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Feb 28, 2000

UDP leader says “bring them home”

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The problem of internal unity–or rather lack thereof–has always bedeviled Belize in its relations with Guatemala. On the surface this instance is no different, with the Opposition and Government sparring over who did what to whom and the exact conditions which must precede any united front. But at a press conference today, despite some righteous indignation about how the government had done too little, too late, Opposition Leader Dean Barrow made a radical departure from what had been decades of UDP orthodoxy. His message was clear: bring the boys home by any means necessary.

Dean Barrow, Leader of the Opposition

“We are dealing with a government and it seems to me that certainly we have to recognize the disadvantage we are in with respect to their ability to hold on to our people. And I will repeat, that our first job must be to secure the release of these people, by any means necessary. Now clearly there is a limit to that, we are not going to say we sanction the Guatemalan claim if that will cause them to release our men. And I think everybody realizes where common-sense comes in, but I am saying particularly that we do not stand on legal ceremony, we do not engage in niceties of rhetoric in trying to get these people out. We employ every means at our disposal and I insist, including private diplomacy. And it seems to me, what a lawyer might or might not say, in a Guatemalan court to get our people off should not be of particular concern to us. That does not represent what the men are saying or what the official position of the Government of Belize is. So whatever legal strategies, whatever legal balancing act, first rate lawyers have to use, to get our people free, I would say that they ought to do that.”

With a prominent Guatemalan lawyer now apparently following that strategy, it appears that the government and opposition may be more united than they care to admit.

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