Belize is a member state of the East Caribbean Federation, located on the Caribbean coast of northern Central America. It shares a border with Guatemala to the south, Mexico to the west and Yucatan to the north. Its closest neighbours in the ECF are the Cayman Islands, located over 500 km to the east. The nation is 22,966 sq km in size, and hosts a population of over three hundred thousand citizens. Its capital is located at Belmopan.
- 1 History
- 2 Politics
- 3 Districts
- 4 Economy
- 5 Military
- 6 Culture
- 7 See Also
Before Doomsday, Belize was a recently independent nation, having only gained independence two years prior, in late 1981. The governing PUP party was falling apart, steadily losing support from the public. Their disastrous policy of seeking independence as the only option for Belizean future, though a symbolic victory, led to a number of economic failures that drew fire from the public. Prime Minister Price and his party were hanging on by a single thread when the bombs fell.
Chaos set in during the immediate wake of September 25, 1983. The collapse of North American investors set off an economic panic in Belize as the chain of command in the majority of primary industries disappeared overnight. Without a world-wide market to tap into, the highly dependent Belizean energy market began to fall into a complete catastrophe, with prices rising so quickly you could watch them change from minute to minute.
Confidence in the government, already low, fell through the earth. Among the public, there were even some discontented rumblings that the Belizean government was responsible for Doomsday. The majority of citizens rejected this as a ridiculous claim, but it accurately captured the discontent present in the nation. There was great fear that nearby Guatemala, now unfettered by international sanctions and pressure, would annex Belize.
The next few years were a dark time in Belize. PM Price and the House of Representatives instituted a state of emergency in Belize, declaring martial law. Elections were suspended in the interest of stability. In contrast with the positions of his party, there were large cutbacks in social programs from 1983 to 1985. The government, faced with what looked to be a total collapse of any sort of sustainable budget, attempted to preserve some semblance of the status quo by pushing forward severe cuts across the board. Agricultural food sources were granted highly favourable subsidies and conditions to produce domestic self-sufficiency in the nation.
The public, deprived of a number of vital services and prevented from exercising their democratic rights, grew gradually more and more discontented over the years. A riot broke out in Belize City in October 1984 over unpopular social policies. In the ensuing scuffle, one police officer and three young men were killed. The reaction from both sides was immediate and harsh. The government pushed a strong crackdown on dissent, with PM Price infamously calling for “Christian principles, christian strength and decorum...from the people of Belize.” At the same time, riots erupted all across the nation.
Meanwhile, stirrings in Guatemala occasionally spilled over the border, each time sparking fears of annexation anew. Under great stress and fearing for their own safety, PM Price and his government began to conflate reports of rioting with reports of Guatemalan aggression. Rather than easing back, the government pushed even harder, hoping to project strength in the face of foreign intimidation.
On 12 July 1986, after over two years of increasing government crackdown and food rationing, the pressure inside Belize hit a breaking point. A protest movement, founded by a native-born politician from Belize City named Philip Stanley Goldson, arose and took to the streets, stopping traffic. A former lawmaker and a supporter of the United Democratic Party, Goldson had a vested interest in ending the stranglehold Price and PUP held on the country's government.
He called for an immediate reinstatement of popular elections, a call which met with a great deal of support from a populace weary with a government dedicated to holding power and agitating Guatemala. The government resisted initially, but protests grew daily. In August, workers in Belize City organized a three-day general strike, effectively shutting down the largest city in the country. Faced with a situation that had the potential to quickly deteroriate, the government conceded. An expedited general election was called, to be held on 21 September 1986.
Most prominently, however, Prime Minister Price did not resign his position. He insisted that the election would already cause enough chaos in Belize, and that he could not conscience 'dismembering' the government at the same time. This poor political choice, coupled with the disastrous leadership displayed by the PUP during Doomsday, made the result of the 1986 General Election a forgone conclusion.
