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The TRUTH About A No Vote

The TRUTH About A No Vote
February 01
11:27 2019

By Assad AShoman

Editor’s Note: This newspaper has undertaken to publish weekly commentary by Assad Shoman, former Foreign Minister and expert in the Belize/Guatemala discussion. These articles are taken directly from presentations he has made across the country. We invite you to comment or respond via email to

A repeated assertion by the ‘NO’ persons is that Belize’s negotiators are stupid, although they think they are so smart that they can beat Guatemala in a court when everyone knows that Guatemalans, with 13 million people, must have smarter diplomats and lawyers, and will eat us alive in the ICJ.

They may not know that St Lucia, with half our population, has two – 10 times as many Nobel Prize winners per capita than the US of A. You must not assume that Guatemalans smarter than we. Like Sparrow sing, Man smart woman smarter.

So then they turn the argument upside down: do you think the Guatemalans are so stupid that they would go to Court if they weren’t sure they will get some land? They brush aside the statements of the Foreign Minister who agreed to submit the claim to the ICJ, who admitted that Guatemala will lose, but that Guatemala needs to clean its stinking reputation in the international arena by ending its anachronistic claim, and since they cannot just negotiate away the claim, a legally binding decision by the ICJ allows them to achieve closure without going to jail, while achieving legal certainty that will help the modernizing state to attract investment and trade.

Then, when the NO persons feel that they may not have convinced enough people, they conclude that there must be some secret deal between Belize and Guatemala, some secret treaty where Belize agrees to give up land or sea or island. I can’t prove a negative. All I can say is that I am sure there is no such secret deal, but have they any evidence that there is?

So then they take any old document and say: here it is, here is the secret deal. That’s what the NO person did in Independence, having earlier done so on Wake Up Belize, convincing the host of the validity of his allegation. He said that in a 1992 document signed by Belize and Guatemala we said that we have no border between us and we agreed to change it. He said he had tried to get a copy but government refused to give him one. His host got even more upset, explaining that the Belize government thereby “essentially agreed to kill the Treaty of 1859,” that “no wonder the Foreign Affairs Minister says we have no border,” and that the Joint Statement was “a clandestine operation.”

Well, that Joint Statement, signed by Foreign Minister Said Musa, was seen by every country in the world in 1994 when Foreign Minister Dean Barrow circulated it at the United Nations—more public it couldn’t be. It is in the booklet that the NO person was waving about, a record of the statements we made to the OAS in 2001, but out of courtesy I have sent it to him and to media houses. You have it in your hands and you can read it.

It says “that Guatemala and Belize, as two sovereign independent states, 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 the negotiations.”

Is that a true statement of fact? Yes. Does it vary the border stated in the 1859 Treaty? But it gets more interesting, because that factual statement is a preambular clause in a document that has one operative clause, one purpose, one agreement, and what does that say? The Governments of Belize and Guatemala agree to accept that any mention to their respective territory in any agreements, their execution or implementation thereof, will be made based on the existing reference monuments.

Isn’t that a wonderful thing to look at? Can we make it prettier? Would you not regard it as a major victory for Belizean diplomacy? Guatemala has claimed for years that there are no borders between us, that the 1859 Treaty is null and void, but here they agree that the definition and extent of Belize’s territory will be made based on the existing reference monuments, placed there pursuant to the implementation of the borders agreed in the 1859 Treaty!

What will the ICJ make of that? And that is why the NO person does not mention what the 1992 statement actually agreed, although it is there in the booklet he was waving around. He did not mention it because it further strengthens our case, and the NO persons wish to hide from you anything that might lead you to believe that you have a really strong case, and you have the right to ask who it benefits?

In one way or another, what the NO persons are saying is give Guatemala a chance. Why rush into this fight, even if you are sure we will win, when that will cause unnecessary enmity and tension between two neighbours that must learn to live together in peace and harmony? In any case, things will change soon. In the past we had to deal with dictators and thugs, but the young military people don’t think like the old dictators, they are democratic, nice guys, and will soon drop their claim and we win without losing anything, by the good will of the good Guatemalan rulers.

This reminds me of the dangers we faced in 1980, when the leader of the UDP went to the UN and begged delegates NOT to vote for resolution 35/20, that Belize should not proceed to independence until there was a settlement of the dispute, since any defence arrangement would be uncertain, and “a military solution by itself would tend to perpetuate the problem.”

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