SAN JUAN – Belizeans have voted in a referendum to take the border dispute with Guatemala to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Belizean election officials said Thursday.
A total of 53,388 votes were cast in favor of taking the case to the ICJ, while 43,029 votes were cast against having the ICJ rule on the long-running border dispute, Belizean chief elections officer Josephine Tamai said in a video.
Some 65.05 percent of the 148,000 voters eligible to cast ballots turned out for the referendum, Tamai said.
Guatemala has claimed about half of Belize, formerly known as British Honduras, since 1821.
In 1991, however, Guatemala recognized the independence of Belize, a member of the Caribbean Community (Caricom).
Prime Minister Dean Barrow’s government supported the “Yes” vote, while opposition leader John Briceño had urged voters to cast “No” votes.
Political analysts said the referendum’s outcome reflected national support for Barrow and was a personal victory for the PM.
Barrow reminded Belizeans that all of the Central American country’s prime ministers, including the father of the nation, George Price, had supported having the ICJ rule on the border dispute with Guatemala.
On April 15, 2018, Guatemala had a referendum on taking the border dispute with the former British colony, which gained its independence from London on Sept. 21, 1981, to the World Court.
In the Guatemalan referendum, the “Yes” vote garnered the support of more than 95 percent of voters, but the turnout was less than 25 percent.