The United Democratic Party, led by Manuel Esquivel, won in a landslide victory over the PUP, which lost seven of its thirteen seats in the House of Representatives. The United Democratic Party ended the day with a majority of twenty seats, ideologically supported by the Christian Conservative Party, a newly formed party which gained two seats in the election.
Following his victory, PM Esquivel appointed Philip Goldman as his minister of Social Services in recognition of his great talent and achievement in bringing down the PUP government. What followed for the next decade was a long period of reconstruction and stabilization for the nation. Esquivel helped to negotiate a number of key proposals during his extensive time as Prime Minister of Belize. He negotiated with the British military remnant, forming a temporary Belizean Defense Force with them at the core, until such a time that it became feasible for them to return to the United Kingdom if they desired.
He also embarked on a quest to establish a stable energy-trade with nearby nations, something that met with only limited success. Due to the unstable conditions in Central America, no real trade could be established. The government of Belize attempted to unearth domestic sources of energy as well, but found only trace amounts of oil in minor deposits, not enough to stabilize the energy sector. It wasn't until 1988 that Belize managed to secure a trade agreement for energy resources with the ECF.
The UDP government also lowered agricultural subsidies and increased deregulation in the agricultural and forestry sectors, believing that too much interference would stifle those industries. Modest economic growth resulted from this, though the government's deficit continued to grow as it attempted to maintain and grow a powerful military on top of economic redevelopment.
The East Caribbean Federation
In 1992, the end of the Guatemalan Civil War and the election of a socialist to the position of Guatemalan President caused a crisis for the struggling nation of Belize. While it could no longer afford to maintain a high-profile military in the face of a mountain of debt, the need for protection had never been greater. After much deliberation, a request for to establish a joint military base on the Guatemalan border was sent to the East Caribbean Federation, Belize's long-time trading partner and ally.
The ECF responded that it would not dispatch troops outside of its sovereign territory, nor was it willing to provoke Guatemala with military action for the sake of another nation. The cautiously worded missive from the Federation was carefully considered, until another possibility occurred to the UDP government; if Belize were part of the ECF's sovereign territory, it would be obligated to protect it militarily. The Federation ambassador confirmed that, in such a hypothetical situation, that would be the case.
The issue was much debated in the House of Representatives, and after negotiations with the ECF, was twice put to a referendum, both times receiving a slim majority vote of 'yes' to unity. On 1 May 1993, The UDP government signed the Treaty of Belize City with the ECF, officially joining the East Caribbean Federation as a free state. The treaty required the establishment of a ECDF base in Belize, and work began in Otoxha within the month. A new flag was drafted to celebrate their new association.
By early 1994, the Otoxha Military Base was complete, and an ECDF detachment of 1,000 men took up residence at the base, with an eventual force of 3,500 soldiers planned to arrive over the next few years. In 1996, an expansive oil field was discovered near the town of Spanish Lookout. A pipeline was constructed to Belize City, allowing the state to establish a prosperous oil trade. This development led to an economic boom in Belize, as well as a complete restructuring of the energy sector due to the influx of readily available crude.
As the largest inroads into Central America for trade, a great deal of business and trade corporations began to invest in real estate along the Belizean coast, particularly in the north. Mexico and Honduras were the primary trading partners for Belize-based businesses, using land routes in the north and sea lanes in the south to move products in the Western Caribbean market, far removed from the Federation's primary markets.
This expansion, however, was tempered by fears of military confrontation with Guatemala. Belize's membership in the East Caribbean Federation infuriated the socialist nation, which saw the admission of Belize into the federation of a breach of Guatemala's sovereign rights to territory. Diplomats failed to reach any meaningful solution, and there was a fifteen day troop stand-off from 17 September 1998 to 2 October 1998, with troops from the Otoxha Military Base engaging in a set of tactical training exercises less than ten km from the border.
Guatemalan troops were massed in force on the other side of the border, but the exercises concluded without accident and both sides backed down. It is considered the closest that the East Caribbean Federation and Guatemala have ever been to war, and relations, though icy, became more cordial soon after the affair.
