Belizean /beuh lee"zee euhn/, adj., n.
/beuh leez"/, n.
1. Formerly, British Honduras. a parliamentary democracy in N Central America: a former British crown colony; gained independence 1981. 224,663; 8867 sq. mi. (22,966 sq. km). Cap.: Belmopan.
2. Also called Belize City. a seaport in and the main city of Belize. 50,000.
3. a river flowing NE through Belize to the Gulf of Honduras. 180 mi. (290 km) long.

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Introduction Belize -
Background: Territorial disputes between the UK and Guatemala delayed the independence of Belize (formerly British Honduras) until 1981. Guatemala refused to recognize the new nation until 1992. Tourism has become the mainstay of the economy. The country remains plagued by high unemployment, growing involvement in the South American drug trade, and increased urban crime. Geography Belize
Location: Middle America, bordering the Caribbean Sea, between Guatemala and Mexico
Geographic coordinates: 17 15 N, 88 45 W
Map references: Central America and the Caribbean
Area: total: 22,966 sq km water: 160 sq km land: 22,806 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly smaller than Massachusetts
Land boundaries: total: 516 km border countries: Guatemala 266 km, Mexico 250 km
Coastline: 386 km
Maritime claims: exclusive economic zone: 200 NM territorial sea: 12 NM in the north, 3 NM in the south; note - from the mouth of the Sarstoon River to Ranguana Cay, Belize's territorial sea is 3 NM; according to Belize's Maritime Areas Act, 1992, the purpose of this limitation is to provide a framework for the negotiation of a definitive agreement on territorial differences with Guatemala
Climate: tropical; very hot and humid; rainy season (May to November); dry season (February to May)
Terrain: flat, swampy coastal plain; low mountains in south
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m highest point: Victoria Peak 1,160 m
Natural resources: arable land potential, timber, fish, hydropower
Land use: arable land: 2.81% permanent crops: 1.1% other: 96.1% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land: 30 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards: frequent, devastating hurricanes (June to November) and coastal flooding (especially in south) Environment - current issues: deforestation; water pollution from sewage, industrial effluents, agricultural runoff; solid and sewage waste disposal Environment - international party to: Biodiversity, Climate
agreements: Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note: only country in Central America without a coastline on the North Pacific Ocean People Belize -
Population: 262,999 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 41.6% (male 55,716; female 53,581) 15-64 years: 54.9% (male 73,068; female 71,368) 65 years and over: 3.5% (male 4,511; female 4,755) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.65% (2002 est.)
Birth rate: 31.08 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate: 4.6 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 0.95 male(s)/ female total population: 1.03 male(s)/ female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 24.31 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.) Life expectancy at birth: total population: 71.46 years female: 73.87 years (2002 est.) male: 69.17 years
Total fertility rate: 3.96 children born/woman (2002 est.) HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 2.01% (1999 est.) HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/ 2,400 (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: 170 (1999 est.)
Nationality: noun: Belizean(s) adjective: Belizean
Ethnic groups: mestizo 48.7%, Creole 24.9%, Maya 10.6%, Garifuna 6.1%, other 9.7%
Religions: Roman Catholic 49.6%, Protestant 27% (Anglican 5.3%, Methodist 3.5%, Mennonite 4.1%, Seventh-Day Adventist 5.2%, Pentecostal 7.4%, Jehovah's Witnesses 1.5%), none 9.4%, other 14% (2000)
Languages: English (official), Spanish, Mayan, Garifuna (Carib), Creole
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write total population: 70.3% male: 70.3% female: 70.3% (1991 est.) note: other sources list the literacy rate as high as 75% Government Belize -
Country name: conventional long form: none conventional short form: Belize former: British Honduras
Government type: parliamentary democracy
Capital: Belmopan Administrative divisions: 6 districts; Belize, Cayo, Corozal, Orange Walk, Stann Creek, Toledo
Independence: 21 September 1981 (from UK)
National holiday: Independence Day, 21 September (1981)
Constitution: 21 September 1981
Legal system: English law
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952), represented by Governor General Sir Colville YOUNG, Sr. (since 17 November 1993) head of government: Prime Minister Said Wilbert MUSA (since 27 August 1998); Deputy Prime Minister John BRICENO (since 1 September 1998) cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister elections: none; the monarch is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch; governor general appoints the member of the House of Representatives who is leader of the majority party to be prime minister
Legislative branch: bicameral National Assembly consists of the Senate (12 members appointed by the governor general - six on the advice of the prime minister, three on the advice of the leader of the opposition, and one each on the advice of the Belize Council of Churches and Evangelical Association of Churches, the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Belize Better Business Bureau, and the National Trade Union Congress and the Civil Society Steering Committee; members are appointed for five-year terms) and the House of Representatives (29 seats; members are elected by direct popular vote to serve five-year terms) elections: House of Representatives - last held 27 August 1998 (next to be held by NA August 2003) election results: percent of vote by party - PUP 59.2%, UDP 40.8%; seats by party - PUP 26, UDP 3
Judicial branch: Supreme Court (the chief justice is appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister) Political parties and leaders: People's United Party or PUP [Said MUSA]; United Democratic Party or UDP [Dean BARROW, party leader; Douglas SINGH, party chairman] Political pressure groups and Society for the Promotion of
leaders: Education and Research or SPEAR [Diane HAYLOCK]; United Worker's Front International organization ACP, C, Caricom, CDB, ECLAC, FAO, G-
participation: 77, IADB, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ITU, LAES, NAM, OAS, OPANAL, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Lisa M. SHOMAN consulate(s) general: Los Angeles FAX: [1] (202) 332-6888 telephone: [1] (202) 332-9636 chancery: 2535 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008 Diplomatic representation from the chief of mission: Ambassador Russell
