PM Barrow signs controversial agreements with Guatemala

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

Prime Minister Dean Barrow has signed 13 bilateral agreements with Guatemala without informing the Belizean community of the details. The documents were signed on Wednesday, December 17th at the closing of the 44th SICA Summit in Placencia between PM Barrow and President of Guatemala Otto Perez Molina. While the in depth agreements are still not known, the accords encompass issues in prisoner exchange and the serving of penal sentence, operating hours at legal terrestrial entry points, program on seasonal workers, protection, the recovery and returns of items of cultural and natural patrimony, visa waiver for students, deportation, electric power trade, transmission interconnection and grid connectivity, mutual recognition of driver’s license, movement of student via land entry points, protection of the environment and sustainable use of resources, degree equivalence and recognition of education documents, sustainable tourism and stolen vehicles.49 PM Barrow and President Molina- Bilateral Agreement
Apparently the agreements between both countries was being negotiated over the last ten months, but no word on it was ever divulged to either the Belizean or Guatemalan Public. According to Leader of the Opposition Francis Fonseca, The People’s United Party participated in the discussion and negotiation of the agreements but believed that consultations should have taken place before any papers were signed. “We expressed concerns about bilateral agreements that were signed between the government of Belize and the government of Guatemala. Over the past few months, Belize and Guatemala have been engaged in discussions and negotiations surrounding these bilateral agreements. Because of the unjust and unfounded claim of Guatemala to Belizean territory, any bilateral Agreement between Belize and Guatemala should have been made known to Belizeans and discussed prior being finalized and signed. So we believe that it is a profoundly important issue and we have an obligation and a duty to raise this issue and to bring it to the attention of the Belizean people,” said Fonseca.
But PM Barrow has stated that the agreements will only serve to strengthen the relationship between Belize and Guatemala and aid the countries to live peacefully and share resources. “Today, you will help to bear witness to the signing of thirteen agreements which covers a range of cooperation issues of our two countries and by extension, the region as a whole. Both of us (Belize and Guatemala) desired to live in peace, side by side, in friendly neighborly relations. Second, after decades of unsuccessful negotiations, the time had come for us to enhance our cooperation and build confidence between our governments and people. So we agreed to implement the 2005 agreement on confidence building measures which had set out a list of cooperation areas to be actioned via the work of the Belize-Guatemala Joint Commission,” said PM Barrow.
As to why the Belizean community was not informed on the proceeding, PM Barrow stated that the agreements were only made with the best intentions of the citizens in mind. “There might be legal questions, but I am saying that this does not in any way conflict with the constitutional requirement that any settlement with Guatemala go to a referendum. As I said, this is a matter of modalities now that can provide for closer on the ground ties. To some extent, we have already started going down that road; we have the partial scope agreement and there are various others measures of cooperation that pre-exist. So I don’t see that there ought to be any reservations about what has happened here. I think that it really ought to be welcomed as truly representing a historic breakthrough in terms of the joining closer together of the two countries and in terms of what the president said, wanting to make clear that this helps to demonstrate what is the official position that Guatemala does not represent any threat to Belize,” said PM Barrow.
President Molina stated that the agreements will only improve the relationship between the neighboring nations and pacify the tension that has long been at the boarders. “It is a very historic day with our presence for the people of Belize and Guatemala. Both countries have made progress like never before in a bilateral agenda. It is important to mention it because we are today making official the discussion of thirteen agreements and strengthening the relations between the governments. But most important is the people of Belize and Guatemala; it is important to mention that these agreements were negotiated in ten months on the basis that the agreement of the negotiation is to resolve our dispute, Guatemala and Belize needs to be friends and neighbors; neighbors forever and we want to live in peace and we want to be partners in the development of our nations. It is important to understand that Guatemala does not constitute a threat for Belize. These agreements cover such things as exchanges in education, temporary employment, driver’s licenses, and I think these are agreements that strengthen the relationship of the two countries. But more importantly, the communities along the adjacency zone. These are the communities that will feel the benefits and feel the confidence about the agreements,” said President Molina.
The agreement will be made public in the coming week.

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