Belize is a parliamentary democracy and a member state of the East Caribbean Federation. As a former British Colony, the power of the former monarch is vested in the office of Governor General, which is primarily a ceremonial position that acts on the advice of the Prime Minister and the National Assembly.It has thirty-four elected members of their parliament, called the House of Representatives, each representing approximately 10,000 citizens. A twelve-person senate makes up the other half of their National Assembly. The government is made up of three seated political parties: the conservative United Democratic Party, the moderate Belize Workers' Party, and the environmental leftist Belize Preservation Party. The American Interest Party, who advocate for American citizens and refugees in the ECF, have a minor presence, though no seats.
The government is currently a majority formed by the BWP, which holds seventeen seats in Parliament. The UDP makes up the official opposition, holding thirteen seats in parliament. The BPP holds four seats. The Prime Minister is currently Said Musa, while the opposition is led by Dean Barrow. The Governor General is Manuel Esquivel.
Belize is divided into seven districts.
The northernmost district of Belize. The Corozal district was historically a relatively unimportant region, being entirely dependent on the sugar industry. Though still prominent, there has been some diversification in the Corozal economy since Doomsday, leading to the development of potato, onion, and soya crops. Today, agriculture makes up roughly 70% of the economy of Corozal district.
The rest of the economy is made up of a combination of the tourism industry, focused on the Mayan ruins discovered around Corozal Town, and a steady glowing contraband market of smuggling goods into the nearby Republic of the Yucatan, a Mexican break-away state. The district capital is Corozal Town, and the region has a population of about 32,000.
Orange Walk District
One of the the four northern districts and one of only two landlocked districts. Orange Walk Town has historically been a region dominated by the logging industry, until it was supplanted by the Belize-wide sugar industry. Today, like much of Belize, the region is dominated by agriculture, but is making serious efforts to diversify its economy. Sugar-cane is still a major player, but has been substantially reduced in favour of more diverse industries.
Rum manufacturing is a growing industry, and cash crops like cotton are making a small but important contribution to the economy. In 1996, Federation University was founded in Orange Walk Town, and by 2010 had become the most prestigious university in Belize. Orange Walk Town, the district capital, has grown into a bustling university town since its foundation. The region has a population of roughly 45,000.
One of the four northern districts, and historically the capital district of Belize. Historically, it was the first region in the country to be settled by Europeans. It is, like many regions of Belize, predominantly agricultural. The district capital, Belize City, is the former national capital and the centre of international trade and finance in Belize. Many companies base their headquarters there.
Goods from all over the country and beyond are traded in Belize City market places, and the majority of the district's population is found within the boundaries of the district capital. This district also holds Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport, the busiest airport in the country. The region has a population of roughly 83,000.
White Sands District
One of the four northern districts, and the only off-shore district in Belize. Created in 1991, it consists of off-shore islands of the Ambergris Group, Caye Caulker, the Turneffe Islands, Lighthouse Reef, and Glover's Reef. Historically, the islands of the White Sands District have been a part of the Belize District. After Doomsday, emergency agricultural procedures saw the islands dedicated extensively to the growth of coconut trees, both for food and the production of bio-fuel.
The tourism industry expanded almost as rapidly, with the white sand beaches of the islands attracting tourists from the rest of the East Caribbean Federation after 1992. Today, it has the fastest growing economy in Belize, made up almost exclusively of a combination of coconut cultivation and tourism. The district capital is at San Pedro Town on Ambergris Caye, and the region has a population of roughly 21,000.
One of three southern districts and one of only two land-locked districts in Belize. It is also the current capital district of Belize. It houses the capital city of Belmopan, and was, until recent years, a primarily agricultural district. It is dedicated primarily to the cultivation of citrus and bananas along the slopes of the Maya Mountains.
