Thursday, 3 July 2014

Press Release by the Washington Court to Settlement between Guatemala and Belize Land Dispute

World Court To Settle Guatemala, Belize 200-year-old Boundary Dispute – WASHINGTON, July 2 (BERNAMA-NNN-AGENCIES) — Guatemala and Belize signed an accord agreeing to let their territorial dispute, which is nearly two centuries old, be settled in the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
Foreign Ministers Roger Rodas of Guatemala and Wilfred Elrington of Belize signed the pact at the Washington headquarters of the Organization of American States.
The signing of the accord comes after the recommendation made last year by OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza that the parties turn to the United Nation’s top judicial entity after the negotiations the two countries restarted in 2005 failed to bear fruit.
The OAS has monitored the dialogue process between the two countries since 2000, when they began making efforts to work out the controversy, which dates from 1821 when Guatemala gained independence from Spain and Britain was occupying what is today Belize.
Guatemala continues to press its claim to some 12,700 square kilometers of Belizean soil, which amounts to more than half of the former British colony’s territory.
That expanse represents a logging concession granted to Britain by the Spanish Crown in the 17th century.
Insulza emphasized that the two countries took “a very important step for the solution of the problem” by acknowledging that the dispute “is essentially of a juridical character” and agreeing to take the case to the ICJ.
Even so, voters in the two neighboring countries must still ratify the accord in referendums.
Rodas expressed Guatemala’s desire to “definitively” end the dispute, adding that the ICJ decision will allow all concerned to “be able to define, among other things, the Guatemalan territory in dispute and establish the borders.” The Guatemalan foreign minister also emphasized that his country is ready to move forward with cooperation and integration in all areas with Belize, as well as in strengthening understanding between the two countries.
Belize says it hopes the referendum as part of the efforts to end the long running border dispute with Guatemala would be held “very soon” and reiterated a need for a peaceful solution to the issue.

Last year the Belize government said Guatemala appeared to be having difficulty with proceeding with the referendum in both countries on Oct 6 this year and that the country wanted to go straight to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
It also did not want to put an end to the existing Special Agreement between them.

Belize is chosen for its great travelling sites in the Caribbean destinations

The same turquoise waters that lure tourists to Caribbean destinations slosh around Belize's island chain. But tiny Belize has a major advantage in reeling in the holidaymakers - spectacular Mayan ruins tucked away in lush jungle. 

The nation is home to more prehistoric buildings than modern-day ones, according to its Institute of Archaeology.The same turquoise waters that lure tourists to Caribbean destinations slosh around Belize's island chain. But tiny Belize has a major advantage in reeling in the holidaymakers — spectacular Maya ruins tucked away in lush jungle. The nation is home to more prehistoric buildings than modern-day ones, according to its Institute of Archaeology.

That ancient appeal draws in backpackers eager for adventure as well as divers ready to gawk at its bustling reefs or plunge into its famed Blue Hole. Belize has all the ingredients for a surf and turf vacation — at least for those who don't mind the odd giant cockroach or neon green frog that may invade their jungle dwellings.
Evidence of human sacrifice in Maya times litters the floors of the Actun Tunichil Muknal caves, where the skeletons are welded in place by limestone sediment. Mayan pottery is also frozen in time there, with archeologists opting to leave most artifacts as they were centuries ago. To get to the caves, visitors are led down a gentle jungle trail that includes several river crossings. Next, comes an invigorating swim across a frigid pool of water at the cave's mouth (which is patrolled by a resident vine snake). Water winds throughout the cave, and visitors have to squeeze through impossible-looking openings before being rewarded with the archaeological trove. But don't expect to plaster social media with photos documenting the adventure. Clumsy tourists — including one who left a camera-sized hole in the skull of a sacrificed child — led to a ban on cameras at the site.
Just a fraction of Caracol, a once powerful Maya city state, has been unearthed by archaeologists. Once home to 150,000 inhabitants (nearly twice the population of Belize's current industrial center, Belize City), the site was lost until a logger stumbled upon it in the 1930s while in search of mahogany. Nearly a century later, 90 percent of it still belongs to the jungle. Shards of ancient pottery are scattered around the complex, which includes astronomical buildings, ball courts, palaces and a 141-foot-tall pyramid that remains the tallest man-made structure in Belize. The guttural intonations of howler monkeys and the eerie screech of the yellow-tailed bird provide the soundtrack for those wandering through the massive archaeological site.
This complex of ruins got its Maya name, Xunantunich — meaning "Stone Woman" — from a sun-soaked apparition said to haunt the site. The city was built up over millennia and its history is sketched out neatly at the newly opened visitor's center. At the site itself, the main attraction is the ruin known as "El Castillo," which towers above the jungle. Four elaborate stucco friezes depicting Maya gods once hugged each side of the building. Now just two remain, and they're both covered up by fiberglass copies to preserve the originals. Despite its lofty appearance and elaborate decorations, the Castillo likely served as an administrative hub, not a temple, according to the visitor's center.
Even from its perch high up on a hill, Cahal Pech lives in the shadow of its more impressive neighbors, Caracol, Xunantunich and Tikal. Cahal Pech — which unflatteringly means "Place of the Ticks" in Yucatec and Mopan Mayan — sits on the outskirts of San Ignacio, a popular base for those exploring Maya ruins. Under the cover of an encroaching jungle, visitors can get a glimpse of how the upper crust lived in Maya times through the site's palace structures. The site is also home to a nice example of a Maya ball court.
Caye Caulker is a sandy strip of land surrounded by a bounty of sea life. The more laid-back alternative to San Pedro (immortalized by the 1987 Madonna hit "La Isla Bonita"), provides a base for the thriftier tourist looking to explore Belize's nearby barrier reef. The island is crowded with tour companies that ferry visitors to reef hot spots, such as the intimidating Shark Ray Alley. Nurse sharks and sting rays were originally drawn to the area by fishermen cleaning their catch, but now it's tour boats that chum the waters. The fish expectantly clamor around any boat that arrives. Other underwater highlights include an enormous logger turtle that is blind in one eye that hovers around a conch fishermen's boat, and a rainbow of tropical fish. Eerie night snorkeling affords an opportunity to watch the fish scurry to find a home among the reef before darkness falls. When things do turn truly nocturnal, snorkelers armed with underwater LEDs have the opportunity to spot squid, octopus, lobster and crabs. Scuba divers can also catch a ride to Belize's iconic Blue Hole, an underwater sinkhole that's 1,000 feet wide and 412 feet deep.
Iguana scurry all over San Ignacio thanks in part to the efforts of the Iguana Project, which hatches and releases the critters whose eggs are regularly gobbled up by predators in the wild. A guided tour of the facility where they're kept allows tourists to get up-close-and-personal with the scaly beasts. Among the highlights is the iguana nursery, where willing participants can be covered in a brood of four- to six-month-old bright green iguanas. Belizeans are prohibited from keeping the lizards as pets, but Iguana Project guide Jorge Lopez says locals will eat green iguanas for dinner. And he insists they taste like chicken. The project works to boost the lizard's population by releasing 100 to 150 iguanas a year.

Visit the website at Located between Mexico and Guatemala, with nonstop flights to Belize City from Houston, Miami and other points. From Belize City, water taxis serve Caye Caulker and San Pedro. Buses and shuttles take tourists inland to San Ignacio, where a variety of tour companies run day trips to Maya ruins sites.