The centennial dispute between Guatemala and the current Belize, around which state belong certain continental and insular territories and border marine areas in dispute, has entered a new phase. On Sunday, April 15, the Guatemalan population, summoned by the Guatemalan government through the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (SET), must decide in a Popular Consultation if the issue in dispute between both countries should be resolved definitively by the International Court of Justice of The Hague.
In order to define what is best for the interests of the workers, peasants, indigenous and popular classes of Central America, it is appropriate to make a historical recount of the facts.
A history of colonial and imperialist interventions
In 1638, established in the Bay of Honduras, in the present territory of Belize. Cutters of dye sticks, of English origin, who had belonged to the wave of pirates and buccaneers encouraged by the British Crown to extend their domains at the expense of the territories of the Spanish Kingdom in America.
In 1642, the English seized the island of Roatán, Guanaja and adjacent islands of Honduras. In 1661 French, Dutch and English searches had seized Bocas del Toro, on the Isthmus of Panama, and much of the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua, known as the Mosquitia.
In 1763, the Treaty of Paris that put an end to the 1762 war between Spain and England, allowed the peaceful permanence of these cutters in the territory where they had settled, which remained formally under the sovereignty of Spain.
In 1783 the Spanish government set limits to the wood exploitation of the English, delimiting the territory between the Hondo River and the Belize River for that purpose, always under the sovereignty of the Spanish Crown; this was accepted by England. In 1786 a new treaty was negotiated extending the boundaries of the enclave to the Sibun River. Great Britain continued to consider these territories as usufruct and special purposes, although on the land the English did not respect the limits and exploited the wood where they wanted.
Gradual dismemberment of part of Central America
After the two declarations of independence of Central America, on September 15, 1821 in relation to Spain, and on July 1, 1823 in relation to the empire of Iturbide, taking advantage of the fragility of the Federal Republic of Central America, the English raided even more beyond the limits set by the previous treaties. In 1832 the war minister of the Central American Federation denounced the usurpation of territory by the English, and his intention to move south to the Sarstún River.
Between 1835 and 1850 they actually extended to the aforementioned river and usurped other Central American territories. In 1841, English troops seized the port of San Juan Del Norte, in Nicaragua, and consolidated positions in the Mosquitia.
Taking advantage of the weakness created by the disappearance of the Central American Federal State in 1838, the United States and England agreed, with the signing of the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty in 1850, in an apparent neutrality regarding the possible construction of an interoceanic canal in Central America. However, a decade later, in 1856, the United States and England signed the Dallas-Clarendon Treaty, which, although not ratified, added an article to the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty of 1850, which established the Sarstun River as the southern limit of English settlements, recognizing the status quo imposed by England, to the detriment of the claims of Guatemala and the rest of the countries of Central America.
In the interim, the superintendent of Belize, a kind of colonial governor, maintained a constant interference against the Federal Republic of Central America, and later against the States that arose from the dissolution of the federal State in 1838.
In 1859 Guatemala and Great Britain signed the Convention of Limits of the Republic of Guatemala and the British Establishment in the Bay of Honduras. With this treaty, British imperialism obtained a legitimate title over the illegitimately occupied territory and a status quo was defined in terms of the boundaries between the British settlement of Belize and the Republic of Guatemala. As compensation, Great Britain had to build a road that would connect the capital of Guatemala with the Atlantic coast.
In 1862, British merchants in Belize requested London to be recognized as a colony, which was formalized in 1862 under the name of British Honduras.
In 1863 a Convention was signed by which the mechanisms were fixed so that Great Britain complied with the construction of the highway; the English had to pay 50,000 pounds sterling. However, none of the States ratified the convention in the six months after the signature, as agreed; Guatemala did so later and Great Britain claimed that the convention had lapsed.
The government of Justo Rufino Barrios argued that the 1859 treaty was still valid to pass the failure of the Convention of 1863, and proposed that the matter be submitted to arbitration. England rejected it in 1880 and in 1884 Guatemala denounced the expiration of the treaty of 1859, leaving everything frozen. In fact, the governments of Guatemala recognized and legalized the presence of English colonialism. Due to the difficulty of the Guatemalan government to control the territory surrounding the usurped territory by England and the small Guatemalan population, the concern was to set a limit to the advance of the English, rather than recover the usurped territory. England maintained that its rights over the occupied territories came from actions of conquest, not from treaties with Spain, and did not recognize the succession rights of Central America over the domains that belonged to the Spanish Empire.
In this conflict against England, the Central American States sought protection in the United States, the nascent imperialism that claimed the continent as its area of influence. The struggle between the United States and England for the dominance of the Caribbean coast of Central America continued throughout the nineteenth century. In this period, the oligarchy of Guatemala showed an unprecedented cowardice, seeking at all times to take economic advantages to the English presence in those territories.
While in Belize the foundations were laid for the creation of another State, under the control of England, in Nicaragua the opposite occurred. In 1894, Nicaraguan troops, supported by United States warships, overthrew the King of the Mosquitia, dissolved the puppet government of the protectorate, and incorporated that portion of the territory under the tutelage of the State of Nicaragua. This action was possible because the United States had a special interest in evicting the English from the Caribbean coast Nicaragua and Honduras: the possible construction of an interoceanic canal through Nicaragua. In 1901 the United States and England signed the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty, which abrogated the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty of 1850, recognizing England's right to build an interoceanic canal under its absolute domination.
But, in relation to Belize, an agreement was reached between the United States and England, leaving the destiny of Belize's territories in the hands of this colonial power.
The timorous proposals of the Guatemalan oligarchy
From 1936 Guatemala made several proposals to resolve the differences, including the payment of an economic compensation to England for the return of Belize and an arbitration by President Roosevelt of the United States, but the British rejected them all. In 1946 the Guatemalan Congress decreed the expiration of the treaty of 1859. Almost a century later!
