Guatemala refused to resume negotiations until Britain reduced its troop strength in Belize. It was not until 1975, after Belize’s election in late 1974 that the talks resumed. However, Guatemala’s position seemed to have hardened since they were demanding the cession of the southern quarter of Belize in return for recognizing the independence of the rest. This prompted the Belize government to embark on a radically new approach in which it would have to gain the support of the world to its independence. Therefore, the objectives of its internationalisation campaign were:
  1. To gain the support of as many nations as possible for Belize’s early and secure independence with its territory intact;
  2. To use this support to influence the negotiating process;
  3. To secure a credible defense guarantee with troops stationed in Belize preferably with other nations joining the British, but failing that, putting more pressure on Britain to assume sole responsibility for Belize’s defense;
  4. To exert pressure on Britain and the U.S.A. to fully respect Belize’s position.
With the support of CARICOM and the Commonwealth, Belize secured the support from the Non-Aligned Movement.

A series of diplomatic victories followed, when in 1975, the General Assembly of the United Nations passed a resolution affirming Belize’s right to a secure independence with all its territory and declared that any proposals that may emerge from negotiations between Britain and Guatemala must respect this right. Guatemala condemned this as an in admissible attempt to dictate the outcome of negotiations and declared that it would not be bound by the resolution. The vote of 110 in favor, 9 against and 16 abstentions was a great victory for Belize. Except for Cuba, however, no Latin American country supported the resolution and the United States also refused to vote in its favor. Belize embarked on an intensive campaign in Central America, targeting trade unions, political parties and movements, individuals, civic groups, and the media and in the United States they lobbied senators and congressmen and Latin American solidarity groups apart from direct talks with the State Department.  The first breakthrough came in 1976 when Panama declared its support for Belize’s cause and the following year, Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina and Peru also voted for Belize. Two years later, in 1978, Costa Rica and Columbia also followed suit and in 1979, after the triumph of the Sandinista revolution, Nicaragua, until then Guatemala’s strongest ally, threw its weight behind Belize.

The British finally agreed to cooperate fully with Belize in its U.N. initiative to gain independence, its role then being to try to get the Belizeans to frame the resolution in as agreeable a way as possible.

In understanding how small states like Belize pursue their national interests, writing in 1981 in an article titled “Transforming International Regimes”, Steven D. Krasner speaks of the position of small states in the international arena. According to Krasner, “At the international level all states are accorded formal equality as sovereigns: The underlying power capabilities of states establish no presumptive differentiation with regard to certain basic rights, especially sole legitimate authority within a given geographic area. At the same time, the present international system is characterized by an unprecendented differentiation in underlying power capabilities between large and small states. Never have states with such wildly variant national power ressources co-existed as formal equals. (But) very weak states can rarely hope to influence international behavior soley through the utilization of their national power cababilities”.

However, Krasner goes on to point out the opportunities that the character of post-World War II organizations has given small states hither to undreamed of ways of influencing behavior and promoting their interests. In particular he cites the United Nations General Assembly and “regional” and “universal” coalitions as affording the chance for small states to engage in what he calls “meta-power behavior” to secure their objectives.

The Belize internationalization campaign utilizing the U.N.G.A., the Non-Aligned Movement and the Commonwealth of Nations (“universal”coalitions); and CARICOM, Central America and the O.A.S. countries (“regional” coalitions), is therefore a classic example of Krasner’s model at work. The 1960 U.N. Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Peoples, the character of post World War II organizationsÑNAM, Commonwealth etc.Ñcertainly afforded Belize, in Krasner’s words, “a set of opportunities” to gain global support and thus influence the course of the territorial controversy in their favor. That the Belizean leaders, new at the game of diplomacy and international relations, did such a good job in developing and carrying out their strategy, must surely count to their historical credit.


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  • Paco Smith.

    This article provides an historical perspective on this all-important issue.

    Now that Guatemala has reneged on its commitment to holding simultaneous referendums on 6th October 2013, with the apparent consent of the OAS, I believe the GOB should embark on an intense internationalisation campaign.

    Instead, based on the PM’s most recent press conference, they continue to hinge their hopes on the bankrupt, ill-conceived and zero-sum (for some of us) notion that going to the ICJ, is a viable option. In essence, it appears as though the government’s “Plan B” is to resort back to “Plan A”, despite the fact that the Guatemalan Government is in breach of the not-so-Special Agreement.

    Belizeans and true friends of Belize, what more proof is needed to discern that we are being governed by those who have no vision and seemingly, very little semblance of reality?

    The oligarchy in Guatemala have no credibility, based on their history of violence and aggression against their indigenous population, yet “the powers that be” on this side of the BORDER seem to believe that, even despite Guatemala’s numerous “bad faith” moves, our best bet is to continue to appease the aggressor. Again, I remind you that someone once defined insanity as, “…continuing to do the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different outcome.” Does that seem applicable in this case?

    It is time to be proactive by: (1) ensuring the OAS does its job and not allow them to make Guatemala have their way by re-scheduling the date of the referendum, (2) put pressure on our “so-called leaders”, so that they acknowledge their failed policy or lack-thereof involving the issue of Guatemala and demonstrate to them, a more viable and beneficial course of actions and (3) not allow the reality of Guatemala’s continued intransigence to be swept under the rug.

    My people, now is the time to demand that a cogent and meaningful approach be undertaken in dealing with our neighbour to the West. In other words, let us put an end to the listless, lethargic and pathetic approach that has thus far been the apparent modus operandi of our foreign affairs effort. Believe me, this issue is not dead, it is simply in a state of stasis and shall be resurrected when “the powers-that-be” believe we have lost sight of it.

    Don’t fall asleep at the wheel. Ensure that those in: Belmopan, Washington, D.C. and Guatemala City know that we are keeping a watchful eye on matters and shall not allow this to go “like butta gainst the sun”.

    Belize, Sovereign and Free – NO ICJ!