Yesterday we told you of Belize being represented in Cuba by the former Deputy Prime Minister Gasper Vega and Foreign Minister Sedi Elrington. That meeting saw Vega carrying out his last deed as the Deputy Prime Minister in delivering a speech that caught Guatemalan President, Jimmy Morales off guard as Vega spoke of the aggression by Guatemala which could lead to discord in the region. Today Elrington addressed the matter saying that such a bold move is nothing new that has been done.
As for Morales’ response, saying that the summit was not the forum for Vega’s statements, Elrington says that he has his own constituency to be responsible to and so they may not always see eye to eye.
The state leaders were in Havana, Cuba for the Seventh Summit of the Association of Caribbean States. Part of Vega’s presentation reads, quote, “The ACS is our neighbourhood, today we sit at a table with family. Families will have differences, but the blood, history and common interests, and our shared desire to make the lives of our people better form an un-shakeable glue at the very foundation of this family we so dearly refer to as the Association of Caribbean States. It is in this spirit, Mr. Chairman, that Belize now finds it necessary to call on our brothers and sisters in the region to be aware that it is being seriously exercised at this time by the recent and very troubling shift in the foreign policy of our neighbour and closest trading partner – Guatemala; this is in relation to the centuries old territorial dispute which we inherited from Colonial days. The shift in foreign policy manifests itself in the potentially dangerous practices by armed Guatemalan military personnel to prevent Belizean citizens – military and civilian – from their traditional free and unimpeded ingress and egress of the Sarstoon River – the mid-channel of which constitutes the southern boundary of my country. This boundary was agreed upon in the Boundary Convention of 1859 between Great Britain and the Republic of Guatemala. This right of ingress and egress has been exercised without let or hindrance from the mid-19th Century. Indeed, the Belize military routinely utilise said river for – the changing of the troops; to re-provision our southern-most military base, which to date is only accessible by river; our fisher folk in the South, among others, also utilise the river as well to earn their living. This new posture on the part of our neighbour Guatemala poses a grave threat to the preservation of our peaceful co-existence and it is a threat to stability in our hemisphere. It constitutes a clear and existential threat to our sovereignty and territorial integrity. It is also in direct contravention of our commitment in Paragraph 2 of CELAC’s Proclamation of January 29th, 2014, which articulates “our permanent commitment to solve dispute through peaceful means with the aim of uprooting forever threat or the use of force”. Under these circumstances, and given the seriousness of the situation, Belize calls upon the members of this august organization to join with the countries of the ACP and the Commonwealth in urging both parties to fully abide by their agreement on the framework of Negotiations and Confidence Building Measures of 2005, which commits both countries to refrain from the threat or use of force and lays out a verification process to address border incidents.” End of quote. As far as the media is concerned, this is the first time such a bold and firm presentation has been made on behalf of Belize by our Government officials as such a forum abroad.