In 1981 Great Britain granted independence to Belize, which joined the British Commonwealth and joined the United Nations as a member. Guatemala did not recognize the new State and broke relations with the United Kingdom, to resume them in 1986. Belize set as limits those established in the Treaty of 1859, adding a series of islands and adjacent keys. In 1991 the government of Serrano Elías recognized Belize as an independent State, but not its territory; this was done in order to negotiate with the Belizean government as an interlocutor. The Congress ratified Serrano's decision in 1992.
In 2007, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) recommended submitting the territorial dispute between Belize and Guatemala before the International Court of Justice in The Hague; this was accepted by both States and an agreement was signed in December 2008. In 2012 both countries agreed that popular consultations would be held to ratify the intervention of The Hague Court, defining that in October 2013 they would be done simultaneously. The Guatemalan government unilaterally suspended the consultation due to the fact that Belize modified its Referendum Law, stating that the consultations would not be valid if they did not count with the participation of at least 60% of registered voters, in violation of the agreement. In May 2015, it was agreed that both countries should consult separately. At the request of the government of Guatemala, in 2017 the SET decided on the date to carry out the consultation.
A border town in the most abject misery
Currently, the oligarchy and the bourgeoisie of Guatemala are seeking the recovery of 12,272 km2 of the territory of Belize, almost half of its extension, including several islands and cays. This is a surface with great tourist and logging potential, in addition to having extensive land susceptible to be used for the production of African palm and other agricultural export operations, the main business of the Guatemalan oligarchy; without forgetting the oil deposits. In addition, this territory is a drug trafficking paradise.
However, the rural population living in the so-called Adjacency Zone, no-man's land, lives in the most total abandonment, without electricity, health services or drinking water, without land titles. There are about 25 thousand people distributed in 42 communities, who survive by growing corn and beans, without the possibility of selling their surplus. On the Guatemalan side they are victims of attacks by the army and Belizean armed groups; in the last 17 years about ten peasants have died in these aggressions, the last was in April 2016, in which a 13-year-old boy died.
An unpopular consultation process in Guatemala and Belize
The referendum ballot has only one question that must be answered yes or no: "Do you agree that any legal claim of Guatemala against Belize over continental and insular territories and any maritime areas corresponding to those territories be submitted to the International Court of Justice for its final resolution and this determine the borders of the respective territories and areas of the parties?"
The SET has had a budget of almost Q 300 million for the consultation, plus a donation from the European Union of a little more than Q 900,000 for disclosure. However, the pattern to be used fell by 33,953 citizens with respect to the electoral roll of 2015. This indicates a lack of interest in it or ignorance about the issue and its implications. The Guatemalan government has engaged in a last-minute campaign, including a tour by President Morales, to encourage participation in the consultation.
Meanwhile, the Belizean government has not yet defined when it will consult. Belize has a population of 375 thousand people and an electoral roll of 180 thousand; according to its officials, to make the consultation they need to renew the register, so they could possibly carry it out in November or December of this year. If the result of the consultation were yes in both countries, the Court of The Hague could take between four to ten years to make a final decision, also involving a million-dollar expense for each country in lawyers and procedures.
No to the false popular consultation!
The Central American Socialist Party (PSOCA) categorically rejects the current Popular Consultation, and ignores its validity, as it is the result of a historical process of interventions and abuses by imperialist governments and institutions, as well as being deeply undemocratic. It is the ambitions of the British and American imperialisms, and of the Belizean and Guatemalan bourgeoisies, that have brought us to the point where we are.
Belize ceased to be, long ago, before it was granted formal independence by the English crown in 1981, part of the territory of Guatemala, by the cowardice and incapacity of the oligarchy of that country, but the territory of Belize It remains an indissoluble part of the Central American nation. Belize must conquer true independence from England, democratically deciding its own destiny, which is the same as the rest of the peoples of Central America
We call the Belizean people, composed of indigenous Mayans and the Afro-descendant population, to fight together with the indigenous people and people of Guatemala and the rest of the peoples of the Central American nation, against the local oligarchies and against the British, American and European imperialisms, to achieve true independence and guarantee their right to self-determination, as well as the control of natural resources and riches.
There is a chauvinist campaign that encourages the narrow and reactionary nationalism of both the bourgeoisie of Guatemala and Belize, which seek to confront both peoples in the fratricidal struggle, to defend artificial national borders
The way out should not be to delimit borders, but to abolish them, to rebuild the Central American Federal State, the only way to guarantee the rights of the people of Guatemala, Belize and other peoples of the region.
The free and voluntary union of States of the Central American nation would guarantee the democratic rights of each people.
Therefore, the Central American Socialist Party (PSOCA) calls not to attend the "popular consultation" on April 15, 2018, to repudiate the rigged call, because it does not represent the true interests of the peoples of Guatemala and Belize
We propose once again as immediate measures: 1) the withdrawal of the Belizean and Guatemalan armies from the Adjacency Zone, 2) the free circulation in this area of citizens of both countries, 3) the fraternization of the peasant and indigenous border organizations of both countries, and that among them decide democratically on the use of forests, lands and other resources of the Adjacency Zone, 4) that the dispute be solved, not by the international organisms of imperialism, but by Constituent Assemblies of workers and peasants, popular and sovereign of both countries, who make decisions in favor of the oppressed, excluded and exploited, in the perspective of convening a National Constituent Assembly of the peoples of Central America, to rebuild the Federal State under the socialist system.
No to the popular consultation on the Guatemala-Belize conflict!
No to the intervention of imperialist organizations in matters of the Central American nation!
Central America, April 8, 2018
Central American Executive Secretariat (CAES)
Central American Socialist Party (PSOCA)