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May 13, 2013

Is a referendum even possible in 2014? Ambassador Fred Martinez says its easier said than done

Fred Martinez

There will not be a referendum to take Guatemala’s unfounded claim to fifty percent of Belize’s territory to the International Court of Justice, at least not this October sixth. Both nations had agreed to that date on April twenty-seventh 2012, but since last year, the Guatemalan President and Foreign Minister made several public declarations about their concerns that the sixty percent threshold required in Belize gave them a disadvantage for a yes vote. Last week, Belize and Guatemala sent delegations to the Organization of American States Headquarters in Washington, D.C. where they met with the Secretary General. According to the Belize delegation, it is almost impossible for Belize to hold its own referendum in October unless Guatemala agrees to change the wording of the special agreement. But even if the Guatemalan government wanted to do so, the congress is deadlocked in local affairs. While Guatemala agreed to a referendum in 2014, Belize’s Ambassador, Fred Martinez, explained to News Five why that may be easier said than done.


Jose Sanchez

“Ambassador, the recent O.A.S. meeting with Belize and Guatemala at the headquarters in Washington, what has been the reaction to Guatemala’s unilateral withdrawal from the process?”


Fred Martinez, Belize Ambassador to Guatemala

“This was very disturbing news for Belize and also very disturbing for the O.A.S. itself that has monitored and guided us throughout the process. Quite frankly the reaction from the O.A.S. was not too nice, to put it mildly. The secretary general expressed his deep and extreme disappointment that for the second time, Guatemala reneged on its commitment. And I say second time because the first time around was in 2002 when the proposals of the facilitators which was done under the O.A.S. were supposed to be submitted to referendum. Belize prepared itself and Guatemalan backed out again in the end. So this would have been the second time. Our delegation, Belize; our minister was very aggressive and strong in his posture on behalf of Belize that okay Guatemala, for you it might be a luxury to have a claim that you can gear up and wind up any time you want, but for Belize it is not. For Belize, it is a matter of national survival; it is a matter of national security; it is a matter of our territorial integrity and therefore we take this thing very seriously. To the contrary, you have been benefitting very handsomely from it using the claim at your will and disposal when you need to.”


Jose Sanchez

“Was Belize, Guatemala or the O.A.S. able to come up with any alternatives now that the referendum seems to be indefinitely on hold?”


Fred Martinez

“You may have political and social conditions that may not lead you towards a referendum to be successful this October. Well if that is case, fine, but tell us. There is a commitment that we have to go to court if our people so decide under the special agreement and therefore what we need to do is look at other possibilities of when this can be held. And so out minister insisted that since Guatemala had in the past given as an option that possibly they could go to referendum in June 2014, our minister then took then to task and told them well if you can’t hold it October, then what about June 2014? Please explore that possibility because we are serious and we want to proceed with the referendum.  it is important however to mention that because the special agreement talks about simultaneous referenda, the option to go it alone under this present agreement does not stand. It would entail for us to amend the special agreement to remove the word simultaneous to allow each country to go at its own pace or whenever it felt it had the right conditions to do so.”


Jose Sanchez

“That would require all three parties?”


Fred Martinez

“No it would require only Belize and Guatemala to sign an amendment. However, because under Guatemala’s internal processes, they must send back that agreement as amended to their congress, it is highly unlike that that congress will approve within this year that amendment. The congress of Guatemala right now is divided into fourteen political factions. The government only controls sixty out of a hundred and fifty-eight seats in congress. The opposition has paralyzed congress; there is no business of the day taking place since the fourteenth of January. Why? Because their law that governs the congress state that any questions to ministers of government take precedence over the orders of the day. The possibility of us going alone at referendum outside of the special agreement at this stage is not there.”


Martinez said that Belize asked the Guatemalan delegation to take the proposal on a simultaneous referendum in 2014 back to its capital for consideration.

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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2 Responses for “Is a referendum even possible in 2014? Ambassador Fred Martinez says its easier said than done”

  1. Storm says:

    No ICJ, not this year, never!

  2. lucas says:

    Fred is one of the very few UDPs whom I hold in very high esteem but, all these bravado hard talking is like the wolf blowing and huffing and puffing at the house of bricks. It is like a little chiwawa barking at a bull-dog. When will our politician wake up and realize that it is not in Guatemala’s interest to solve this problem. Guatemala does not want to and will not want to. The more we press the issue, the more intransigent Guatemala gets. Put your trust in Guatemala to keep it’s word for 2014, and like what the WITHOUT BALLS said, you will get another switchero. What we must be doing is building an army and getting ready for war.

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