Twenty-six percent of the Guatemalan electorate participated in a referendum on April 15. An overwhelming majority voted in favor of taking the country’s maritime, insular and territorial claim on Belize to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Love News was in Guatemala City for the referendum and during our time there we interviewed Guatemalan citizens. We asked them what they knew of the dispute and about the ICJ. Most of the interviewees were clueless or had a misconception of the purpose of the referendum. So while the Guatemalan Government boast that the April 15 results were an increase compared to the two previous referendums, critics say that the Guatemalan populace was poorly educated or misinformed on the issue. We asked Minister of Foreign Affairs Wilfred Elrington for a reaction on this point of view.
Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs: “It is a democratic process, people are free to go, people went some didn’t go but there was nothing to stop them from it and I do not know whether it is helpful to be seeking to weed anything into that that is not substantiated by facts you know. People could speculate on all kinds of things.”
Reporter: Sir was it helpful for it’s referendum in Guatemala that many of the people we interviewed on the streets had basically no historical context or knowledge of this dispute?
Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs: “Yes.”
Reporter: So would you say……
Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs: “So what they said is that they supported their government’s decision?”
Reporter: The government’s decision because the government is also pushing for a yes vote and I asked them what they knew about the ICJ and most of them were …..
Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs: “You think the Belize people will do the same thing ?”
Reporter: I’m not saying that…..
Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs: “Support their government and say yes? Wouldn’t you like that? Wouldn’t you like for the Belize people to say ‘we will support our government?’ Now what we are doing, you notice what we are doing ? And we have been doing it for some years now since I have been in office, we have been continuing with an education campaign and because it’s a national issue we always welcome. We don’t want it to be said that the Belizean people were not informed and it’s for that reason that I’m always so willing to answer any question asked of my by the press because the press has got to play a key role in helping to educate the Belizean people. This is a national issue this is not a party political issue. This is an issue of national importance and I think that it is an obligation of all sectors of the press to give to the Belizean people the information that will enable them to make a valid and considered opinion and decision when they go to vote.”
The Guatemalan Government wants the border between Belize and Guatemala to be officially delimited.