US: F. FREEMAN embassy: 29 Gabourel Lane and Hutson Street, Belize City mailing address: P. O. Box 286, Unit 7401, APO AA 34025 telephone: [501] (2) 77161 FAX: [501] (2) 30802
Flag description: blue with a narrow red stripe along the top and the bottom edges; centered is a large white disk bearing the coat of arms; the coat of arms features a shield flanked by two workers in front of a mahogany tree with the related motto SUB UMBRA FLOREO (I Flourish in the Shade) on a scroll at the bottom, all encircled by a green garland Economy Belize
Economy - overview: The small, essentially private enterprise economy is based primarily on agriculture, agro-based industry, and merchandising, with tourism and construction assuming greater importance. Sugar, the chief crop, accounts for nearly half of exports, while the banana industry is the country's largest employer. The government's expansionary monetary and fiscal policies, initiated in September 1998, led to GDP growth of 6.4% in 1999 and 10.5% in 2000. Growth decelerated in 2001 to 3% due to the global slowdown and severe hurricane damage to agriculture, fishing, and tourism. Major concerns continue to be the rapidly expanding trade deficit and foreign debt. A key short-term objective remains the reduction of poverty with the help of international donors.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $830 million (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 3% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $3,250 (2001 est.) GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 18% industry: 24% services: 58% (2001 est.) Population below poverty line: 33% (1999 est.) Household income or consumption by lowest 10%: NA%
percentage share: highest 10%: NA% Inflation rate (consumer prices): 1.7% (2001 est.)
Labor force: 90,000 note: shortage of skilled labor and all types of technical personnel (1997 est.) Labor force - by occupation: agriculture 27%, industry 18%, services 55% (2001 est.)
Unemployment rate: 11.5% (2000)
Budget: revenues: $186 million expenditures: $253 million, including capital expenditures of $NA (2000 est.)
Industries: garment production, food processing, tourism, construction Industrial production growth rate: 4.6% (1999) Electricity - production: 192 million kWh (2000) Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 58.33% hydro: 41.67% other: 0% (2000) nuclear: 0% Electricity - consumption: 178.56 million kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products: bananas, coca, citrus, sugarcane; lumber; fish, cultured shrimp
Exports: $239.6 million (f.o.b., 2001 est.)
Exports - commodities: sugar, bananas, citrus, clothing, fish products, molasses, wood
Exports - partners: EU 45% (UK 33%), US 42%, Caricom 6%, Canada 1% (1999)
Imports: $505 million (c.i.f., 2001 est.)
Imports - commodities: machinery and transportation equipment, manufactured goods; food, beverages, tobacco; fuels, chemicals, pharmaceuticals
Imports - partners: US 51%, Mexico 12%, Central America 5%, UK 4% (1999)
Debt - external: $500 million (2000 est.) Economic aid - recipient: $NA
Currency: Belizean dollar (BZD)
Currency code: BZD
Exchange rates: Belizean dollars per US dollar - 2.0000 (fixed rate pegged to the US dollar)
Fiscal year: 1 April - 31 March Communications Belize - Telephones - main lines in use: 31,000 (1997) Telephones - mobile cellular: 3,023 (1997)
Telephone system: general assessment: above-average system domestic: trunk network depends primarily on microwave radio relay international: satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) Radio broadcast stations: AM 1, FM 12, shortwave 0 (1998)
Radios: 133,000 (1997) Television broadcast stations: 2 (1997)
Televisions: 41,000 (1997)
Internet country code: .bz Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 2 (2000)
Internet users: 15,000 (2000) Transportation Belize -
Railways: 0 km
Highways: total: 2,880 km paved: 490 km unpaved: 2,390 km (1998 est.)
Waterways: 825 km (river network used by shallow-draft craft; seasonally navigable)
Ports and harbors: Belize City, Big Creek, Corozol, Punta Gorda
Merchant marine: total: 315 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 1,240,551 GRT/1,761,168 DWT ships by type: bulk 26, cargo 204, chemical tanker 6, combination ore/ oil 1, container 12, passenger/cargo 1, petroleum tanker 39, refrigerated cargo 15, roll on/roll off 8, short- sea passenger 1, specialized tanker 1, vehicle carrier 1 note: includes some foreign-owned ships registered here as a flag of convenience: Albania 2, Belgium 3, British Virgin Islands 6, Cambodia 1, China 38, Cyprus 1, Ecuador 1, Egypt 1, Equatorial Guinea 1, Eritrea 1, Estonia 7, Germany 3, Greece 4, Grenada 1, Honduras 1, Hong Kong 20, Indonesia 6, Italy 2, Japan 4, Jordan 1, Lebanon 1, Liberia 5, Malaysia 3, Malta 2, Man, Isle of 1, Marshall Islands 13, Mexico 1, Netherlands 1, Nigeria 1, Panama 12, Philippines 4, Portugal 1, Romania 1, Russia 3, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 3, Saudi Arabia 1, Singapore 22, South Korea 10, Spain 4, Switzerland 1, Taiwan 1, Thailand 6, Tunisia 1, Turkey 1, Ukraine 3, United Arab Emirates 9, United Kingdom 2, United States 4, Virgin Islands (UK) 6, Yemen 1 (2002 est.)
Airports: 44 (2001) Airports - with paved runways: total: 4 1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 914 to 1,523 m: 1 under 914 m: 2 (2001) Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 40 2,438 to 3,047 m: 1 914 to 1,523 m: 10 under 914 m: 29 (2001) Military Belize -
Military branches: Belize Defense Force (includes Army, Maritime Wing, Air Wing, and Volunteer Guard) Military manpower - military age: 18 years of age (2002 est.) Military manpower - availability: males age 15-49: 64,909 (2002 est.) Military manpower - fit for military males age 15-49: 38,472 (2002 est.)
service: Military manpower - reaching males: 2,847 (2002 est.)
military age annually: Military expenditures - dollar $7.7 million (FY00/01)
figure: Military expenditures - percent of 1.87% (FY00/01)
GDP: Transnational Issues Belize - Disputes - international: the "Line of Adjacency" established in 2000 as an agreed limit to check squatters settling in Belize, remains in place while the Organization of American States (OAS) assists states to resolve Guatemalan territorial claims in Belize and Guatemalan maritime access to the Caribbean Sea; Honduras claims the Sapodilla Cays off the coast of Belize
Illicit drugs: major transshipment point for cocaine; small-scale illicit producer of cannabis for the international drug trade; minor money-laundering center

