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Mar 15, 2013

Wilfred “Sedi” Elrington shocked that Guatemala wants to change referendum date

A special agreement signed between Belize and Guatemala specifies that the referendum on taking the territorial claim to Belize should be held on the same day, October sixth. But Guatemala is now seeking to change that and had been sending signals for some time. A bulletin straight from the office of President Otto Perez Molina, released on Wednesday says that Guatemala wants to delay the process or have the Referendum Act changed suggesting that the process is in serious jeopardy. Both sides are heading to Washington this Sunday where Guatemala’s grievances, already very public, will be put to OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza and formally to Belize. Today, Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington held a press conference to discuss this very serious development. Freelance reporter Mike Rudon has the story.


Mike Rudon, Reporting

Otto Perez Molina

One month ago, in mid-February, Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina told the Associated Press in Spain that Guatemala does not want to waste millions on a pointless referendum, and called on Belize to change its Referendum Act. But despite that very public demand, Belize’s Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington says he was caught totally by surprise by the bulletin from President Perez Molina’s office on Wednesday.


Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs

“I was certainly surprised that he would have talked about it in the press. We have been discussing with his foreign minister and we thought that we would have kept it at the level where we would not make any public announcement until after we had met with the people at the OAS. So that was a surprise to me.”


Wilfred Elrington

Jules Vasquez, Channel 7

“Is that an indication of undue pressures in that country that he would say something like that publicly?”


Wilfred Elrington

“I get the sense that he is getting some pressure in his own country and he has to speak to his constituencies so that they can allay any fears that they may have. And I think that that might be one of the reasons why he would have been moved to do that.”


Fernando Carrera

Elrington, however, says there have been indications that Guatemala is not ready to go to a referendum at this time. In fact, he says that sentiment was conveyed to him personally by Guatemalan Foreign Minister Fernando Carrera when he visited on March fourth, though he insists there was no discussion of changing the Referendum Act.


Wilfred Elrington

“When we met with the Foreign Minister there was no suggestion from him that they wanted us to change our Referendum Act. I don’t think that was raised at all. They recognized that this is our own internal issue so that was not a consideration that they raised. They raised their own problem in terms of their readiness, or their own capacity to be able to conclude their own education process in a satisfactory matter within the time that we have. I think that was what he was saying, that they had their own reservations about whether or not they would be able to successfully launch a campaign to ensure a YES vote. The Foreign Minister, to be very fair to him, is very insistent that they want to get a YES vote. They want to get a YES vote. They want to save the Special Agreement. They don’t want anything to happen that would derail that. And so in order to try to ensure that the Special Agreement is saved and that they do get a YES vote, he thought that they would need more time.”


Foreign ministry officials will be heading to Washington to meet with Guatemalan officials but say that their role will be merely to listen and to report back for direction on the way forward.


Wilfred Elrington

“We have not discussed it at the level of the Cabinet yet and I think that it would be imprudent for us…because I can’t take it upon myself to take a position if in fact it has not been instructed by the Cabinet. But I think it is very important that we listen to what they have to say, because no matter what happens we will not be able to move forward unless they agree. In other words we have to hope that they will either hold the course with us or we would then in fact have to make a determination and we would probably just want to continue on our own. But I don’t think we can take a definitive position at this point in time until we hear what they are saying in detail, until we get the response from the OAS, and then we come back, put it to our Cabinet and also the Opposition because they are very much a part of it.”


Elrington’s inclination is to stay the course, stick to the timetable and move full speed ahead since time is one commodity which is in short supply.


Wilfred Elrington

“I am personally very much desirous of having us proceed according to the timetable set. That is my own thinking at this point in time, but I also know that when you are dealing with another party you can’t just dismiss what they have to say, especially when it takes two of you to be able to make the agreement work. So I will go with an open mind, and I will be very much prepared to listen to what they have to say in a very objective way and then when I come back I will in fact brief Cabinet on it at which point in time I can give them my own personal inclination based on what I have heard and the circumstances. I think in the final analysis what we want is to go to a settlement of this matter as expeditiously as possible. I don’t think time is on Belize’s side. I think Belize has to move fast, in my mind, if we are to get a good resolution in this matter.”


