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Guatemalan citizens can re-register: Attorney General

Guatemalan citizens can re-register: Attorney General
July 06
19:50 2018

Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte told the media today – despite a reported pause by the Immigration Department on the issuance of Belizean nationality to Guatemalans amid concerns over the renunciation of their original nationality – that Guatemalans who had gotten their citizenship before the pause should still be able to re-register to vote in Belize.

On Monday, 2 July 2018, the Government of Belize, through the Elections and Boundaries Department, began a comprehensive, nationwide re-registration exercise, and two salient concerns have emerged: (1) the registration of Guatemalans, whose country of origin maintain an unfounded claim over Belizean territory, and (2) the ability of Belizeans in the diaspora to register and participate in next year’s referendum on whether the territorial differendum should be taken to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Asked if he knew how many Guatemalans were on the last voters’ list, Peyrefitte said that he did not have that estimate. As of Monday, the list has been nullified. Peyrefitte told the press that unless there was fraud in the issuance of citizenship to a Guatemalan, “I don’t see why they should not be able to re-register….”

He also said that unless the Belizean nationality is revoked, he cannot see why a Guatemalan should not be allowed to re-register. The Attorney General said that as for Belizeans living abroad, the law requires that they are resident in Belize two months before registration and that they appear in person to apply to be put on the voters’ list.

Speaking with us on the reregistration issue, Senator Salas said the NGO community which he represents has not formally taken a position, although he is concerned that Guatemalans do not seem to have a procedure to accept the renunciation of citizenship by persons who become Belizeans.

According to Peyrefitte, Belizean officials had been formerly assured by the Guatemalan Ambassador that it could be done; however, Guatemala has expressed a different official position.

Previously, the defense of the Government in answer to challenges raised over the nationalization of Guatemalans was that they had gone through the requisite renunciation, thereby declaring their allegiance to Belize. Peyrefitte told the media today that since the revelation by the Guatemalans, the Immigration Department here has put the process on pause.

Another issue raised by Senator Osmani Salas is the disparity in the size of electoral divisions. An analysis of the most recent numbers shows that the smallest constituency of Fort George is less than a third the size of the largest constituency, which is Belmopan – a new division added in 2005, which includes the capital City of Belmopan and some of the adjacent communities. Salas said that with the reconstitution of the Elections and Boundaries Commission, following the new appointments today, it is a matter that he wishes to raise with the new chair, to go beyond re-registration to also address the need for redistricting.

 

By Adele Ramos, Freelance Reporter

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