This book presents a comprehensive history of the territorial claim that Guatemala, a Central American country, maintains against its neighbour Belize, a country that became independent from Britain in 1981. In theory, Guatemala claims the entire country, although it has in effect confined its claim to the southern half of the country.
Formerly known as British Honduras, the territory, originally inhabited by the Maya, was invaded by Spain in the 16th century and occupied by Britain in the 17th, first in a small area through treaties with Spain and by 1821 in an expanded area through effective occupation. British woodcutters brought enslaved Africans to exploit the logwood, mahogany and other forest products, the mainstay of the colony until the mid-20th century. The territory became a British colony in 1862, three years after Britain and Guatemala signed a border treaty defining the frontiers between Guatemala and Belize. Other immigrants, including the Garifuna from the Caribbean, peoples from the surrounding countries, Indian “indentured servants” brought by the British to supply cheap labour for Confederate settlers from the USA after the civil war, and others from the Caribbean, Asia and elsewhere populated the land and formed a new people, neither British nor Guatemalan, but Belizean, who in due course demanded their independence from Britain in the mid-twentieth century.
The Anglo-Guatemalan Treaty of 1859 included a clause by which both countries agreed to use their best efforts to build a cart road from Guatemala City to the Atlantic coast, and this was never done. Eventually Guatemala claimed that it had inherited the Belize territory from Spain, that the treaty with Britain was a disguised treaty of cession, and (in the 1940s) that since the British did not comply with the compensation (the cart road) then the Treaty is null and void and the territory belongs to Guatemala.
This book tells the story of how the settlement of Belize developed, describes and analyses the negotiations leading up to the 1859 Treaty and the subsequent dispute, details how the people of Belize gained their independence with all their territory despite Guatemalan threats to invade and the pressures from Britain and the USA to cede sovereignty and/or territory to Guatemala, and outlines the attempts since independence to settle the dispute, which is still unresolved.
In 2008 the two countries agreed to submit the case for final resolution to the International Court of Justice if referenda in both countries so mandated. Guatemala held its referendum in April 2018 and got an overwhelming vote in favour of so doing. Belize is expected to hold its referendum in early 2019.