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Spanish Belice formerly (1840–1973) British Honduras

Country, Central America.

Area: 8,867 sq mi (22,965 sq km). Population (2002 est.): 251,000. Capital: Belmopan. Much of the population is racially mixed: Creoles of mixed African and European ancestry, Maya Indians, Mayan-European mestizos, and Garifuna. Languages: English (official), Creole, Spanish. Religions: Roman Catholicism, Methodism, Anglicanism. Currency: Belize dollar. The country is bounded to the north by Mexico, to the east by the Caribbean Sea, and to the west and south by Guatemala. Belize is a land of mountains, swamps, and tropical jungles. The northern half consists of swampy lowlands drained by the Belize and Hondo rivers; the latter forms the boundary with Mexico. The southern half is more mountainous and contains the country's highest point, Victoria Peak (3,681 ft [1,122 m]). Off the coast lies Belize Barrier Reef, the world's second largest barrier reef. Belize is relatively prosperous and has a developing free-market economy with some government participation. It is a constitutional monarchy with two legislative houses; its head of state is the British monarch represented by a governor-general, and the head of government is the prime minister. The area was inhabited by the Maya (с 300 BC–AD 900); the ruins of their ceremonial centres, including Caracol and Xunantunich, can still be seen. The Spanish claimed sovereignty from the 16th century but never tried to settle Belize, though they regarded the British who did as interlopers. British loggers arrived in the mid-17th century; Spanish opposition was finally overcome in 1798. When settlers began to penetrate the interior, they met with Indian resistance. In 1862 British Honduras became a crown colony, but an unfulfilled provision of an 1859 British-Guatemalan treaty led Guatemala to claim the territory. The situation had not been resolved when Belize was granted its independence in 1981. A British force, stationed there to ensure the new country's security, was withdrawn after Guatemala officially recognized the territory's independence in 1991.

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▪ 2009

22,965 sq km (8,867 sq mi)
(2008 est.): 323,000
Chief of state:
Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General Sir Colville Young
Head of government:
Prime Ministers Said Musa and, from February 8, Dean Barrow

      On Feb. 7, 2008, the opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) claimed victory in the Belize general elections, bringing to an end the 10-year administration of the People's United Party (PUP). With an overwhelming majority in the National Assembly, the UDP legislated constitutional amendments to curb what it referred to as the excesses of the PUP. In the realm of foreign policy, however, the new government continued to retain close ties with friendly states, notably Taiwan, which continued to provide much-needed financial and technical assistance. Although petroleum exports to the U.S. outpaced tourism and agriculture as the primary source of foreign exchange, Belize's vulnerability to world economic shocks led during the first half of 2008 to a record increase (6.9%) in the consumer price index. Prices for staples increased substantially: wheat flour (51.5%), gasoline (7.8%), and diesel fuel (35.4%). In June Tropical Depression Arthur brought historic flooding to the mid-south of the country, with estimated damages of at least $60 million, excluding the cost of road infrastructure.

      Belizeans converged in the thousands in January for the state funeral of 47-year-old musician Andy Palacio (Palacio, Andy Vivien ). His meteoric rise to the pinnacle of world music had catapulted Belize to international prominence.

Joseph O. Palacio

▪ 2008

22,965 sq km (8,867 sq mi)
(2007 est.): 306,000
Chief of state:
Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General Sir Colville Young
Head of government:
Prime Minister Said Musa

      The government of Belize took a bold step in 2007 to tackle the unsustainable debt burden that had shackled Belmopan to its creditors during the previous few years. Most of the creditors agreed to exchange their claims for new bonds that would mature in 2029. The bonds, with a face value of $546.8 million, would amortize starting in 2019. This relief in fiscal restructuring received an additional boost when the newly formed Statistical Institute of Belize reported that the country's economic growth for the first six months of 2007 was 4.4%. The emerging petroleum industry, the services sector, and the manufacturing industry (primarily sugar and beverages) were responsible for the growth. Unfortunately, the devastation inflicted in August by Hurricane Dean in the northern part of the country resulted in an estimated $98.6 million loss, about one-third of the government revenues estimated for the April 2007–March 2008 period.

      The September visit of UNESCO Director General Koichiro Matsuura signaled the significance of Belize's participation in that world body. During his stay he designated Belizean singer, composer, and cultural icon Andy Palacio UNESCO Artist for Peace, a rare award given to only a select few who have demonstrated a capacity to build peace through dialogue across world cultures.

