The Toledo Alcaldes Association and the Maya Leaders Alliance have issued a joint release condemning what they call the “politicizing of Guatemala’s claim over Belize”. The Association states that persons working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are conducting a survey within communities in southern Belize surrounding the Belize Guatemala territorial dispute and taking the matter to the International Court of Justice. But they are doing a bit more. Program Coordinator, Pablo Mis told Love News what the surveyors have been doing and why they are against it.
Pablo Mis – Program Coordinator
For us a couple of things are very clear, the first that we are indigenous Maya of Belize and that we are a full member of the Belizean family. We want to also make it clear that our allegiance is indisputable to the state of Belize but given that then we are of course concerned about some activates in our communities. We have received some complaints from village leaders and community members where persons are going house to house asking family members for their identification cards, their social security numbers and asking them whether they support Government of Belize’s position to take the Guatemalan claim to the ICJ. When villagers would ask for more information on the topic the the individuals would tell the villagers that obviously they are not supporting the government and that they are then supporting Guatemala’s position. At this cross whether it is the work of the government or any other party is a just concern and that is why we reached out to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure that they make a public statement to distance themselves on this act and what’s happening in the community. We want to call on all Belizeans to ensure that we reject any attempt to frustrate or to influence people Belizean people’s position on taking Guatemalan claim to the ICJ.
Mis says the Association has contacted the Referendum Unit of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and were told that they are indeed engaged in an awareness campaign but the collection of personal information is not part of that campaign. We spoke with CEO in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Pat Andrews who confirmed that the Ministry has facilitators on the ground to conduct an awareness campaign on the referendum process. They were to only provide information to the people on the process, but, the Ministry has learnt that the facilitators were asking community members for pledges and ID numbers. Andrews says that the matter was brought to their attention on Tuesday and they immediately told facilitators to desist from requesting any such information. Andrews says he apologizes for the mistake. And while on the subject of the territorial dispute between Belize and Guatemala, the Association also reiterated interest in having the Maya communities in Southern Belize participate fully in the processes of education and resolution of the claim.
Pablo Mis – Program Coordinator
“We also want to reiterate to the Government of Belize the cry of the Maya People; that cry was written through a letter to the Prime Minister back in October of 2017 that we will be among the first Belizeans to be first impacted by whatever happens along this train. As such the Maya people would like to see that they have a proper stake in the dialogue that goes into the restarting the approach that Belize should take in responding to Guatemala’s claim.”
According to the Association, they have made this request in writing to Prime Minister Dean Barrow in late 2017. They say they have yet to receive an answer.