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03GUATEMALA696 2003-03-17 20:59:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Guatemala
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1. (C) In a March 11 meeting with PolCouns and PolOff, the
Belize Border Commission of the Guatemalan MFA said that
resolution of the long-running border dispute would be passed
along to the new Guatemalan government that will take office
in January, 2004, and said the new government will have to
decide if it submits the Facilitators' recommendations to a
national referendum, or if it opts for seeking an opinion
from the ICJ or an arbitration. The Guatemalan diplomats
believe that a referendum now would fail, and said
Guatemalans' "spiritual" attachment to Belize will make this
referendum "a challenge" even for a new government. They
said that the MFA will try to keep the Belize issue from
becoming part of the partisan political debate during this
electoral year, and would focus its efforts in the remainder
of the year on implementation of the confidence and security
building measures. The Guatemalans were pleased with the
decision of the OAS to place a permanent observer on the
border, and believe this will help reduce incidents that lead
to border tensions. They noted that many of the incidents
are driven by pervasive poverty in the border areas, and
argued for international assistance to address poverty
concerns in those zones.

2. (C) Poloffs noted that the international community had
placed a lot of hope in the OAS Facilitators' process, and
were disappointed when no action was taken on the
recommendations. In an era of growing globalization, it is
critical that countries overcome the obstacles to greater
integration, such as Guatemala's border differences with
Belize. Greater integration brings benefits for both sides,
and delaying the resolution of differences -- as would occur
if the matter is referred to the ICJ -- would needlessly
delay Guatemala and Belize reaping the profits of greater
economic integration. The Guatemalans acknowledged the
point, and said the GOG would seek an expedited process at
the ICJ or from arbitrators in the event the new government
should not believe it could win a national referendum on the
Facilitators' recommendations.

3. (C) In a separate meeting with the local OAS office
Director, Ambassador Jose Felix Palma, Poloffs discussed
implementation of the permanent observer mission. Palma said
installation of the office was taking more time than
anticipated. All sides have agreed that bringing in a
pre-fabricated structure will be necessary due to lack of
suitable infrastructure and facilities in the border area.
Palma estimates the observer mission will be operational by
mid-April, but cautioned that the date could slip if a
suitable director and assistant cannot be found. Palma said
the candidate pool was somewhat limited since the director
would need to be someone senior enough to command respect,
but willing to live in the relatively remote border area.
Palma also said the director would probably have to be from
South America. He expects that the observer mission will
eventually be made up of 4 - 5 people.