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Eamon Espouses Strategic Patience!

Eamon Espouses Strategic Patience!
January 25
09:15 2019 - News Staff - Jan 25th. - 

Senator Mr. Eamon Courtenay, having refused to join the other former Foreign Ministers on Mr. Barrow’s stage on January 9th, 2018 appeared, shortly thereafter, on Open Your Eyes to discuss his views on the pending referendum.

During his time on Open Your Eyes Senator Courtenay suggested that a suitable strategy for dealing with the unfounded Guatemalan claim is as he called it, a “deep freeze.” Essentially the “Courtenay Doctrine” dictates that Belize should try and convince Guatemala to suspend all negotiations related to the unfounded claim for a minimum period of twenty-five years. During that period both countries would work to shore up areas of mutual interests which include trade, transnational crime, environmental protection, human trafficking etc. The “Courtenay Doctrine” also embraces the signing of a non-aggression pact as a sign of goodwill and good neighborliness.

What Senator Courtenay is suggesting in a roundabout way is that Belize adopts a policy of strategic patience. Strategic patience simply put means that one does subtle things to improve one’s own position as one waits for an opportune time to reassert oneself. Senator Courtenay’s suggestion is fascinating since this is exactly what Guatemalans have done (without declaring so) with respect to her unfounded claim.

Between 1946 and 1956 the British offered the Guatemalans the ICJ option and Guatemala rejected that offer, preferring instead to adopt a policy of strategic patience. Its decision to adopt such a policy has paid off in just 52 years: less than two generations.

In the intervening 52 years between 1956 and 2008 the Guatemalans were able to achieve significant diplomatic gains, most notably the joint declaration of 1992; the confidence building measures which created the adjacency line; the Compromis (which converted the Anglo-Guatemalan dispute to a legal claim); and the votes of CARICOM to ascend to the Security Council in 2011.

The Joint Declaration of 1992 states that Belize and Guatemala “have not yet signed a Treaty between them finally establishing their land and maritime boundaries, and that such a Treaty is one element of the expected outcome” of their negotiations. Such a declaration by Belize has to be harmful as it implies that the 1859 boundaries are temporary in nature and that the negotiated boundaries to be contained in a Belize-Guatemala bilateral treaty would be our final borders.

Then to reinforce the temporary nature of our borders as set out in the Joint Declaration of 1992, the Guatemalans scored another victory when they got us to agree that there is only an adjacency line between our two countries. This accords with the Joint Declaration of 1992 in which the border markers were reduced to mere “reference monuments.”

The above now in place, the Guatemalans in 2008 “magically” agreed to go to the ICJ by way of a Compromis that converted the unfounded Anglo-Guatemalan dispute to a “legal claim” by Guatemala against Belize. The Guatemalans were playing chess, beloved, and we were playing checkers.

Over the period 1956 to September of 1981 Britain was solely responsible for both our defence and foreign affairs but around 1975 an increasingly assertive class of Belizeans led by the late Right Honorable George Price began to agitate for Belize’s independence on the world stage. The Guatemalans were unable to outmaneuver that generation of Belizeans such that Belize (despite the connivance of the British and Americans) went to independence with her territory intact: all 8,867 square miles.

1981 was a huge diplomatic gain for Belize: a real diplomatic coup unlike the 2008 Compromis. But with independence came the distraction of self enrichment and it did not take very long for the political class to become inward looking. Robbing the Belizean people became more important than securing our borders. Important diplomatic posts became paid vacations for political cronies and our own defence became too “costly.”

While we were busy undermining our very own independence and sovereignty, the Guatemalans continued to exercise strategic patience: striving always to improve their diplomatic position. It is undeniable that Guatemala’s strategy of strategic patience buttressed by coercive diplomacy has yielded great results.

An important feature of Guatemala’s policy of strategic patience is that they continued to educate their children that Belize belongs to them. Meanwhile we failed to teach our own children about the unfounded claim such that Belizeans had no problem with a Compromis that converted that once unfounded claim to a “legal claim.”

In fact, we have been so derelict in our duty to educate our children on this very important matter that, decades after our independence we had to go begging the “Group of Friends” for money so we can “educate” the Belizean people before the referendum. What the Guatemalans have done for 82 years we wish to do in 18 months. Absolutely incredible!

When Senator Courtenay suggested a 25 year “deep freeze” some attempted to ridicule him. They accuse him of wanting to pass this problem on to our children and grand-children, but there is a great lesson in the Guatemalan approach between 1956 and 2008 that tells us that a policy of strategic patience can work.

While scoring what appeared to be meaningless diplomatic skirmishes, the Guatemalans waited until a new generation of Belizeans emerged: one that has no real appreciation of the concept of sovereignty; one that is inward looking and afraid of “war” (even though they murder each other at an alarming rate); and one that is consumed by corruption. It took all of 27 short years since our independence for such a generation to emerge.

And so it was that in 2008 Guatemala agreed to go to the ICJ; a “diplomatic coup” that we should celebrate, says the very architects of this ill-fated strategy.

On Open Your Eyes Senator Courtenay told Belize that he has always espoused a policy of strategic patience but he was out numbered and he called names: Said Musa, Stuart Leslie, Ambassador Murphy and Assad Shoman. The very people leading the YES camp. This is serious Belize! Very Serious!

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