• Paco Smith | Chairman | BPP

Commentary: The persistence of Belize's '4A Policy' involving Guatemala's unfounded

Paco Smith

Much ado has been made as a result of the government of Belize’s recent signing of 13 bilateral agreements with the Republic of Guatemala, the only nation which summarily rejects Belize’s territorial integrity. This purportedly “momentous” occurrence took place during the SICA heads of state summit on 17th December 2014 on the Placencia Peninsula in Belize.

In effect, the government of Belize (GOB) endeavoured to sign agreements with our aggressive neighbour to the west that span a variety of topics, in what I can only discern to be yet another hare-brained determination, in a long line of irresponsible and incompetent discernments, as it relates to Guatemala. A full list of these “agreements” can be accessed here. Needless to say, amid the hullaballoo of what summarily amounts to a slap in the face of the Belizean people as well as the basic tenets that accompany being a sovereign nation, with its territory intact, as detailed by our constitution via Part I and Schedule 1 of the Belize Constitution, I dare say that I am not impressed. It is for those among us, who have conceded to the unenviable, illogical and self-inflicted condition through which unscrupulous politicians and purported statesmen and women thrive – that being the notion of blindly accepting matters, at face value – I share my thoughts on this bedeviling issue. Admittedly this subject remains near and dear to me because it not only impacts, but also further highlights: (1) the severe lack of good governance practices that abound in our beloved homeland of Belize; (2) the inexplicable lack of reverence and respect that both our elected and appointed representatives seemingly have for Belize’s constitution and citizens; and (3) the chasm of substantive, clear and rational thought which exists among those who comprise Belize’s foreign affairs brain trust and are presumably among the best and brightest that Belize has to offer in that stead. Of course I am being a bit facetious, because due to the established position of successive GOB administrations concerning the matter of Guatemala’s unfounded claim, their track record of: appeasement, acquiescence, accommodation and adherence, what I have dubbed the GOB’s “4A Policy”, speaks volumes. Hence the despicable quagmire in which Belize finds itself; amid which this latest development only serves to further deepen the fiasco. Let me begin by stating that, the once much vaunted OAS-brokered Compromis of 2008, which set the foundation for Guatemala to “legally” have its unfounded claim to Belize’s sovereign territory taken to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), remains at the centre of this issue. By now, most should be aware that approximately a year ago Guatemala summarily reneged on its commitment to participate in a simultaneous referendum with Belize, to determine whether the respective populations aspire to take the matter to the ICJ. The GOB, holding true to form, simply allowed Guatemala such leeway, without even as much demanding they honour the agreement. This came as no surprise, given the track-record to which I alluded (the GOB’s 4A Policy). Therefore Guatemala was, once again, let off the proverbial hook and given carte blanche to further its manipulation of the ill-conceived Compromis. This is where we find ourselves: (1) Guatemala’s demonstration of not-so-good will – which is par for the course; (2) the impotence of Belize’s government to hold them accountable; (3) the OAS’s continued lacklustre effort to rebuke the offending country for its numerous transgressions; and (4) the proposed way “forward”. Indeed, after months of ineffective and ostensibly incompetent leadership regarding this matter of national significance, the GOB has the audacity to announce a list of 13 bilateral agreements to which they already agreed with the government of Guatemala. Needless to say, the official announcement was the first occasion on which such a sensitive issue was brought to the attention of the public. Irrespective of whether the GOB consulted the opposition, I find the decision to move “forward” in such fashion, not only disingenuous and foolhardy but also extremely dangerous insofar as the well-being of Belize is concerned. Whereas the Constitution of Belize is clear on the point of contention to which Guatemala doggedly holds, that being its unfounded claim to Belizean territory, from a nationalist perspective it is only sane to note that for the GOB to enter into any form of bilateral agreement with the government of a nation that fundamentally and unabashedly expresses its contempt for Belize’s territorial integrity, prior to the establishment of a specific baseline, is unreasonable. I have no doubt the so-called pundits, who have ill-advisedly ushered Belize down this road, will readily cite the virtues ascribed to détente. Nonetheless, one must realise that central to such a genuine effort is the need for all