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EDITORIAL -August 24th. 2018

August 24
19:51 2018

If the people of Belize had the power in their hands to make the Guatemalan claim go away for all time, would they take it? Or would they say, as some have said, “There is no need,” or “It is too risky,” or “We don’t have confidence in the ICJ?”

Prior to 1931 there was no problem. Britain and Guatemala had agreed to the Treaty of 1859 which established Belize’s international border in the West and in the South. But after President Jorge Ubico came to power in 1931 he decided to renounce the 1859 Treaty. Ubico declared that the 1859 Treaty was no longer valid. The reformed Constitution of 1945* incorporated Belize as the 23rd Department of Guatemala. That action by Ubico created a problem for Belize, a problem which continues to this day.

President Ubico believed that by revoking the 1859 Treaty he could also wipe out the international border and establish a new one more suitable to Guatemalan interests. The Guatemalan Constitutional Court followed his lead and made it obligatory for Guatemalans to tow the official line. Maps were re-drawn and children were taught in school that Belize is a part of Guatemala.

But President Ubico was mistaken! His rejection of the 1859 Treaty and the

1931 Convention had no effect at all on the international boundaries established and confirmed by these conventions. In 1945 the International Court of Justice ruled that a country cannot use its internal laws to change an international boundary which has been established by Treaty.

In her defence all Belize has to do is to show that our boundaries with Guatemala are defined by treaty. It doesn’t matter if the treaty was a boundary treaty or a treaty of cession. It doesn’t matter if the treaty is valid and in force today. Once an international boundary has been established, it cannot by undone by unilateral action.

The fear that Belize might have to give up something in return to Guatemala is entirely unfounded. Belize does not have to give up anything – no cayes, no mainland, no fishing rights, no territorial waters! And in addition we will get back our right to use our side of the Sarstoon. Honestly readers, this is a Big Deal.

* In the 20th century Guatemala has had four reformist constitutions, 1945, 1956, 1965 and 1985.

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