Historic Step taken in Belize-Guatemala Process

December 17, 2014

On December 17th 2014, the Prime Minister of Belize, Dean Barrow, and the President of Guatemala, Otto Perez Molina, signed thirteen bilateral agreements in key action areas[1], which constituted not only an unprecedented step in the process but a historic accomplishment; so much so that the government of Belize honored the OAS Secretary General with the most prestigious award bestowed upon a civilian foreigner: the Order of Distinction of Belize, in recognition of his diplomatic efforts and support in the advancement of the negotiation process between Belize and Guatemala. The importance of this landmark moment was augmented by the fact that both the signing and decoration took place within the framework of the SICA Summit and was witnessed by all the participating Central American Presidents and Heads of State. Likewise, in a parallel negotiation process, the security and armed forces of Belize and Guatemala adopted, under the auspices of the OAS, three highly significant agreements in strategic areas such as military to military cooperation; intelligence exchange; and joint police task forces, with a view to expanding and strengthening cooperation mechanisms, including coordinated operations among these security agencies to combat illegal activities and organized transnational crime.

Following a year of intense negotiations and frequent high-level exchanges between Belizean and Guatemalan authorities and counterparts, which included the participation of influential parliamentarians and political actors representing both government and opposition parties, a consensus was finally reached to disengage the issue of the territorial dispute from the urgent need to consolidate the bilateral relationship for the sake of regional integration and cooperation. This breakthrough, inspired and led by the chairs of the Joint Commission, Foreign Minister Carlos Raul Morales of Guatemala and Alexis Rosado, Belizean Ambassador in Guatemala, paved the way for a successful conclusion of the Road Map’s Plan of Action, which had been promoted by the OAS following the impasse that had resulted from the suspension of the simultaneous referenda in October 2013.

The Belize-Guatemala Road Map called for the strengthening of the bilateral relationship to create a climate of confidence conducive to the fixing of a new date for holding the simultaneous referenda to lead to International Court of Justice in accordance with the Special Agreement. In view of the successful outcome of the Plan of Action, there is no doubt that this foremost objective has been accomplished: the bilateral relationship between Belize and Guatemala has never been stronger.

[1] “Harmonization of Operating Hours at Legal Terrestrial Entry Points”; “Protection, Conservation, Recovery and Return of Items of Cultural and Natural Patrimony which Have Been Stolen, Pilfered, Looted, Exported, Imported or Trafficked Unlawfully”; “Mutual Recognition of Driver’s Licenses”; “Equivalency of Studies and the Recognition of Educational Documents”; “Electric Power Trade, Transmission Interconnection and Grid Connectivity”; “Protection of the Environment and the Sustainable Use of Resources”; “Expedited Deportation”; “Movement of Students Through Terrestrial Points of Entry”; “Serving of Penal Sentences”; “Program for Seasonal Workers”; “Recovery and Return of Vehicles Stolen, Confiscated or Impounded Illegally or Inappropriately”; “Facilitate the Issuance of Student Visas”; “Sustainable Tourism”.