principals first to concede tangible elements. Given the dynamic of Guatemala’s stand, once again, it is Belize that inevitably makes the more defined concessions, in a holistic sense. I am of the opinion that due to Guatemala’s documented history of summarily and unilaterally breaking agreements, the words expressed by President Otto Perez Molina that “Guatemala does not and never will constitute a threat to Belize” is not only less than convincing. They are also shallow and foreboding. The Guatemalan president, whose infamous reputation, stemming from his military service during that country’s civil war, precedes him, yet is seemingly lost on his Belizean counterpart. In the words of PM Barrow, the signing of the bilateral agreements amounts to that of “a tremendous breakthrough”. Maybe that is so, in his world, which evidently does not align with that of the majority of Belizeans, concerning this issue. In effect, the recent signing of the aforementioned agreements amounts fundamentally to Belize’s continuing assent to the will of its neighbour to the west; meanwhile the OAS continues to facilitate this charade. Hence, the Guatemalan position on a matter to which it earlier boasted very little if any credibility is progressively amounting to yet another feather in their cap. I trust those outside the PUDP political spectrum truly recognise what is occurring before our collective eyes. The Guatemalans are playing the entire diplomatic approach very strategically. With a president whose past is virtually indisputable, with regard to human rights violations, it is critical for them to soften his public persona. Hence, the concerted effort to progressively cast him in a softer light, versus that of the military man, who is accused of ordering the torture and slaughter of many of Guatemala’s indigenous peoples during the 1980s. What completely escapes me is how Belize’s foreign affairs brain-trust is apparently unable to conceptualise that, by virtue of their compliance, they are functioning as voluntary accomplices in efforts that serve to undermine the well-being of the Belizean state. I am quite certain that in other countries, any such actions or determinations would not be looked on quite as flippantly. I dare say that, within certain jurisdictions, the actions of those who seemingly are working against the betterment of their nation would be deemed treasonous and justifiably so! In effect, the GOB’s piss-poor, “4A Policy” is precisely what the doctor has prescribed for Guatemala to further substantiate its speculative claim. At the beginning, I mentioned that the effort to facilitate taking Guatemala’s unfounded claim rests at the centre of this most recent move. Contrary to logical deduction, the GOB continues to do its utmost to apparently do whatever it takes to deceive the Belizean electorate. I also gave mention of the lunacy involved with signing bilateral agreements with Guatemala, at this juncture. Pertaining to my reference of a specific baseline, I clarify by stating categorically, in terms of the ministry of foreign affairs’ approach, nothing less than a formal renouncement by Guatemala of its spurious claim should have been stipulated as a condition before the contemplation and signing of any bilateral agreements. Let me appeal to your sense of reason. For someone like the Guatemalan president to make the aforementioned pronouncement, given his reputation and that of his nation concerning Belize, would you feel comfortable in blindly accepting his word? Bearing in mind that it is the Guatemalans who have the unfounded claim, not Belize, what benefit does Belize derive by signing such an agreement? It is our flora and fauna that continue to be decimated by illegal Guatemalan settlements within our territory. These usurpers have become so emboldened that several months ago, they murdered a member of the Belize Police Department’s Tourism Unit, at the Caracol Maya Ruin, which is undoubtedly well within Belize’s territory. Beyond that, illegal encampments continue to proliferate on the Belize side of the border and to boot, our territory as described in the Belize Constitution has been eroded from that of possessing a Western border in 1981, to encompassing a so-called “adjacency zone”, in which illegal Guatemalan encampments continue to infiltrate and expand, with very little if any effort by the Guatemalans to stem the tide; meanwhile the aggressive posture of illegal Guatemalan immigrants in the border areas, toward Belizeans, persist. All of these matters are occurring, yet none of the 13 bilateral agreements even speaks to definitive efforts by the Guatemalan government actively to discourage the illegal incursions by its citizens into Belizean. Instead, by way of one of the agreements, “A Programme for Seasonal Workers”, was agreed upon. This is amid the high rate of unemployment in Southern Belize, in which the GOB has not taken any substantive steps to address the issue and potentially devise a mitigation strategy, for its affected citizens. Beyond