guatemalan congress ratified the process which will be administered by Guatemala’s elections authorities.
Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, while not on the tour, recently called on the various political parties not to take the issue like a political football, noting that there is support from the Government of Belize for the dispute to go before the Court. Morales has indicated that he is encouraged that the Barrow Administration has even amended its Referendum Laws, removing a requirement that imposed a 60% threshold for the validity of a referendum exercise.
Morales has also expressed that his Government wishes to hold the referendum this year, as 2018 is a pre-election year, and there is no guarantee that it will be treated as a priority by a future Government.
If our viewers would recall, Jimmy Morales’ campaign to office in 2015 included a promise to return Belize to Guatemala.
Meanwhile in Belize, the debate over whether to go to the ICJ or not has toned down significantly. The Government, in particular Foreign Minister Sedi Elrington has been conducting sessions lobbying for support. His most recent attempt at a session, a meeting with the clergy, was a bust, however, as the religious leaders chose to boycott the event.