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Durham University

IBRU: Centre for Borders Research

Boundary news

Belize to hold a referendum on Guatemala territorial dispute

(10 May 2018)

The Belizean government has announced that a referendum will be held on 10 April 2019 to determine whether or not the country will present its territorial dispute with neighbouring Guatemala for final settlement at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The dispute between the two nations dates back to the colonial divisions of the area in the eighteenth century. Belize was previously the colony of British Honduras before gaining independence in 1981. Although Guatemala recognised Belize’s independence, it has continued to voice its territorial claims to an area of around 12,000km2 currently administered by Belize. The area comprises around half of the mainland territory presently claimed by Belize, as well as several islands and maritime zones.

In April 2018, Guatemala conducted its own referendum on the issue. Despite a low turnout, the country voted overwhelmingly in favour of seeking a final settlement from the ICJ.


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