Belize became independent in 1981 but the UK
has continued to have a great influence, both militarily
and through private economic interests. Two political
parties have been turned around for power. Corruption
has spread, as have voters' dissatisfaction, not least
against the economic policies pursued by both parties.
The Leftist People's Party (PUP) won the 1981
election and party leader George Price became the
independent Belize's first prime minister.
List of most commonly used acronyms containing Belize. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.
In 1991, Belize was recognized by Guatemala and
diplomatic relations were established. What was
redeeming was that Belize agreed to give Guatemala
access to the Caribbean.
The settlement with Guatemala caused the United
Kingdom to withdraw in 1994 the military force that
remained to protect Belize from the threat of
neighboring countries. Despite the recognition,
Guatemala has never released its claim for a 12,000
square kilometer area, that is, half Belize. The claim
goes back to a 1859 border agreement that Guatemala
later refused to accept (see Foreign Policy and
After reigning alternately with the United
Democratic Party (UDP) for 17
years, after a landslide victory in the 1998 elections,
the PUP succeeded in being re-elected for a second term
in 2003. The Prime Minister became PUP leader Said Musa.
The government pursued an economically expansionary
policy with increased housing construction and increased
economic growth. But the government debt also increased,
and following recommendations from the loan agency the
International Monetary Fund (IMF), the government raised
taxes and frozen the salaries of public employees.
In the spring of 2005, economic policy led to a
series of violent demonstrations and strikes. The
employees of the country's largest telecommunications
company - the privatized Belize Telecommunications
Limited (BLT) - demanded that the company be
re-nationalized. Sabotage against telephone lines led to
Belize being cut off from the outside world for two
days. To stop the vandalism, the government deployed the
military, and the demonstrations degenerated into riots.
Only when Prime Minister Musa promised to initiate a
dialogue with the IMF to mitigate the reforms did the
strikes and demonstrations ebb.
The dissatisfaction with the government's economic
policy and rumors of corruption contributed to the UDP
winning in all municipalities in the local elections in
2006. In an effort to reduce the dissatisfaction, Musa
appointed a special commission after the election to
investigate the corruption allegations. The Commission
found evidence of widespread state corruption. At the
same time, several government loans to a private
hospital, which the PUP has supported since 1998, caused
quarrels within the government.
In early 2007, Musa kicked three ministers who
questioned a $ 23 million loan from the country's
largest bank, Belize Bank, to the hospital. The loan had
only resulted in a small house on the hospital premises.
At the end of 2007, Belize Bank initiated a lawsuit
against the Belize State to recover its money.
Shift of power
Continued corruption deals strengthened UDP support
for the 2008 parliamentary elections. The party won a
landslide victory and gained 25 out of 31 seats in
parliament. PUP got the remaining six. In connection
with the election, a referendum on direct elections to
the Senate was also held, to which 61 percent of voters
voted in favor.
UDP leader Dean Barrow became the country's first
black prime minister. He added an investigation into
what happened to the US $ 30 million donated by Taiwan
and Venezuela under the Musa government. Only a third of
the money had reached the state. The remaining $ 20
million had been seized by the privately owned Belize
Bank, as repayment of the loans taken by the PUP
government but not repaid.
At the end of 2008, Musa himself was arrested for
embezzling $ 20 million, including from the hospital
loan and foreign donations. However, the Supreme Court
dropped the indictment against him in 2009. By then,
former Deputy Prime Minister John Briceņo had taken over
as party leader for the PUP.
From 2009 to 2010, the number of homicides in the
country increased from 97 to 129. The increased violence
and gang crime caused Barrow in 2010 to create a new
Ministry of Police and Security, linked to the armed
forces. Likewise, a witness protection program, tougher
rules for bail and a system of trial without jury were
introduced in cases involving murders. In 2011, the
Caribbean cooperation body Caricom appointed a special
commission to investigate the violence in Belize.
Barrow also had repatriated BLT, which the PUP
government privatized in 2001. A majority of the shares
were sold to the public and BLT's employees. The
decision was justified by the fact that the previous
government had entered into an agreement with the
company that was impossible to live up to, including
promises of monopoly status in the telecom sector. But
the private owners took the state court to court. When
the Supreme Court and the Caribbean Court (CCJ) looked
different on the case, Barrow let Parliament decide. By
a constitutional change in October 2011, it was
established that the distribution of telecommunications
and electricity is of such importance that they should
be under state control.
Following the constitutional change in 2011, the
electricity company Belize Electricity Limited (BEL),
which was privatized in 1993, was also nationalized.
In October 2011, John Briceņo resigned as leader of
the PUP, since it became clear that he had not succeeded
in one party after the 2008 election loss.
In the elections held in March 2012, the UDP lost
much compared to the landslide victory in the previous
election, from 25 to 17 seats. However, the mandate was
sufficient to remain in office.
Behind the decline there was widespread
dissatisfaction with the ongoing oil drilling at the
country's coral reefs and coasts (see Natural Resources,
Energy and the Environment). Environmental organizations
had managed to collect 20,000 signatures to demand a
referendum on oil recovery, a demand the opposition
supported. However, the UDP rejected the evidence,
claiming that 8,000 signatures were false or duplicate.
But environmental organizations managed to arrange a
vote on their own where all voters were invited to vote
on whether Belize would allow oil drilling along its
coasts and within nature reserves at the country's coral
reefs. About 30,000 Belizians chose to participate and
96 percent of them voted no.