Joseph O. Palacio

▪ 2007

22,965 sq km (8,867 sq mi)
(2006 est.): 301,000
Chief of state:
Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General Sir Colville Young
Head of government:
Prime Minister Said Musa

      Though the unrelenting economic and fiscal problems that had plagued Belize in recent years continued, there were two reasons for hope in 2006: the government took action on reforming the public sector, and petroleum was discovered in commercial quantities. Independent reviews on financial management within major components of the public sector were carried out during the year. The action attracted much public attention, especially after the findings were presented to the director of public prosecution, whose scrutiny of the reports could lead to the prosecution of senior-level public officers. News in February of the discovery of petroleum in commercial quantities lifted the spirits of all Belizeans considerably, raising hopes that there might be an answer to their unsettling economic times. A small firm, Belize Natural Energy Ltd., struck oil and produced an average of 2,000 bbl a day of low-sulfur crude. Though that figure was far less than the 5,000 bbl used daily by the country, there were undeveloped reserves amounting to roughly 56 million bbl. Without a refinery of its own, Belize began exporting the crude to the U.S.

      On September 21 Belizeans celebrated the 25th anniversary of political independence from Great Britain with massive celebrations that extended to all parts of the country.

Joseph O. Palacio

▪ 2006

22,965 sq km (8,867 sq mi)
(2005 est.): 291,000
Chief of state:
Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General Sir Colville Young
Head of government:
Prime Minister Said Musa

      Concern about grave failures in government management of Belize's finances, which had been a primary concern in 2004, continued with full force in 2005. During the first half of the year, the government entered into a historic agreement with social partners—made up of members of labour unions, the private sector, and churches—to provide greater transparency in its management of public finances. Accusing the government of duplicity in the implementation of this agreement, however, the labour unions mounted unprecedented strikes that paralyzed the country for more than a week in late April. Telephone company employees and teachers were among the most visible groups to strike. Also contributing to the unrest among Belizeans during the year were crippling increases in the cost of fuel, a spike in criminal activity, and dropping prices for sugar and bananas, two of the country's chief exports.

      Despite the civil unrest, some notable cultural gains were witnessed in Belize in 2005. Aided by support from volunteers and the National Institute of Culture and History (NICH), several groups promoted a revival of interest in poetry, music, dance, and folklore. A long-awaited new national museum, located in Belmopan and administered by the NICH, was nearing completion.

Joseph O. Palacio

▪ 2005

22,965 sq km (8,867 sq mi)
(2004 est.): 283,000
Chief of state:
Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General Sir Colville Young
Head of government:
Prime Minister Said Musa

      The primary concern in Belize in 2004 was the heightened public debt and the manner in which the government attempted to respond to it. In an effort to meet repayment on debt owed to commercial banks, the government attempted to float a bond of $225 million on the international market. It was the first time that the government had attempted such a large bailout, and the action proved unsuccessful. The bond, together with alleged irregularities by the government in the use of Social Security funds, generated frenzied public concern, becoming so intense that seven ministers—more than half of the prime minister's cabinet—resigned their positions in August. After a few days, however, they renounced their resignations and returned to the cabinet. It was the first time in recent memory that a financial matter had galvanized interest across all sectors of the public and overcome the partisan allegiance that normally characterized Belizean public affairs.

      Notwithstanding the crisis in public finance, there were praiseworthy efforts by the government to reinforce the social infrastructure. The long-awaited reopening of the Bliss Centre for the Performing Arts in Belize City ushered in a revival of music, theatre, and dance for people in all age groups, including schoolchildren.

Joseph O. Palacio

▪ 2004

22,965 sq km (8,867 sq mi)
(2003 est.): 269,000
Chief of state:
Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General Colville Young
Head of government:
Prime Minister Said Musa

      In March 2003 the People's United Party (PUP) was reelected as head of Belize's national government, and it also captured a majority in the municipal elections. The PUP's resounding victory was attributed to the fact that it had increased jobs and kept inflation down. Continued economic growth came from increases in production in citrus, sugar, and bananas, together with expansion in the nontraditional industries of shrimp farming, tourism, and papaya and soybean production.

      The government faced a number of challenges, however. The rate of violent crime involving firearms reached alarming levels, and the ability of the police and the justice system to respond was hampered by a shortage of technical and human resources. The incidence rate of HIV/AIDS in Belize was the highest in Central America and sixth in the Caribbean. An experimental National Health Insurance system designed to meet health care costs in parts of Belize City ended, and expectations that it would be extended to other parts of the country were thus deflated.

      The government also faced a continued campaign by environmentalists to thwart its efforts to proceed with the construction of the Chalillo Dam. The case was awaiting appeal in the Privy Council in the U.K.; a decision was due in December. The U.S., Belize's largest trade partner, placed a number of restrictions on Belize aimed at thwarting terrorism and regional drug trafficking.

Joseph O. Palacio

▪ 2003

22,965 sq km (8,867 sq mi)
(2002 est.): 251,000
Chief of state:
Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General Colville Young
Head of government:
Prime Minister Said Musa

      In early 2002 Belize was still reeling from the tremendous devastation caused by Hurricane Iris, which had struck the southern third of the country in October 2001. The damages—which were estimated at more than $150 million—included the substantial devastation of the banana industry, Belize's fifth largest source of exports. Inevitably, the unexpected outlay toward reconstruction created a dent in the national economy and augmented the public debt, which climbed to almost $1 billion, or a little under 59% of the country's gross domestic product.

      In response to a rise in violent crimes, the government embarked on an ambitious initiative to work on youth development programs. In a rare demonstration of bipartisan consensus, the National Assembly passed a constitutional amendment that would allow all appeals on capital offenses to be settled by the national Appeals Court rather than the British Privy Council.

      A major breakthrough toward settling the more-than-century-old territorial dispute between Belize and Guatemala occurred during the year. With the Organization of American States acting as an intermediary, a comprehensive proposal that could form the framework of a treaty was presented to both Belize and Guatemala. National referenda to decide the fate of the proposal, which was introduced with much fanfare in September, would be held simultaneously in both countries in early 2003.