that, the reality is that very few, if any Belizean workers go to Guatemala in search of seasonal work. Hence, this is yet another example in which the premise upon which the bilateral agreements are single-mindedly skewed to benefit the Guatemalans. Please do not get me wrong. I recognise the salience of: identifying, exploring and ultimately adhering (mutually) to bilateral agreements between neighbouring countries. But I am convinced the GOB’s decision to sign onto such arrangements, devoid of any substantive commitment by that aggressor nation, is flat-out wrong. I liken it to “placing the cart before the (proverbial) horse”. It is becoming increasingly clear that Belize does not have in place the level of required competence to ensure that our nation’s best interests are adequately accounted for, in this regard. Based on matters such as this, as well as those mentioned prior, I call for Belizeans and true friends of Belize to be proactive in monitoring the situation and to subscribe to the old Belizean proverb to “sleep wid yu own eye”. It is imperative because, if we do not, the GOB’s prescription shall amount to leading Belize straight into the beast of the belly, the ICJ, with a deck that is stacked squarely against us. I hold this perspective because the premise of that jurisdiction is to seek equity in matters of dispute. In the case of Belize and Guatemala, we require justice, not equity, for equity connotes that at least one of the principles will be made to give up something, in order to bring about a mutually beneficial agreement. In the real-world scenario, involving our interests, only Belize stands to lose anything tangible. My resolve is strong in knowing that Belizeans are becoming more attuned and less trusting of those who are vested with the responsibility to ensure Belize’s wellbeing. With continued dialogue and an increased willingness amid the population to question our so-called leaders, I trust that we shall stem the tide of deception that is the hallmark of this entire sordid affair. I call on all who truly have Belize’s best interest at heart and hold true the virtues expressed in our constitution pertaining to the sovereign nation-state of Belize and its prescribed territory to become increasingly proactive. The first step in this effort includes BOYCOTTING the impending referendum. Belize’s Referendum Act requires that a threshold is met, in terms of voter turnout, in order for the outcome of such an exercise to be ratified. Given the diversity of issues which characterise this matter, I encourage you to adopt a pragmatic viewpoint, based on the situation as it stands. Given their track record, it should be clear that the PUDP has demonstrated time and again that they are not worthy of the people’s trust. Ask yourself whether it is less difficult for them to accomplish...(1) an effort to "fabricate" data or (2) an effort to "manipulate" data? A BOYCOTT of the referendum represents the first of the aforementioned; meanwhile taking part in their farce of a plebiscite represents the latter. I shall leave you with something to ponder. In this high-stakes affair involving Belize's territorial integrity, are you willing to facilitate a process that will set the stage for them to be able to "manipulate" data? Or are you willing to take a stand so that their path toward jerry-rigging the electoral process is far more confounded, to the extent that since they are so hell-bent on taking Belize down the path of destruction that, in so doing, they shall be made to instead, "fabricate" data? I believe the latter implies a greater degree of culpability regarding prospective illegalities. For my part, I shall not be a willing facilitator to the efforts of those who have definitively shown that Belize's constitution and the rule of law mean virtually nothing to them. After all, the power truly resides in the hands of the people and it is up to us whether or not they can proceed. With this in mind I hope there is a greater awareness that the GOB’s “4A Policy” of: appeasement, acquiescence, accommodation and adherence is detrimental to Belize and that you can do contribute to its demise, by not taking part in the referendum. In so doing, it will succeed in Belizeans adhering to the concept of erring on the side of caution, meanwhile sending a definitive message to the powers that be, that we are not asleep at the wheel and shall not compromise our national integrity, in any form or fashion. As always, I encouraging you to: (1) conduct your own ongoing due-diligence; (2) remain attuned to all that has and is occurring regarding this matter of national importance; and (3) do not place blind faith in neither the system, nor its operatives. Belize’s destiny rests in our capable hands, not in those who have continuously betrayed the trust of our people. Think about it… https://www.facebook.com/groups/NO.ICJ/permalink/756349801087402/ https://www.facebook.com/groups/BelizeTerritorialVolunteers/

Original Article here

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