The ongoing territorial dispute between Guatemala and Belize took a step toward resolution May 25, when both governments signed an amendment to the 2008 Protocol to the Special Agreement between the two countries.
The 2008 agreement committed both countries to hold referendums on whether to accept the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice in the dispute. The recent amendment allows for both countries to hold referendums separately. The original 2008 agreement called for simultaneous referendums.
Organization of American States General Secretary Jose Miguel Insulza said the territorial dispute between Guatemala and Belize is “one of the most important tasks of the Organization and one to which we have assigned the highest priority in the General Secretariat.”
The signing took place at the headquarters for the OAS in what was one of Jose Miguel Insulza’s last acts as secretary general before Luis Almagro took the reins the next day.
Although the countries made significant progress, a consensus was not reached on the issue of maritime boundaries.
Meanwhile, according to Channel 7 News in Belize, in the run up to Guatemala’s November elections, a political newspaper ad incorrectly labelled Belize as part of Guatemala.
Historically, relations between the two countries have been tense. Guatemala has claimed Belize as part of Guatemala in part or in whole since 1940. This claim is based on Guatemala’s interpretation of a treaty from 1859 with Britain as well as claims that date back to 15th century Spanish conquests.
It took Guatemala 10 years to officially recognize Belize after Belize gained independence from the U.K. in 1981.