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Nov 30, 2015

PM Barrow Says Discussion with Morales Was Cordial

Against that backdrop of little protest and big guns, Prime Minister Dean Barrow and Guatemalan President-Elect Jimmy Morales met for about thirty minutes, for discussions and the usual photo op. The media stationed outside got to see Morales for about three seconds total, between arrival and departure, and the Prime Minister departed without an interview. But he did give us a clue as to where he would be later that morning. We tracked him down at the Brodie’s compound where his daughter was having a limeade sale. It wasn’t a formal press conference and certainly not one sanctioned by the protocol governing presidential visits, but Mike Rudon has the story anyway.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

We had to slow motion our footage so you’d get a clear look at Guatemalan President-Elect Jimmy Morales as he walked into the Whitfield Tower. The meeting was not open to the local media, who had to wait outside the compound, behind bars, so to speak. Friday’s official release had stated that the courtesy visit would not allow for delving into the bi-lateral relationship, but PM Barrow says indeed that was on the table, and it was a cordial discussion.

 

Dean Barrow, Prime Minister

Dean Barrow

“We spoke about the nature of the bi-lateral relations. He indicated that he is committed to working the process. I told him that I appreciated that. He must understand that the pencil of God has no eraser. We’re going to be geographically contiguous…we’re going to be neighbours forever. There are mechanisms in place. The professional relationship is good I think between the militaries, between our foreign ministries. The people to people interaction is good. There are trade ties. There are ties of commerce. There are educational exchanges. We spoke about the children from Melchor who come across to go to school in Benque and I was very clear that both sides needed to understand that the confidence building measures, the protocols in place and the all important factor of goodwill all must be put into the pot and stirred properly to ensure that we avoid flashpoints.”

 

PM Barrow says it was also made clear in discussions that the sovereignties of both countries must be respected while the question of the dispute or claim is being resolved by legal means – and by that, of course, the reference is to the International Court of Justice.

 

Dean Barrow

“He’s already walked back from those comments. He’s walked back from those comments before arriving in Belize, and this morning I was quite clear as was he that we’re talking about proceeding on the basis of mutual respect…two sovereign countries operating a set of mechanisms because there is a dispute but operating both on the basis of their individual sovereignty and commitment based on that sovereignty.”

 

The only official notification of the visit came just a few hours before Morales actually crossed the border. Morales’ visits around the region have been well-publicized and have included full media coverage, so why so different in Belize?

 

Dean Barrow

“They requested that the visit be low-key and that we not arrange any media. It was their request, it was their indication that they did not wish to speak to the press. I am speaking to the press. That is my obligation. He can decide whether he wants to speak to the press or not.”

 

Morales couldn’t possibly have missed the small protest and GSU manoeuvres that welcomed him to the PM’s compound, but Barrow says he made no mention of it. As to the detention of Brackett -

 

Dean Barrow

“I don’t know about that. Perhaps I ought not to comment because I don’t know the circumstances. If he did something which amounted to breaking the law, then they would have had every right to arrest him. But I don’t know what happened so let me suspend comment until I know the facts.”

 

We are told Morales departed the country via the PGIA about an hour after his meeting with Prime Minister Barrow.

PM Barrow says that contrary to reports of undue secrecy, the courtesy visit had been tentatively placed on the President-Elect’s itinerary since November sixth, but there could be no official announcement until arrangements were finalized late last week.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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