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Travel & Tourism . Tourist Guide to the Country

Belize Government


Belize's principal external concern has been the dispute involving the Guatemalan claim to Belizean territory. This dispute originated in imperial Spain's claim to all "New World" territories west of the line established in the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494. Nineteenth-century efforts to resolve the problems led to later differences over interpretation and implementation of an 1859 British-Guatemalan treaty intended to establish the boundaries between Guatemala and Belize, then named British Honduras. Guatemala contends that the 1859 treaty is void because the British failed to comply with all of its economic assistance clauses. Neither Spain nor Guatemala ever exercised effective sovereignty over the area.

Negotiations proceeded for many years, including one period in the 1960s in which the U.S. Government sought unsuccessfully to mediate. A 1981 trilateral (Belize, Guatemala, and the United Kingdom) "Heads of Government Agreement" was not implemented due to disagreements. Thus, Belize became independent on September 21, 1981, with the territorial dispute unresolved. Significant negotiations between Belize and Guatemala, with the United Kingdom as an observer, resumed in 1988. Guatemala recognized Belize's independence in 1991 and diplomatic relations were established. Negotiations between Belize and Guatemala resumed on February 25, 2000, in Miami, Florida, but were suspended due to a border incident that occurred February 24, 2000. Further talks were held March 14, 2000, between the two countries at the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington, DC, in the presence of the OAS Secretary General. Eventually the two parties agreed to establish an "adjacency zone" extending one kilometer on either side of the 1859 treaty line, now designated the "adjacency line," and to continue negotiations aimed at resolving their dispute. The Guatemalan claim remains unresolved, however.

In order to strengthen its potential for economic and political development Belize has sought to build closer ties with the Spanish-speaking countries of Central America to complement its historical ties to the English-speaking Caribbean states. Recent foreign policy initiatives include joining with the other Central American countries in signing the CONCAUSA Agreement on regional sustainable development and becoming a full member of the Central American Integration System (SICA) Belize is a member of CARICOM which was founded in 1973. In 1990, it became a member of the OAS. As a member of CARICOM Belize strongly backed efforts by the United States to implement UN Security Council Resolution 940 designed to facilitate the departure of Haiti's de facto authorities from power. The country agreed to contribute military personnel to the Multinational Task Force which restored the democratically elected Government of Haiti in October 1994 and to the United Nations Mission in Haiti (UNMIH).

The United States and Belize traditionally have had close and cordial relations. The United States is Belize's principal trading partner and major source of investment funds and also is home to the largest Belizean community outside Belize, estimated to be 70,000 strong. Because Belize's economic growth and accompanying democratic political stability are important U.S. objectives in a region successfully emerging from a prolonged period of civil strife, Belize benefits from the U.S.-Caribbean Basin Initiative.

International crime issues dominate the agenda of bilateral relations between the U.S. and Belize. The U.S. is working closely with the Government of Belize to fight illicit narcotic trafficking. In 1996, the United States and Belize signed a stolen vehicle treaty, and in 2000 they signed an extradition treaty and a mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT). Both governments seek to control the flow of illegal immigrants to the U.S. through Belize.

The United States is the largest provider of economic assistance to Belize, contributing approximately $4.17 million in various bilateral economic and military aid programs to Belize in FY 2000. The United States provided nearly $1 million in assistance to Belize to support its relief and recovery efforts following Hurricane Keith, which devastated much of the country in October 2000. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) closed its Belize office in August 1996 after a 13-year program during which it provided $110 million worth of development assistance to Belize. In addition, during the past 34 years, almost 2,000 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Belize. In April 2001, the Peace Corps had 47 volunteers working in Belize. In Punta Gorda, the International Bureau of Broadcasting/Voice of America (IBB/VOA) operates a medium-wave radio relay station which broadcasts to the neighboring countries of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. The U.S. military has a diverse and growing assistance program in Belize which included the construction of seven schools and four water wells by National Guard soldiers in Stann Creek District in 2000. Another "New Horizons" humanitarian assistance project is scheduled for 2003. Private American investors, who are responsible for some $250 million of investment in Belize, continue to play a key role in Belize's economy, particularly in the tourism sector.

Belize    Government Top of Page
Country name: conventional long form:  none

conventional short form:  Belize

former:  British Honduras
Government type: parliamentary democracy
Capital: Belmopan
Administrative divisions: 6 districts; Belize, Cayo, Corozal, Orange Walk, Stann Creek, Toledo
Independence: 21 September 1981 (from UK)
National holiday: Independence Day, 21 September (1981)
Constitution: 21 September 1981
Legal system: English law
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state:  Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952), represented by Governor General Sir Colville YOUNG (since 17 November 1993)

head of government:  Prime Minister Said MUSA (since 27 August 1998); Deputy Prime Minister John BRICENO (since 1 September 1998)

cabinet:  Cabinet appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister

elections:  none; the monarch is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch; governor general appoints the member of the House of Representatives who is leader of the majority party to be prime minister
Legislative branch: bicameral National Assembly consists of the Senate (eight members, five appointed on the advice of the prime minister, two on the advice of the leader of the opposition, and one by the governor general; members are appointed for five-year terms); and the House of Representatives (29 seats; members are elected by direct popular vote to serve five-year terms)

elections:  House of Representatives - last held 27 August 1998 (next to be held by NA August 2003)

election results:  percent of vote by party - PUP 59.2%, UDP 40.8%; seats by party - PUP 26, UDP 3
Judicial branch: Supreme Court (the chief justice is appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister)
Political parties and leaders: People's United Party or PUP [Said MUSA]; United Democratic Party or UDP [Manuel ESQUIVEL, Dean BARROW, Doug SINGH]
Political pressure groups and leaders: Society for the Promotion of Education and Research or SPEAR [Diane HAYLOCK]; United Worker's Front
International organization participation: ACP, C, Caricom, CDB, ECLAC, FAO, G-77, IADB, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), Interpol, IOC, IOM, ITU, LAES, NAM, OAS, OPANAL, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO
Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission:  Ambassador Lisa M. SHOMAN

chancery:  2535 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008

telephone:  [1] (202) 332-9636

FAX:  [1] (202) 332-6888

consulate(s) general:  Los Angeles
Diplomatic representation from the US: chief of mission:  Ambassador Carolyn CURIEL

embassy:  29 Gabourel Lane and Hutson Street, Belize City

mailing address:  P. O. Box 286, Unit 7401, APO AA 34025

telephone:  [501] (2) 77161

FAX:  [501] (2) 30802
Flag description: blue with a narrow red stripe along the top and the bottom edges; centered is a large white disk bearing the coat of arms; the coat of arms features a shield flanked by two workers in front of a mahogany tree with the related motto SUB UMBRA FLOREO (I Flourish in the Shade) on a scroll at the bottom, all encircled by a green garland


Countryfacts Information Courtesy: CIA Worldbook

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