An expansive oil field was found near the town of Spanish Lookout in 1996, and the development of that field has contributed a huge economic boon to the economy of Cayo District and to Belize as a whole ever since. This district is also home to an ECF military base at San Jose Succotz, housing 2,500 troops. The district capital is Belmopan, and the district has a population of about 76,000.
Stann Creek District
One of the three southern districts of Belize. Stann Creek District is, like the rest of Belize, a predominantly agricultural area, with mountain-side plants such as citrus, banana, and coffee being grown along the slopes of the Maya Mountains. Towards the coast is the district capital of Dangriga, formerly known as Stann Creek Town. Dangriga is considered the cultural capital of Belize, and is home to a Garifuna cultural revival. The population of the region is roughly 34,000.
The southernmost district of Belize. Toledo District relies almost entirely on a highly diversified agricultural. World-renknowned chocolate is grown and produced in Toledo. Maize, coffee, chili, beans, citrus, and a wide variety of other crops are grown in Toledo, and it is sometimes considered the 'meal-plate' of Belize. Its district capital is Punta Gorda, and it has a population of about 40,000.
The economy of Belize is a primarily agricultural one, characterized by national self-sufficiency. The economy is comprised of 54.7% primary sector, 23.2% secondary sector, and 22.1% tertiary sector. Agriculture is the single largest industry in Belize, making up 33.0% of the entire economy.
The lion's share of the Belizean economy is in the primary sector. Agriculture is a major part of the primary sector, making up 39.7% of the economy. A wide variety of crops are cultivated in Belize. Sugar, citrus, banana, coconut, potato, soya, cotton, maize, coffee, cocoa, and chili are the most prominent crops. It is a stated goal of Belize to obtain complete agricultural self-sufficiency.
The oil industry, once non-existent, now makes up a large part of the primary sector, at about 36.1% of the economy. The exploitation of the Spanish Lookout field has led to a much higher degree of energy self-sufficiency in Belize, as well as provided a valuable export commodity.
Forestry and fishing make up the rest of the primary sector, at 12.7% and 11.5% of the economy, respectively. Both industries have declined in recent years, especially in the face of new economic protections enacted by the government, and have been mostly supplanted by the growing oil industry.
Developments in the secondary sector are relatively recent, spurred on primarily by the need for increased self-sufficiency following Doomsday. The major part of the secondary sector is the rum industry, which makes up 41.9% of the secondary sector. Due to the abundant sugarcane cultivation in Belize, there was ample resource for rum manufacturing, and a few ambitious start-ups created one of the most profitable industries in Belize today.
After the discovery of oil in Spanish Lookout and the subsequent exploitation of the field, a demand arose for the domestic refinement of Belizean crude. Private ventures stepped in to fill the demand, in partnership with the government, and established a budding industry. Today, it accounts for 35.8% of the secondary sector.
Clothing manufacture, an industry that existed in Belize even before Doomsday, boomed with the introduction of a prominent domestic cotton industry. Work clothes and simple wear are the primary products. Today, it makes up roughly 22.3% of the secondary sector.
The tertiary sector has only begun to develop since 1992, when Belize joined the East Caribbean Federation. It consists of primarily tourism and ecotourism, which occurs all across the country, though the centre of tourism in Belize is the White Sands District.
Belize plays host to a large number of East Caribbean Defence Forces, but has no formal military of its own, like other ECF states. There are three military bases located throughout the country, all of them along the Guatemalan border. There is one located in the region of San Jose Succotz, another near Barranco, and a third near Otoxha. On average, roughly eight thousand ECDF troops are stationed in Belize at any one time.
Belizean culture is largely a mishmash of the other cultures that make up its diverse population. German Mennonites, Kriol, and Mestizo are some of the major groups forming Belizean culture. Courtesy is one of the highest tenets of their culture, with even strangers greeting each other on the street. There is still some beliefs in shamanistic traditions, and traditional healing remedies are still well-respected in the nation. Belizeans also take great joy in celebration, and have been known to host colourful parties for weddings, birthdays, and any other occasion they can provide an excuse for.