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Mar 20, 2014

Belize’s Referendum Unit continues education campaign on territorial dispute

The matter of whether the unfounded Guatemalan claim over Belize’s sovereign territory should be adjudicated in the International Court of Justice was to have been decided during joint referenda on October sixth, 2013.  However, four months shy of the fixed date, Guatemala rescinded from participating in the vote, stating instead that Belize’s Referendum Act creates an unfair advantage at the polls.  It has been six months since the botched referenda and today Belize’s Referendum Unit, led by Ambassador Stuart Leslie, apprised the media on its ongoing work to educate the public on the age-old territorial dispute.  According to Leslie, a survey conducted during the first three months of the education campaign indicated that Belize would have comfortably met its sixty percent benchmark.

 

Ambassador Stuart Leslie, Coordinator, Referendum Unit

Stuart Leslie

“We were happy when the results showed that sixty-seven percent of those polled said that they would participate in a referendum on October sixth, remember in your reporting, especially when you heard from the meeting between Belize and Guatemala that was held in June when the Guatemalans officially withdrew from the date for the referendum.  One of the reasons, they said, was because of the concern about the referendum act in Belize and the high threshold of having to meet sixty percent voter turnout for a referendum in Belize to be valid.  We were excited when we saw that after the first quarter of our campaign that not only would we have been able to get that sixty percent, we were above sixty percent, but we were also excited about the fact that eighteen percent of those polled remained undecided.  And this again was only after the first phase of our campaign in three months.  So that excited us at the referendum unit, along with the facilitators and all our people who were out across the country making presentations on our behalf and so excellent, we thought, good work done. So basically, we wanted to update you to tell you that we did not stop our work.  We continue to do our awareness campaign because that was the mandate given to us by our referendum commission, approved by the minister, who said that we must continue the education of Belizeans to give them the pros, the risks, the cons and the advantages of going to court.”

 

The Guatemalans have remained vague on whether or not they will proceed to participate in a referendum anytime in the near future.

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