New talks on independent Belize

Guatemala, Britain, and Belize begin a new round of talks this week about the future of Belize, Britain's one remaining colony in the American mainland. Monitor Latin America correspondent James Nelson Goodsell writes that the Guatemalan Foreign Ministry is extremely enthusiastic about the new talks, which will get under way in New York City Feb. 5.

There is strong feeling in Guatemala City that the British are ready to drop their longstanding plan to set the Central American colony free without a vote of the Belizeans. Guatemala has long claimed the territory, which is rich in wood and other products -- and potentially rich in oil. The Belizeans have indicated their own desire for independence from both Britain and Guatemala, but it has never been put to formal vote.

Dispute over the colony has gone on for a long time, but it now appears that a solution involving an economic and political link with Guatemala is possible -- but still Britain wants assurances that the colony, once independent, will remain free to choose its own course. The 125,000 Belizeans, largely descendants of African slaves, with some mixture of Spanish-speaking Guatemalans , are thought to be no match for the 5 million or so people of Guatemala in any future e ncounter.

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