Joseph O. Palacio

▪ 2002

22,965 sq km (8,867 sq mi)
(2001 est.): 247,000
Chief of state:
Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General Colville Young
Head of government:
Prime Minister Said Musa

      In September 2001 Belize celebrated its 20th anniversary of independence in a relatively low-key fashion in the wake of the terrorist attacks in the U.S. In his state of the nation address, Prime Minister Said Musa highlighted the accomplishments of the People's United Party government during its three years of rule. These included a booming tourist industry, which had been a central force behind Belize's rapidly growing economy, and increased cocoa production, which showed promise of one day rivaling the citrus, banana, and sugar industries in terms of foreign-exchange earnings for Belize. Cocoa growers requested additional land in order to meet the European market requests for more cocoa. For the first time, a new public-private-sector model of patient-centred health care delivery got under way during the year. The emphasis was on preventive medicine. A pilot project was scheduled for a three-year period.

      On October 8 Hurricane Iris struck southern Belize with winds as strong as 225 km/h (140 mph). The storm, which forced the evacuation of Belize City, pummeled coastal towns and left some 13,000 persons homeless. (See Disasters .)

Ines Parker

▪ 2001

22,965 sq km (8,867 sq mi)
(2000 est.): 253,000
Chief of state:
Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General Colville Young
Head of government:
Prime Minister Said Musa

      Increased tourist arrivals boosted Belize's tourism industry by more than 27% during a six-month period in 2000. Over Bz$4.6 million (US$2.3 million) were earmarked for tourism publicity and marketing. Efforts were made to promote tourism, including the renovation of the airport, but at the same time, steps were taken in the conservation and protection of Mayan archaeological sites and the barrier reef.

      Military units from the Guatemalan Armed Forces and the Belize Defence Force met in July to discuss coordination of military activities and reduction of tension at border areas. In addition, a program to exchange cash for guns was spearheaded by religious institutions and the media in an effort to get guns off the street. The weapons were dismantled and destroyed in public.

      In March the governing People's United Party (PUP) won all seven seats in the municipal elections. The PUP retained control of six of the nation's seven municipalities, which gave them a total of 51 seats; the opposition United Democratic Party had 5.

      Prime Minister Said Musa honoured the Right Honourable George Cadle Price, a former prime minister, with Belize's highest government award. Recognized as father of the nation and architect of its independence, Price received the National Hero of Belize gold medal.

      On October 2–3 Hurricane Keith battered the offshore resorts of Caye Caluker and San Pedro on Amergris Caye and caused damages estimated at more than $200 million. Belize City, in the north of the country, was declared a disaster area, and flash floods in the hinterland resulted in the evacuation of numerous villages. Fortunately, the tourist sector was affected only minimally.

Ines Parker

▪ 2000

22,965 sq km (8,867 sq mi)
(1999 est.): 250,000
Chief of state:
Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General Colville Young
Head of government:
Prime Minister Said Musa

      In his state of the nation address in September 1999, Prime Minister Said Musa highlighted the improvement of Belize's economic infrastructure since he took office in 1998. In line with Musa's campaign promises, the controversial 15% value-added tax, which had been implemented by the previous government in 1996, was replaced by an 8% sales tax. Tighter immigration policies, such as heavy fines for businesses that employed illegal immigrants, were put into place, which helped to save jobs for Belizeans. Musa could boast of a modest budget surplus, an increase in the country's international reserves, and tourism revenues that were at an all-time high. He also promised 15,000 new jobs and work on hurricane preparedness, including the construction of storm shelters and new homes.

      The International American Drug Control Council teamed up with the local Drug Control Council to design Belize's first antidrug plan. With guidelines and policies in place, the plan was helping to decrease narcotic activities; the European Union also contributed $660,000 to help fight drug abuse in Belize. Belize benefited from a debt-forgiveness program for countries affected by Hurricane Mitch; the program was expected to save the country approximately $2.7 million over three years.

Ines Parker

▪ 1999

      Area: 22,965 sq km (8,867 sq mi)

      Population (1998 est.): 235,000

      Capital: Belmopan

      Chief of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General Colville Young

      Head of government: Prime Ministers Manuel Esquivel and, from August 28, Said Musa

      Sept. 10, 1998, marked the 200th anniversary of the Battle of St. George's Cay, during which the British defeated a Spanish fleet and thereby ended Spain's claim to Belize. The two-week celebration followed soon after the general elections. On August 27 some 90% of the eligible voters went to the polls to elect a government for the next five years. The People's United Party (PUP) won a landslide victory over the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP). Of the 29 available seats in the House of Representatives, the PUP won 26 and the UDP 3. Upon taking office on August 28, Prime Minister Said Musa stated that his government would be one of "national unity, national reconciliation, and national renewal."

      After having served for 15 years as leader of the UDP, former prime minister Manuel Esquivel officially stepped down on August 31. In September he was replaced by Dean Barrow as the leader of the UDP in the House of Representatives.

      Under the UDP government, the 1998-99 budget called for several tax changes, including the removal of the value-added tax from telephone bills, the abolition of income tax on yearly earnings below $20,000 and the introduction of a new business tax. Business leaders criticized the business tax because they believed it would further damage the already ailing tourism industry. The new government proposed a comprehensive review of the entire tax structure.


