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:
- To gain the support of as many nations as possible for Belize’s early and secure independence with its territory intact;
- To use this support to influence the negotiating process;
- 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;
- 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.
- Carolyn Trench-sandiford on Belize – Guatemala – ICJ (fiwebelize.com)
- The Guatemalan Claim is being legitimized with the help of Belize by: Aria Lightfoot (twocanview.com)
- Commentary: The ICJ and the Belize-Guatemala issue: A den of strategy and deceit (cayobuay.wordpress.com)
- Hon. Julius Espat on Belize – Guatemala – ICJ (fiwebelize.com)
- Warning: Clearing of Western Border (fiwebelize.com)
- Analysis: The need for Consensus on a National Security Policy (fiwebelize.com)
- Amid a Stacked Oas Deck, Belize Needs Proactive Support! (fiwebelize.com)
- Commentary: Yet another example of Belize’s policy of accommodating Guatemala at any cost! (fiwebelize.com)