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Belize Modern History

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.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: 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 Defense).

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.

Contemporary History of BelizeStrikes

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.

Renationalisation

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.

 
 

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