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Jun 29, 2007

Regional presidents meet for two summits in San Pedro

Story PictureThere were presidents galore on Ambergris Caye today as Belize hosted a pair of regional summits. News Five’s Janelle Chanona joined the crowd in San Pedro that included equal measures of media and security personnel.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting
Today coordinated chaos dominated the San Pedro airstrip as heads of state from Central America arrived in Belize for the thirtieth ordinary SICA summit and the ninth summit of the Tuxtla mechanism.

Among the arrivees was former Sandinista leader turned Nicaraguan President, Daniel Ortega.

The Mexican delegation, headed by President Felipe Calderon, arrived in four Super Puma Air Force Helicopters.

On the ground, the visiting dignitaries were welcomed to the country by San Pedro Mayor Elsa Paz, area representative Manuel Heredia and town officials.

Coordinating the small army of media, police, soldiers, advance security teams, government representatives, and interested spectators is no easy task.

Edith Gahona, Chief of Protocol, Min. of Foreign Affairs
“One of the tricks is always to have very comfortable shoes.”

Janelle Chanona
“How fast can you run in these slippers?”

Edith Gahona
“Very fast.”

But Belize’s Chief of Protocol, Edith Gahona, appeared ready for anything, a testament to good relations between the relevant agencies.

Edith Gahona
“Once we work together, it comes out easy.”

Janelle Chanona
“Is security the high priority?”

Edith Gahona
“Definitely. We always have to work around security and protocol and protocol under security. Once security has told me it’s okay or where we could move, then protocol kicks in.”

Janelle Chanona
“I always wonder what happens when a head of state just wants two minutes to sit down or two minutes to use the bathroom? Is that like chaos, how do you coordinate that part?”

Edith Gahona
“Usually their advance team comes in and knows exactly everywhere a bathroom is. That is one of their main concerns that protocol, when they did a dry run yesterday, everywhere the President is, they know where a bathroom is. So he just gives the word, and our A.D.C., cause the B.D.F. puts an aide de camp for each President and by nod of the head, they know their gesture and they escort them to a bathroom, simple.”

Once on Belizean soil, President Calderon immediately transferred by convoy to the Victoria House Hotel and Resort, where he was greeted by Belizean Ambassador, Salvador Figueroa, and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lisa Shoman.

The first meeting on the agenda was the thirtieth Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government of SICA, the Central American Integration System.

Said Musa, Prime Minister of Belize
“For us to coordinate and to see how we can continue to forge a closer working relationship in trade, in matters of education, in maters of culture, the whole gamut.”

During the session, Belize handed over the Presidency Protempore of the regional organisation to Guatemala.

Janelle Chanona
“Can you please tell me what you consider to be the most significant achievement that Belize as president was able to make for the region? And also, if the President of Guatemala, if he has already, what will be his areas of focus and priority?”

Said Musa, Prime Minister of Belize
“Well looking at it strictly politically, if I may for a moment, I would say a major achievement is the fact that I am sitting next to the President of Guatemala and the fact that we are able to do this in a spirit of mutual respect. In other words, we are putting aside differences that still exist between us in order to forge development for our respective peoples in Belize and Guatemala. And I think SICA has helped that.” [Applause, the two leaders shake hands]

Oscar Berger, Guatemalan President
“What are we looking for? We are looking to fight the main enemy that we have in the region which is poverty. And poverty is fought by producing wealth and one way of producing wealth is the generation of jobs. The generation of jobs means opportunities for many. I think that the efforts of all the Presidents here, the heads of state that are here are moving towards that, moving towards a global world, an integrated region. The ability to act as commercial blocks, to negotiate as a group, all that will strengthen and allow us to reduce poverty in our region.”

Following a working luncheon, the Government leaders then convened in the day’s second summit: the IX Dialogue and Harmonization Mechanism of Tuxtla, which includes Central America and Mexico.

Since Monday, the respective Ministers held a series of meetings to finalise declarations to be accepted by member states.

Lisa Shoman, Minister of Foreign Affairs
“I’ve mentioned already the SICA agreement this morning, which is twenty three paragraphs long. The Tuxtla agreement, so far, it still has to be revised by Heads of Government, is forty-three paragraphs long. However, in all the language of course which is all very lovely diplomatic language, there are very important initiatives for us to look at, as I’ve mentioned some of them: security, education, immigration, climate change, these initiatives are critical to the lives of people. I think it’s a core responsibility of the media and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other line government ministries to be able to discuss these with the Belizean people, to dissect it, to look at them to see what they mean. And I am happy on any opportunity that I am given to talk about them and to translate it into dollars and cents to see how the lives of Belizeans are going to be made better because we are not just here for a photo op Janelle, we are here to make sure that what we do today will impact in a positive way on the lives of Belizean citizens and the citizens of Central America.”

Felipe Calderon, Mexican President
“The Tuxtla mechanism is the principal instrument that we have to defend the interests of the region that we share and to motivate its development. It is imperative that we give a new projection to our privileged alliance. If we want to have a greater role on the world stage, the region requires a greater integration, more genuine and more advanced for the progress, well being, and security that we will want to share.”

Janelle Chanona
“On Saturday, attention will shift to Belmopan as President Felipe Calderon is scheduled to remain in Belize on a state visit. During a special ceremony in the capital city, Prime Minister Said Musa will confer the “Order of Belize” upon the Mexican President. Reporting from San Pedro for News Five, Janelle Chanona.”

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