Guyana and Belize have a lot in common

Dear Editor,

Guyana and Belize have a lot in common. Belize is the only English-speaking country in Central  America while the Co-operative Republic is the only English-speaking state in South America.  The climate and the landscape are somewhat similar. The only difference is that Belize has a lot of Spanish influence because it is bordered by Mexico and Guatemala and most residents speak Spanish.

A large number of Belizians lived in the then British Guiana while several Guyanese worked in Belize. Sir Alfred Crane served as Chief Justice in the 1960s and up to this day a Guyanese, Kenneth Benjamin, is head of the judiciary in that Central American country. There are four other Guyanese judges there: Minett Hafeez in the Court of Appeal, while Denis Hanomansingh, Courtney Abel and Sonia Griffith are first instant judges. Dr Ulric Trotz heads the Climate Change department, and until recently Hugh Saul was the head of the Regional Fisheries Department based in Belize and Dr Cary Fraser was the President of the University of Belize. There was also another Guyanese who was the Chief Education Officer for a number of years.

Spain had a dispute with the British over Belize and in 1859 there was a treaty which established the borders between the territories. However this has not prevented Guatemala claiming Belizean territory. Negotiations have been underway for many years including one in the 1960s in which the US government sought unsuccessfully to mediate. Belize became independent in 1981 and Guatemala recognized Belize’s independence, allowing for the establishment of diplomatic relations.

It was subsequently agreed to take the matter the International Court of Justice, but both countries were simultaneously to hold a referendum to confirm this. The referenda have not been held, and the tensions continue, flaring up again very recently, particularly in respect of fishing rights. Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington said that he will travel to Washington later this month to meet with his Guatemala counterpart to discuss the issue and try to bring to an end to the dispute over fishing rights. A meeting is carded for June 21.

Meanwhile Venezuela’s border controversy with Guyana is still to be resolved.

Yours faithfully,

Oscar Ramjeet

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