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Apr 5, 2019

Little Barranco and the Polemic I.C.J. Vote

Barranco in is one of the smallest villages in the country.  The quiet community is located in a remote area of southern Belize and overtime, it has generally kept away from the news.   The iconic Andy Palacio is a son of the village, he died years ago and generally, the population has been shrinking so that now less than seventy-five residents live in Barranco.  The small village is part of the Toledo East constituency.  A few days ago, News Five’s Isani Cayetano and Chris Mangar were in Barranco as part of our coverage of communities in the south which would form a part of the area that Guatemala is claiming since it is located south of the Sibun. So how does the I.C.J. referendum figure for residents?  Here is their report.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

With a population of approximately seventy residents, Barranco is arguably the country’s smallest rural community.  It is also the very last coastal village on the map of Belize.  Unlike other places in the south, the number of persons and families living here has dwindled considerably.  Of the total number of adults, only thirty or so are of voting age and the ones that are registered to vote in the upcoming referendum remain undetermined.  Among those who will be casting their ballots whenever the referendum is held is Dr. Joseph Palacio.


Isani Cayetano

“What has been the thinking in residents in Barranco?  Perhaps you’ve had conversations with a few people, what has been that point of view that has been shared in respect of the upcoming referendum?”


Joseph Palacio

Dr. Joseph Palacio, Barranco Resident

“Quite frankly, I dont know.  And I say this as a social scientist, in that we try and get information as much as possible to be able to analyze and put things together.  I think that people are afraid to express openly their feelings on it.  This is probably because of the tremendous amount of political momentum that has been around the I.C.J. and within a village like this, it doesnt make any sense for you to expose yourself, whether youre red or blue.”


Aside from the overt politicization of the I.C.J. referendum, village chairman Dale Gutierrez tells News Five that there has not been much by way of a public awareness campaign picking up traction in Barranco.


Dale Gutierrez

Dale Gutierrez, Chairman, Barranco Village

“A meeting was held in the temple, the Garifuna temple, and not in the public space and Im not too sure if they actually sent some people or actual members of the Referendum Unit came here, right.  And they were only here a short time, basically telling people vote yes.  I guess, the kind of campaign you see going on out there was not the kind of campaign you see taking place here.  After that one trip there has never ever been any more information on that not even documentation.  And the meeting that was held, I don’t think that they shared factual backup.  I don’t know if they took the people for granted that just voting yes would be okay and that’s what I can say.  It was very shallow and very insulting, to the point that I would say they took us for granted and then give us something very simple and expect the people to say yes, just because they said vote yes.”


Migrating to Barranco in his early twenties, Allison Palacio has lived here for most of his adult life.  His perspective on the Belize/Guatemala territorial dispute is rather unique.


Allison Palacio

Allison Palacio, Barranco Resident

“Historically, these people in Guatemala deh ya from day one.  Dehn born and grow on the other side, right.  Weh yoh call Kekchi or Maya, you know.  And I say, whereby little court cases weh we have da C.C.J., we lost.  We wahn got territory eena Belize by di Maya people who have won their case.  Going to the I.C.J., for me as a Garifuna man who have not even get ih rights, meaning we are indigenous people, right?  And I say, you know what, if the Maya people done win da C.C.J., how bout we di whole nation fu go da court and win, whereby the Guatemalan them, you know, historically are people who di deh long time.  We da just two hundred or three hundred years, like weh dehn seh.”     


The answer to the age-old dispute between both countries, from the point of view of former village chairman Dr. Joseph Palacio is very straightforward.


Dr. Joseph Palacio

“Certainly I will vote yes, for the referendum to take place and for the process to go through the I.C.J.   This is something that I have thought about for quite a while and my own thinking especially, not so much for myself or the village as it is right now, but for the future.  I keep thinking about our children and our grandchildren.  They may not be living here but the fact is that they are the ones who are going to be more the beneficiaries of yes.  The yes vote meaning that let us try and find a solution to this problem as early as possible.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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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