Confirmed: Belize Rural South votes YES to the ICJ

Wednesday, May 8th, 2019

Islanders of Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker in Belize Rural South (BRS) came out in a steady flow on Wednesday, May 8th to participate in the Territorial Dispute Referendum on whether to take the Guatemalan claim to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). After polls closed at 6PM, a total of 4,253  had cast their vote in BRS. Three hours later, the results were in and with a total of 2,373 against 1,857, the ‘YES’ vote won, with the majority of support recorded in San Pedro Town.

At the polling stations countrywide, Belizeans were asked to either vote ‘YES’ or ‘NO’ on the question: "Do you agree that any legal claim of Guatemala against Belize relating to land and insular territories and to any maritime areas pertaining to these territories should be submitted to the International Court of Justice for final settlement and that it determine finally the boundaries of the respective territories and areas of the Parties?"

Throughout the day, members of both the ruling United Democratic Party and the Opposition People’s United Party encouraged citizens to come out and exercise their democratic right to vote. in Caye Caulker, which carried the polling stations #34 and #38, 385 votes favored the ‘NO’ option, while 341 electorates voted ‘YES’. One ballot was rejected. Hicaqueños said ‘NO’ to the ICJ by a margin of 44 votes.

Meanwhile, in San Pedro Town, Polling Area #37, a total of 2,032 voted ‘YES’, and 1,472 voted ‘NO’ to settling the dispute at the ICJ. 22 ballots were rejected in San Pedro. After tallying the total number of votes, ‘YES’ prevailed in BRS by 516. Returning Officer Martin Alegria shared with the media that the process went smoothly and there were no disputes nor was there any mischief during the process. Nevertheless, he would have liked to see more Belizeans come out and vote.

BRS Area Representative Honorable Manuel Heredia Jr., was more than satisfied with the results and indicated that it was the will of the people. “Everyone wants to end with this dispute, and today the people spoke and decided to deal with and move on as a country,” said Heredia. He added that thanks to the ICJ campaign, many people made an informed decision.

Across the country, unofficial reports give the same story as BRS, with the ‘YES’ vote leading. In many areas, the vote in favor of the ICJ was unexpected. Overall, 65% of the 148,500 of electorates that re-registered came to vote. The Belize District registered the highest turn out with 69%, while in the Toledo District, only 59% came out to cast their vote.

Peace Palace, The Hague, Netherlands

Now that Belizeans have opted to take the territorial dispute to the ICJ, the government must start preparing to face Guatemala at this international court. In the next six months, both countries will have the time to start planning their presentations, which will take place inside the Peace Palace, at The Hague, Netherlands, where the ICJ is headquartered. Guatemala will first present its evidence on her rights over Belize. Belize will then have six months to dispute the Guatemalan claim and convince the judges that its neighbor to the west has absolutely no title or rights over the Jewel.

For a complete report on the referendum process, look for our detailed story in the print issue of The San Pedro Sun out this Friday, May 10th.

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