On Sunday one point eight million citizens in Guatemala voted in favor of taking their claim on Belize to the International Court of Justice. That one point eight million represents ninety-six percent approval rate out of the total number of citizens who participated, which is one point nine million. That figure represents twenty-six percent of the voters who were eligible, which is seven point five million, out of a total population of sixteen million people. So, one point eight million Guatemalans made the decision for sixteen million Guatemalans. The voter turnout is considered low by any standards, but, in Guatemala, Sunday’s referendum is considered one of the most successful. Yesterday we had the first reaction of a member of Government and today we caught up with Leader of the Opposition, John Briceno. Briceno told Love News that while his party has not formulated a position on the matter, for him personally, it is a ‘yes’ to the ICJ.
John Briceno, Opposition Leader: “Well of course we want to congratulate the Guatemalan people in holding it seems one of the most successful referendums in quite a long time, although we look at the turnout as being very low at 26% most people are saying that that is the most they have ever gotten for Guatemalans to come out and participate in a referendum. So we want to congratulate both the government and the people of Guatemala. I can see that the international community encouraging Belize to hold the referendum and obviously if you hold the referendum than most people would want then for this to be settled peacefully and it can only be settled peacefully via the ICJ. So I can see the international community encouraging us to be able to have the referendum. “
Reporter: The government is pro ICJ. Is the PUP pro ICJ? Are you as a Belizean, as someone from the Orange Walk Community are you pro ICJ?
John Briceno, Opposition Leader: “As an individual I believe that we should go to the ICJ but our party has not made a decision and there are a few reasons why. First of all in our party we have people with very strong opinions but for going to the ICJ and not going to the ICJ but we believe that before we even make that decision we have these very pressing matters that need to be addressed. The government of Belize seems to have had no plan as to what will be the reason should Guatemala vote yes, there is no plan. What is our government doing in putting pressure on Guatemala to sign a protocol for the management or the use of the Sarstoon River? What is our government doing with Guatemala to ensure that we can have the OAS officer opened on the Western border? Sometimes I feel as if the Guatemalans would like or that office to be closed down, we need to ensure that it keeps open because then here we have an honest broker between two countries to ensure that we can respect the borders because we do have a border. These are some very basic issues that need to be addressed but that our government is not addressing. As a party we believe that we have to continue the educational campaign we have done a number of that within our party but we need to do a lot more. So whilst we have not taken a position we have been saying that yes there should be a referendum but before we have the referendum then we also need to ensure that we have re-registration, we need to clean up that list.”