And so what of the referendum scheduled for October sixth? Well, that could still happen regardless of whether Guatemala participates or not.


Wilfred Elrington

“I personally think that we could proceed to have our referendum on the sixth of October. Because really and truly in the final analysis what we want is to get an indication from the Belizean people on how they want to have it resolved. They can do theirs later on. It would certainly not be consistent with the agreement which we have reached but they at some stage have to get consent from their people to go to referendum and we have to get consent from our people to go to referendum. So that is an option. We can go right ahead and behave just as if in fact we have no indication from them that they don’t propose to do it. There is nothing to stop us from doing that. That is something that we as a sovereign nation would have to determine and move on.”


But despite what is widely viewed as evidence to the contrary, Elrington maintains that Guatemala is still on board with the process. Mike Rudon for News Five.


Belize’s foreign ministry delegation leaves Belize Saturday for Washington, where the meeting is scheduled at OAS headquarters on Sunday evening.

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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11 Responses for “Wilfred “Sedi” Elrington shocked that Guatemala wants to change referendum date”

  1. Storm says:

    As long as their map shows Belize as part of Guatemala, we should send their ambassador home, and bring ours back here, too.

  2. Gone fishing says:

    Shocked? Ha ha, what a joke.

    Guats have figured
    1) this govt does not represent the will of the people,
    2) any deal cut will equal the bond rating and therefore can’t be trusted,
    3) GOB can’t deliver if they wanted to, to whatever secret deal they cut,
    4) the people had enough and this group is about to fall, a recall election/petition might happen before the referendum.

    I am shocked, Sir ex-bar member is shocked.
    When the joke hits, I might call that emotion ‘shocked’.

    Does anyone know how much he gets paid a year filling this position?

  3. Gone fishing says:

    With an estimated $10m Belize is expected to spend on this election, somebody’s got to take that money. This is going to a windfall for some lucky family members. Who cares if it is a dead horse? It’s about making money for the country.

    Stay the course, to the cliff. Tally ho.

    People think of it as a movie you paid for, you got to watch to see them sucker the county in a bigger way than last time. Can they beat PUP in national mis-governance? And by how much?

  4. bzeYouth says:

    Belizean are known world wide as good people. Let’s put the question on the table. Are we ready for war? As a country, do we have the basics to go to war?

  5. BEENO says:

    Belizeans betta vote NO simply because Guatemala has underhanded tactics which means there is a risk that they might contaminate the impartiality of the ICJ. And remember if we lose we can’t appeal even if Guatemala uses its well known underhanded tactics and decides to put the impartiality of the ICJ at risk

  6. blackberry says:

    It is not in Guatemala’s best interest to solve this dispute; they know that before long they will get Belize by populating Belize with their people. The government of Belize will stand by timidly and do nothing about it.

  7. Eye in the Sky says:

    Be Careful of Minister Elrington. He will sell out Belize just like the famous papa a Belize GP.

  8. bzd2dbone says:

    Awright, to hell with guatemala. Either they go to the referendum or call off the claim. Obviously they have seen that they have no chance of winning the case, so they are trying another tactic. However, no way no how will guatemala ever own our Beautiful Belize…. Ah nuh gah nuh moe fu seh!


    That’s what the B(*&(*& prime minister and minister of foreign affairs get! They made Belize to the first Caribbean nation to recognize kosovo as a country. Albanians came and populated the whole southern serbia and then decided to take it away. Now guatemalans are doing the same to belize, i really hope you remember who you freaking recognized as a country after masses of serbs were killed and taken away their own country. b(*&*& prime minister and minister of foreign affairs! screw guates! i truly hope the people realize that the government is selling their country, and do not sell your property to guatemalans!

  10. Alexjr says:

    why elrington d waste so much of our tax dollars wit dis nex unneccesary meeting in DC? he like been dictated by Guatemala. mek he no one time dat he no d represent d ppl of Belize. I am Belize u r Belize, we r Belize.!!! No 2 d ICJ…

  11. Frank Booth says:

    Elrington’s younger brother Colin is a petty criminal who robs tourists. I hope he’s not cut from the same cloth.

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