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Courtenay: “We Need a Foreign Minister who will Advance our Interest”

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On Monday we reported that as part of its educational campaign on the territorial dispute, the Guatemalan Government decided to produce textbooks with Belize included in the Guatemalan Map. Today, reporters asked Minister of Foreign Affairs Wilfred Elrington about the decision and what he intends to do in response. Here’s what he said.

Wilfred Elrington – Minister of Foreign Affairs

“The information that I have received is that the Guatemalans in their campaign will be using maps of Guatemala that shows that Belize is included as part of their territory, well that has always been their position, they have always taken the view that they were claiming the whole of Belize and I had been at pains to say to the Belizean public that that is the case. Other people have suggested otherwise but that has always been their position so nothing has changed. What is important is that we need to now educate our Belizeans to understand and I hope we can now come together and agree that in fact, the claim relates to the whole country. You remember there was this controversy about all and any islands and cayes and the like in the formulation of the claim because we wanted to make sure that the Guatemalans would not be able to come back and claim that we did not deal with a certain area so we want to go back and litigate on that. So it is good now that Belizeans will see that they are claiming the entire country and in fact will make their decision based on the fact that we have got to deal with this in a united front.”

Reporter

“So it’s all or nothing basically for the Guatemalans.”

Wilfred Elrington – Minister of Foreign Affairs

“That is their position. Their position is that they own the whole country because of the 1859 treaty.”

The opposition’s lead Senator, Eamon Courtenay also commented on the matter and as he has done on numerous occasions questioned the Foreign Minister’s loyalty to the country.

Eamon Courtenay – Opposition’s Lead Senator

“How can the Foreign Minister being presented with that question not say what he is going to do? One, why hasn’t a diplomatic protest been sent? Two, why haven’t we engaged the OAS Superintendent over this process and saying that that is an act of bad faith. Three why haven’t the government of Belize come out immediately with a press statement condemning Guatemala and saying it is just wrong? Why have we not galvanized our supporters on the international stage and said ‘this is going in the wrong direction.’ and I guarantee you that if Guatemala publishes a map like that the Belizean people are going to reject any referendum held here and rightly so but what has the Foreign Minister said? Absolutely nothing. Absolutely nothing.”

Reporter:

“I think his phrasing was that that has always been the case and indeed it confirms that Guatemala wanted all of Belize all along instead of the part south of the Sibun that they’ve traditionally claimed.”

Eamon Courtenay – Opposition’s Lead Senator

“All I will say is that we need a Foreign Minister who is going to aggressively, consistently, defend Belize’s position and advance what is in our interest and stop accusing and accepting things that Guatemala does.”

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