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PUP Leader Hon. John Briceno stands ready to defend Belize[/caption]
Belize City, April 27, 2016
As concern and even fear spread throughout the entire country like wildfire following the sudden announcement by Guatemala’s President Jimmy Morales last Thursday that his Government would deploy 3,000 troops to Belize’s border area in response to the fatal shooting of a Guatemalan minor in Belizean territory, Opposition Leader Hon. John Briceño was the only credible and conspicuous voice of defense for our country.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow had left Belize earlier that day enroute to New York City, U.S., to attend an UN climate change event. Unlike at least one instance in the past when the Prime Minister has chosen to cancel a major trip and return home upon being summoned by gang leaders to a meeting, Barrow was apparently not convinced that the Guatemalan President’s threats required him to be among his citizens.
The Government of Belize was leaderless, voice-less and direction-less. Unless Barrow really believed the serial joke that Acting Prime Minister Gaspar Vega could provide the leadership needed by Belizeans during such a crisis.
In the absence of Government leadership, Opposition Leader Briceño took to the airwaves to declare that the Opposition would stand up to Guatemala’s barefaced bullying.
“Guatemalan troops must be withdrawn, and withdrawn now,”
demanded the Opposition Leader.
Briceño announced that President Morales’ statements were “provocative and inflammatory” and “a threat to peace and tranquillity”. He added that the military actions were unprovoked since Belize offered no threat to Guatemala.
The Opposition Leader also vehemently rejected the President’s move to exercise sovereignty over the Sarstoon. This annexation, as former PUP Foreign Minister Eamon Courtenay has described it, has manifested itself under the Barrow Administration with credible objection. The Government’s way of tackling Guatemala’s illegal occupation of the Sarstoon area has been weak protest notes which have been rejected at every instance by our bully neighbour.
Unlike the Barrow Administration’s tremendous failure to properly defend Belize’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, Briceño was clear on what needed to happen next. He stated that Belize must urgently take a strategic diplomatic offensive on the international stage while fully respecting the right of Belizeans to be consulted and informed.
Prime Minister Barrow, during a press conference on Monday, announced that the Government would abide to the Opposition’s recommendation that our international allies must be reached out to. But he gave no indication that Government would seriously engage the Opposition in these efforts.
Belizeans feel that Barrow’s Foreign Minister Sedi Elrington has presided over the greatest diplomatic disaster in our nation’s history. Belizeans are disenchanted and mistrustful of the Government, while the Guatemalans feel emboldened. To continue down this road is a path fraught with danger.