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Diplomatic Incompetence !

November 25
10:37 2019

“The Government of Guatemala will take effective measures to dissuade its citizens and/or residents from establishing new settlements, or joining existing settlements, to the east of the Adjacency Line.”

— Agreement on a Framework for Negotiations and Confidence Building Measures between Belize and Guatemala, 2005.
It has to be clear by now that the Barrow administration has been wholly incompetent in its handling of our diplomatic affairs; particularly as it relates to the bully Guatemala.

The practice of statecraft is one of the most important functions of any government, especially in the case of small vulnerable states such as Belize which do not have large standing armies.

The man who has been at the helm of our diplomatic efforts since 2008 has been Sedi Elrington: an attorney (as has been every single Foreign Minister, except one). Elrington’s legal training has not only made his vision translucent but it has led him to treat our diplomatic efforts as though it is a case before the courts.

In a court of law a lawyer never really loses because he always collects his fees even when his clients lose. Sedi, despite his unceasing diplomatic blunders, has never lost his job nor has he been publicly reprimanded! It is fair to say then that he has not been sufficiently inspired to change his tack as it relates to Guatemala!

Our political leaders have made it a habit to lie to us when it comes to Guatemala and we have made it a habit of letting them get away with it. When they wanted to trample upon our sovereignty by going to the ICJ, they lied to us and told us that once we agree to go to the ICJ the incursions would stop. They also lied when they told us that they would seek “interim relief” to correct the Sarstoon affront. The incursions did not stop and the Sarstoon remains annexed.

What we got as a reward for our yes vote is the seizure of Belizean land near the Benque border. Recently, Mr. Jorge Espat, a hard working taxpayer, had to make a public cry for help because, with the expressed consent of public officials in Melchor, residents of that town encroached into our territory and stole his land. Our land!

If the seizure of Belizean land wasn’t bad enough the foot dragging by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is even more egregious. Sedi was his usual self – after all the distribution of Belizean land by Guatemalan officials is no big deal and couldn’t possibly attract the ire of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

If this was any other country the discovery that public authorities in Guatemala were distributing their land would have triggered at the very least a deep and decisive diplomatic response. Not so from Belize; our defacto policy of appeasement means that we must tread carefully so as not to upset the usurpers of our land.

The ninth of the twenty confidence building measures (CBM) is quite clear that Guatemala has an obligation to “dissuade” its citizens from drifting eastward. During the interviews with Belizean media houses, several Guatemalans stated clearly that they were granted permission by authorities in Melchor to occupy and build on Belizean land. So what about Guatemala’s obligation to prevent this kind of illegal action in the adjacency zone?

Mr. Espat’s dilemma highlights the fact that the CBM signed in 2005 by Assad Shoman is a one-sided agreement. An agreement designed to provide Guatemala with its version of Hitler’s Lebensraum. What other purpose can be attached to the CBMs when there was no westward drift in 2005 and yet still in 2019 there is none. But there was an eastward drift in 2005 and there is one in 2019? You would not get that from reading the CBMs.

Belize’s sovereignty has suffered a long list of violations by Guatemala; sufficient for us to have brought maximum international pressure on them. It has not happened and it will not happen because our policy of appeasement transcends both the PUP and the UDP. Our political class is more concerned about self-enrichment than about sovereignty. Some of them have no problem with a Belize that is less than 8,867 sq. miles just as long as their bank accounts show six and seven and eight figures.

It is inexplicably why under the Barrow administration despite all of Guatemala’s unacceptable behaviour, Belize continues to treat Guatemala as we treat our friends. Guatemala in not a friend of Belize and she as well as the rest of the world should know that, but the way we have behaved since independence we might as well be the 23rd Department!

It is an undeniable fact that Mr. Elrington’s performance as Foreign Minister has irreparably harmed Belize’s diplomatic position. In 2019 we are imperiled far more than we were in 1981.

In 2019, the Guatemalans from Melchor did not seize Mr. Espat’s land – they seized a piece of Belize. The foolish practice of trading piece for peace will soon leave us both piece less and peace less!

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