▪ 1998

      Area: 22,965 sq km (8,867 sq mi)

      Population (1997 est.): 228,000

      Capital: Belmopan

      Chief of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General Colville Young

      Head of government: Prime Minister Manuel Esquivel

      In municipal elections held on March 11, 1997, the opposition People's United Party (PUP) won all seven town boards for the first time in Belize's history. Johnny Briceño, the deputy PUP leader, received the most votes, 3,173, in Orange Walk, while Pinita Espejo topped the list for the United Democratic Party with 2,133 votes. General elections were scheduled for mid-1998 after a full reregistration of the electorate.

      Prime Minister Manuel Esquivel made several Cabinet changes in April: Salvador Fernández was transferred from his post as minister of trade and industry to that of health and sports; Elito Urbina replaced Alfredo Martínez (appointed minister of trade and industry) as ambassador to Mexico; Hubert Elrington was named minister of home affairs and labour; and Ruben Campos, former minister of health and sports, was appointed minister of national coordination and mobilization.

      The approved 1997-98 budget comprised expenditures of Bz$402.7 million and revenues of $297.1 million. The prime minister projected the yield from the value-added tax at Bz$76.7 million. Esquivel said that in 1996 the official reserves had reached their highest level in six years. During the year sugar, banana, and citrus exports increased.

      This article updates Belize, history of (Belize).

▪ 1997

      A constitutional monarchy and member of the Commonwealth, Belize is on the Caribbean coast of Central America. Area: 22,965 sq km (8,867 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 219,000. Cap.: Belmopan. Monetary unit: Belize dollar, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a par value of BZ$2 to U.S. $1 (free rate of BZ$3.15 = £ 1 sterling). Queen, Elizabeth II; governor-general in 1996, Colville Young; prime minister, Manuel Esquivel.

      In his 1996 New Year's Day speech, Prime Minister Manuel Esquivel unveiled his plan to contain expenditures and restructure the government to be more efficient. The new fiscal year started on April 1 with the introduction of a 15% value-added tax (VAT) on businesses that grossed BZ$100,000 or more. The VAT would replace a number of other taxes and import-export duties. Esquivel's 1996-97 budget forecast was BZ$266,800,000. In foreign affairs Belize opened a consulate in the Dominican Republic and signed a cooperative agreement with Cuba in an effort to curb drug trafficking.

      Archaeologists made a significant discovery beneath the ancient Mayan city of La Milpa. A Mayan king was found entombed and adorned with elaborate jade jewelry. Pottery in the tomb dated his rule at approximately AD 450. (INES PARKER)

      This article updates Belize, history of (Belize).

▪ 1996

      A constitutional monarchy and member of the Commonwealth, Belize is on the Caribbean coast of Central America. Area: 22,965 sq km (8,867 sq mi). Pop. (1995 est.): 216,000. Cap.: Belmopan. Monetary unit: Belize dollar, with (Oct. 6, 1995) a par value of BZ$2 to U.S. $1 (free rate of BZ$3.16 = £ 1 sterling). Queen, Elizabeth II; governor-general in 1995, Colville Young; prime minister, Manuel Esquivel.

      In January 1995 Prime Minister Manuel Esquivel of the United Democratic Party (UDP) restructured responsibilities in the Cabinet in an effort to deal with such problems as the recession-hit economy and an escalating crime rate. Deputy Prime Minister Dean Barrow was appointed to the Ministry of National Security in addition to his responsibilities as minster of foreign affairs and attorney general. Elito Urbina assumed responsibility for the Ministries of Labour and Local Government, and Joseph Cayetano's Ministry of Energy and Communications was renamed Ministry of Science, Technology and Transportation. Prime Minister Esquivel added Economic Development to his portfolio. Elodio Aragón and Hubert Elrington lost their Labour and Local Government portfolios, respectively.

      A seven-member committee, under the Ministry of Finance, was responsible for an economic citizenship program aimed at raising $30 million. An "economic citizen" would pay $25,000 to the government for registration and $50,000 to a special investment fund. The economic citizen would not have to live in Belize. A portion of the money would be used to finance Belize's foreign debt. Revenues from this program were included in the year's budget. Early in the year, Esquivel imposed a public-sector wage freeze for fiscal 1995-96 to help reduce the budget deficit.

      Relations with Canada went less smoothly during the year when Fisheries Minister Brian Tobin sent notice to Belize in April that two trawlers flying Belizean flags of convenience had been illegally fishing off the Grand Banks. "If necessary," Tobin said, "we'll take the measures required to put an end to that flag-of-convenience presence." A spokeswoman for the Fisheries Department announced later that one of the ships was believed to be Spanish-operated.

      On a visit to Cuba during the year by Deputy Prime Minister Barrow, diplomatic relations with Cuba were upgraded to full ambassador level. (INES PARKER)

      This updates the article Belize, history of (Belize).

▪ 1995

      A constitutional monarchy and member of the Commonwealth, Belize is on the Caribbean coast of Central America. Area: 22,965 sq km (8,867 sq mi). Pop. (1994 est.): 210,000. Cap.: Belmopan. Monetary unit: Belize dollar, with (Oct. 7, 1994) a par value of BZ$2 to U.S. $1 (free rate of BZ$3.18 = £ 1 sterling). Queen, Elizabeth II; governor-general in 1994, Colville Young; prime minister, Manuel Esquivel.

      The governing United Democratic Party (UDP) won all seven of Belize's local councils in elections on March 8, 1994. The victory was 43 out of 49 seats. Previously, the UDP had controlled only two councils; in Orange Walk and in San Ignacio/Santa Elena. Voter turnout was 68.5%. After 30 years of involvement with the People's United Party, deputy leader Florencio Marin resigned in May.

      The U.K. Defense Secretary Malcolm Rifkind visited in May for talks relating to the reduction of the British garrison in Belize. The Belizean government issued defense bonds to raise money for the expansion of the Belize Defence Force.

