Will Guatemalans with Belizean Nationality Vote in Belize’s Referendum?

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Updated: November 16, 2017

Among the matters brought up by the Committee was the issue of Guatemalans obtaining nationality and renouncing their Guatemalan citizenship. While there was a lengthy discussion on that matter, of interest is a question posed by Senator Eamon Courtenay. He asked Minister Hulse about allowing Guatemalans who have obtained Belizean nationality to vote in the referendum to take the Belize Guatemala dispute to the International Court of Justice. Guatemala has stated it is holding the referendum on their side in the first quarter of next year while Belize is planning on conducting a referendum later on in the year. It is expected that among those who will go to the polls are naturalized Belizeans originally from Guatemala. Here is how the Minister responded.

Eamon Courtney, Senator

“These people, a lot of them, are registered to vote and do vote. What is your view with respect to Guatemalan nationals or former Guatemalan nationals supposedly former Guatemalan nationals being able to vote in a referendum on the ICJ.”

Minister Godwin Hulse

“None at all, they shouldn’t.”

Eamon Courtney, Senator

“They should not be allowed to vote.”

Minister Godwin Hulse

“No.”

Eamon Courtney, Senator

“You will support a recommendation for an amendment to the law to preclude them from voting in that referendum?”

Minister Godwin Hulse

“Absolutely if they are not citizens no citizens should be voting.”

Eamon Courtney, Senator

“No, I am going one step further. There are tens of thousands of them, tens of thousands and I am asking you the same way we are saying that you must renounce your Guatemalan nationality before you become a Belizean for the reason that you have an allegiance to a country that does not recognize Belize’s territorial integrity. The process by which that is going to be resolved could be a referendum, could be the ICJ. Should a person who last year, the year before, five years ago was a Guatemalan be allowed to participate in the referendum to decide whether or not Belize goes to the ICJ?”

Minister Godwin Hulse

“Senator if the person is a citizen, having acquired such citizenship by proper renunciation which confirms with the section of the constitution requiring such then all citizens have the right to vote in any election.”

Eamon Courtney, Senator

“I’m talking about the referendum.”

Minister Godwin Hulse

“Well, that would still be a voting. I am not going to sit down and suggest and get into that sort of thing, my own personal feelings is another thing I’m not going to pronounce on it I’m not going to pronounce on it I’m going to stick with the strict legal position which is citizens if that Guatemalan renounced properly acquired Belizean citizenship properly is entitled to vote to form a parliament, is entitled to vote then that person would be entitled to vote.”

Eamon Courtney, Senator

“I am particularly keen to get the legal opinion can we get your assurance that you will follow up.”

Minister Godwin Hulse

“I am following up.”

Eamon Courtney, Senator

“We need it before we complete our work.”

Minister Godwin Hulse

“I will have it before you complete your work because I spoke two weeks ago or less with the foreign minister, with the CEO in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and with our ambassador in Guatemala to expedite this process because it is a concern for me as well.”