Belizeans and Guatemalans to vote on border row
BELIZE CITY, Belize (AP) -- Residents of Belize and Guatemala are being
asked to vote on a proposed resolution to a centuries-old territorial
The settlement, presented earlier this week in Washington by mediators
from the Organization
of American States, aims to resolve Guatemala's claim to more than half of Belize's territory.
But instead of granting Guatemala land, the proposal would create an international
lane, give Guatemala exclusive rights over some offshore areas, and guarantee development
projects and aid packages.
The conflict dates back to the late 1800s, when Guatemala claimed Belize
in its entirety.
Reviving the issue in 1999, Guatemala pushed for a little more than half of Belize's 8,880
square miles and all of its coastal islands except one.
The two countries agreed to submit the conflict to the OAS, whose mediators
proposal in Washington on Monday. The foreign secretaries of Belize and Guatemala
announced the proposed settlement in their countries on Tuesday.
The offer prompted grumbling in both countries.
"What they are proposing are mere crumbs (for Guatemala)," said Roberto
Villeda, director of
the Center for the Defense of the Constitution in Guatemala. "We should stay firm in our claim."
In Belize, some politicians claimed the country would not benefit as much
as Guatemala would
from the development fund.
"I think there is a certain degree of anxiety and confusion," said Dean
Barrow, leader of the
opposition United Democratic Party in Belize.
The two nations now have 75 days to hold a referendum on the proposal.
If it fails in one or
both countries, the issue either will go back to the OAS or to an international court.
The proposed settlement retains the border between the two countries established
in a 1959
treaty -- which Guatemala has rejected -- and suggests a series of measures aimed at sharing
Under the proposed agreement, the Belizean and Honduran governments each
1,100 miles of Caribbean Sea territory for the creation of an international shipping lane.
A Guatemalan Maritime Area also would be created, giving the country an
zone farther off the coast.
Honduras and Belize would retain retaining fishing rights in their coastal
Guatemala, Honduras and Belize would jointly manage additional portions of the Gulf of
Honduras, monitoring fishing and marine activities.
To help implement the proposals and adequately clear the dense jungle that
has made it difficult
for people on the border to know which country they are living in, the settlement proposes
establishing a Development Trust Fund that would be administered by the Inter-American
The fund would support poverty alleviation projects in the Guatemalan border
area and assist
with the creation of a Free Trade Agreement between Belize and Guatemala.
Money for the fund has been pledged by the United States, Mexico and Canada,
as well as
Britain and Spain -- the two former colonial powers who controlled Belize and Guatemala,
Belizean Foreign Minister Assad Shoman, who led his country's negotiating
team during 30
months of talks leading up to the settlement, said officials would do their best to explain the
proposed package to the public.
"But we have to resolve this thing," he said. "We cannot have it hanging
over our heads any
Copyright 2002 The Associated Press.