      A national economic advisory task force of representatives from private and public organizations was formed in response to the ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Among a variety of issues, the 11-member task force planned to study the development of a capital and securities market, establishment of one or more commercial-free zones, tax reform, and further development of tourism.

      The economic citizenship program ended in June. This program was started in 1984 and gave Belizean citizenship to foreigners in return for substantial investment in the country. (INES T. BAPTIST)

      This updates the article Belize, history of (Belize).

▪ 1994

      A constitutional monarchy and member of the Commonwealth, Belize is on the Caribbean coast of Central America. Area: 22,965 sq km (8,867 sq mi). Pop. (1993 est.): 204,000. Cap.: Belmopan. Monetary unit: Belize dollar, with (Oct. 4, 1993) a par value of BZ$2 to U.S. $1 (free rate of BZ$3.04 = £ 1 sterling). Queen, Elizabeth II; governors-general in 1993, Dame Minita Gordon and, from November 17, Colville Young; prime ministers, George Cadle Price and, from July 3, Manuel Esquivel.

      Because of improved relations between Belize and Guatemala since 1991, the U.K. announced in May 1993 that the British garrison staffed in Belize for 45 years would be withdrawn. This would give Belize formal responsibility for its own defense starting Jan. 1, 1994. Britain would remain available for consultation in the event of a military threat from Guatemala.

      This announcement and the military-backed coup in Guatemala on June 1 were major issues in the general elections called for June 30 (more than a year before they were due) by the People's United Party (PUP). Nevertheless, the United Democratic Party (UDP) won 16 seats out of 29 in the House of Representatives. Manuel Esquivel of the UDP was elected prime minister and later asked for the resignation of longtime governor-general Dame Minita Gordon, a move criticized by the PUP. The PUP was defeated for only the second time since its foundation in 1950.

      Despite Guatemala's claim that it would continue to recognize Belizean independence, Esquivel announced that the new UDP government would suspend all partial agreements with Guatemala until a final agreement was signed ending Guatemala's claim on Belize. (INES T. BAPTIST)

      This updates the article Belize, history of (Belize).

* * *

Belize, flag of  country located on the northeast coast of Central America. Belize, which was known as British Honduras until 1973, was the last British colony on the American mainland. Its prolonged path to independence was marked by a unique international campaign (even while it was still a British colony) against the irredentist claims of its neighbour Guatemala. Belize achieved independence on Sept. 21, 1981, but it has retained its historical link with the United Kingdom through membership in the Commonwealth.

      Belize is often thought of as a Caribbean country in Central America because it has a history similar to that of English-speaking Caribbean nations. Indeed, Belize's institutions and official language reflect its history as a British colony. However, its culture is more typical of that of other Central American countries. Belize's small population is ethnically diverse and includes a large proportion of immigrants. Since the 1970s, migration has shifted Belize's ethnic composition from a predominantly Creole (mixed African and British descent) population to one in which mestizos (mestizo) (in Belize, people of mixed Mayan and Spanish ancestry) make up half of the total inhabitants. Belize has one of the most stable and democratic political systems in Central America. After its original capital, Belize City, was ravaged by a hurricane in 1961, a new capital, Belmopan, was built inland, about 50 miles (80 km) west of Belize City, which remains the country's commercial and cultural centre as well as its most populous city.

      The name Belize is traditionally believed to have been derived from the Spanish pronunciation of the last name of Peter Wallace, a Scottish buccaneer who may have begun a settlement at the mouth of the Belize River about 1638. It is also possible that the name evolved from the Mayan word belix (“muddy water”) or belikin (“land facing the sea”).

 Situated south of the Yucatán Peninsula, Belize is a land of mountains, swamps, and tropical jungle. It is bounded by Mexico to the north, Guatemala to the west and south, and the Caribbean Sea to the east. The country has a 174-mile (280-km) coastline.

Relief (Belize)
      The southern half of the country is dominated by the rugged Maya Mountains, a plateau of igneous rock cut by erosion into hills and valleys that stretch in a southwesterly to northeasterly direction. The Cockscomb Range, a spur of the Maya Mountains, runs toward the sea and culminates in Victoria Peak, which at an elevation of 3,681 feet (1,122 metres) is the highest point in Belize. The northern half of the country consists of limestone lowlands and swamps less than 200 feet (60 metres) above sea level.

Drainage and soils
 The lowlands are drained by the navigable Belize River (on which stands Belize City), the New River, and the Hondo River (which forms the northern frontier with Mexico). Both the New and the Hondo rivers drain into Chetumal Bay to the north. South of Belize City the coastal plain is crossed by short river valleys. Along the coast is the Belize Barrier Reef, the second largest barrier reef in the world, which is fringed by dozens of small islands called cays. The reef reserve system was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996. Belize's most fertile soils are the limestone soils found in the northern half of the country and in the coastal plain and river valleys in the south.

      Belize has a subtropical climate, with a well-marked dry season from late February to May and a wet season from June to November that is interrupted from August to September by another dry season. The mean temperature in Belize City is about 74 °F (23 °C) in December and 84 °F (29 °C) in July. The mean annual rainfall increases sharply from about 50 inches (1,270 mm) at Corozal on the northern frontier to 175 inches (4,445 mm) at Punta Gorda in the south, while at Belize City rainfall amounts to about 75 inches (1,900 mm). There are, however, considerable yearly variations throughout the country. Trade winds blow onshore most of the year, and from September to December northerly winds bring cooler, drier air. Hurricanes (tropical cyclones) are a threat from July through November. A hurricane in 2000 devastated the country's infrastructure and displaced tens of thousands of Belizeans.

