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Feb 27, 2018

Sandra Jovel Comes to Belize; Warmly Welcomed

The Foreign Ministers of Belize and Guatemala were today at the western border for an official visit to the office of the Organization of American States, joined by the new special representative to the O.A.S.’ Secretary General, Washington Abdala. They took in special performances from neighboring children of the area after a bilateral meeting, a presentation about development projects implemented in the communities along the border, and other presentations on other O.A.S.-led border programmes. As News Five’s Aaron Humes reports, today’s visit was all about emphasizing that relations between the countries were slowly and surely improving.

 

Aaron Humes, Reporting

Despite their countries’ official differences, Belize’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Wilfred Elrington and Guatemala’s Sandra Jovel Polanco greeted each other like old friends this morning at the western border. They sat with their respective delegations for a meeting to discuss both the role of the O.A.S. and the efforts at rapprochement between both countries. Later they would take in special cultural performances and receive portraits of themselves as well as their respective bosses, President Jimmy Morales and Prime Minister Dean Barrow. In a press briefing the top Guatemalan diplomat addressed current relations between the countries and the upcoming referendum in Guatemala and whether an I.C.J. ruling in Belize’s favour would be respected.

 

Sandra Jovel Polanco

Sandra Jovel Polanco, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Guatemala

“I believe that the meetings that have been held recently between Guatemala and Belize have only strengthened their relations for peace and culture as we can see here. This also shows the mutual goodwill that exists between our two countries. And what we are seeing here is exactly what we wish to accomplish for both our countries. As you know, on the fifteenth of April, the national referendum will take place in Guatemala. Guatemala is informing the people about the territorial dispute that we have with Belize, and that the International Court of Justice will be the one to decide the outcome. We are willing to abide by what the court decides. And that is why we want the referendum to take place, so that we can move forward toward peace and development for both countries.”

 

As for Elrington, he focused on the cooperation and camaraderie between the youngsters in the O.A.S.’ Culture for Peace Programme as a model for overall relations between the countries, which at least at the western border have never been better.

 

Wilfred Elrington

Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Belize

“This is the first time that this particular Foreign Minister from Guatemala is here, but her predecessor was here on a number of occasions along with us, and I don’t think that we’ve had a better reception than the one she has received. This was a very good program, very wonderfully choreographed; as you saw the kids were so spontaneous and so absolutely talented and excited. I was particularly impressed by the gusto with which they sang the songs about peace, and wanting to live together in peace and friendship and brotherhood – that means volumes to us. The younger people obviously have the right idea and we must nourish that; I think that’s really wonderful. I don’t know whether it’s because of the presence of the Foreign Minister why it was so warm and so friendly and so positive, but I thought that the reception was exceedingly good.  I don’t think there’s been a better time in terms of the relationship between us, at all levels. At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs level, we’re very cordial, we’re very close. As a matter of fact, the Foreign Minister is very proactive and very much interested in enhancing the relationship between us, apart from getting the Guatemala issue solved. They want to enhance the relationship and make it better, stronger, deeper. Also too, at the children’s level, you saw the relationship from the Culture of Peace Programme, how kids are working together so very, very well. At the people to people level, I don’t think there has been a better time. Guatemalans come across and work with us; Belizeans are going across and working with Guatemalans. We go as students; we go for medical attention; we go for commercial purposes, we have Guatemalan investors coming into Belize. So this is a very, very good period, a juncture in our lives. Peace, no problem, I don’t think we can ask for more.”

 

 

Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

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