Plant and animal life
 About three-fifths of Belize is forested. There are at least 50 different forest tree species, including mahogany, Santa Maria (Calophyllum brasiliense), cedar, and ironwood. In the north, limestone soils support deciduous forests, and sapodilla and mahogany predominate. In the south, the forest is taller and is evergreen. Santa Maria, rather than mahogany, flourishes on the plateau, and oak and pine grow on some of the plateau ridges. The rivers are largely bordered by swamp forests. On the southern coastal plain and inland from Belize City, open savanna (grassland) is marked by scattered oaks, pines, and palmetto palms. The coast is fringed with mangrove trees. The highlands are mostly forested and are largely uninhabited.

      The abundant wildlife of Belize includes such animals as tapir, deer, jaguar, puma (known locally as “red tiger”), American crocodile, and manatee, as well as many species of turtles, tortoises, birds, reptiles, insects, and fish. The herbivorous Baird's tapir (Tapirus bairdii), which is colloquially named the “mountain cow” and can weigh as much as 600 pounds (270 kg), has protected status as the national animal of Belize. In the shadow of Victoria Peak lies the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, which covers about 150 square miles (390 square km). The sanctuary, founded in 1986, has the most concentrated jaguar population in the world.


Ethnic groups
      Many Belizeans (Belize) are of mixed ancestry, most of them descendants of immigrants. Those of mixed Mayan and Spanish heritage (mestizos) constitute the largest ethnic group (half of the population) and predominate in the more sparsely inhabited interior, along with the Maya (Yucatec Maya in the north and Mopán and Kekchí Maya in the south), who account for about one-tenth of the population. English-speaking people of largely African and British ancestry, who are called Creole, account for nearly one-fourth of the population and predominate in the central coastal regions. Several thousand Garifuna (Garinagu), who are descendants of the Carib Indians and Africans deported from Saint Vincent (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) by the British to the Gulf of Honduras (Honduras, Gulf of) in 1798, live in communities on the south coast. People of European and South Asian ancestry are also present, as are smaller numbers of immigrants from China, the Middle East, and elsewhere. Mennonite farmers began to migrate to Belize in the 1950s from Canada and Mexico to escape religious persecution, and Mennonite communities have been allowed to settle in rural areas throughout the country. Although this group makes up a tiny percentage of the population, its contribution to the Belizean economy, largely through farming, has been significant. Refugees from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador began migrating to Belize in the 1980s to escape civil war and political unrest in their countries. Throughout the 1990s, these refugees made up the largest immigrant group in Belize. At the beginning of the 21st century, the number of these refugees significantly decreased, but their descendants account for about four-fifths of the total foreign-born population in Belize.

      English is the official language of Belize, but most of the population also speaks a creole patois, and many Belizeans are multilingual. Yucatec (Yucatec language), Mopán, and Kekchí are spoken by the Maya in Belize. Mestizos speak Spanish, and the Garifuna speak an Arawak (Arawakan languages)-based language and generally also speak either English or Spanish. The Mennonites in Belize speak Plautdietsch, an archaic Low Saxon (Germanic) language influenced by the Dutch.

      Anglicans (Anglicanism), who established the first church in Belize in the early 19th century, were soon followed by Baptist and Methodist missionaries. The Roman Catholic Church (Roman Catholicism) was established in Belize in 1851, and about one-half of the population adheres to that religion. Protestants account for about one-third of the population, with the largest denominations being Anglican, Pentecostal, Methodist, Seventh-day Adventist, and Mennonite. Evangelical and Christian fundamentalist churches have been growing rapidly since the 1990s.

Settlement patterns and demographic trends
      About half of Belizeans live in urban areas. Belize City is home to roughly one-fifth of the population and contains a mixture of colonial structures, wooden frame buildings, and newer concrete houses. Other towns include Orange Walk and Corozal, in northern Belize along the New River; Dangriga and Punta Gorda, on the central and southern coastlines, respectively; San Ignacio, Santa Elena, and Benque Viejo, in the west of the country; and Belmopan, near the centre of the country. Belmopan, founded as the national capital in 1970, is home to many immigrants from other Central American countries and about one-eighth of Belize's population.

      Migration patterns have altered the ethnic composition of the population. The Mennonites who migrated from Mexico and Canada in the 1950s established agricultural settlements to the north and west of Belize City. In the 1980s, Belize received an estimated 25,000 Spanish-speaking immigrants—equivalent to nearly one-seventh of the country's population at the time—as refugees fled war-torn Guatemala and El Salvador, while an even larger number of Belizeans, mostly English-speaking Creoles, immigrated to the United States. Continuing immigration and a high birth rate contributed to the country's net gain in population at the beginning of the 21st century.

      Belize has a developing free-market economy. Commercial logging and the export of timber were for years the basis of the Belizean economy, but by 1960 the combined value of sugar and citrus exports had exceeded that of timber. Owing to destruction of forests and price fluctuations of traditional export products, Belize had opened up its economy to nontraditional agricultural products and manufacturing activities by the end of the 20th century. Since the 1990s the Belizean government has attempted to expand the economy, but heavy borrowing led to debt restructuring in the mid-2000s. As is the case with many modern economies, services have become Belize's dominant economic activity. Tourism is a major source of foreign income, partly as a result of an increase in cruise ship arrivals.

Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
      Only a small proportion of Belize's land is actively used for agriculture, which employs about one-fifth of the population. Most farms are smaller than 100 acres (40 hectares), and many of them are milpas (temporary forest clearings). On most of these farms, traditional shifting cultivation (shifting agriculture) is practiced, largely because of the nutrient-poor soils of the lowlands. The remaining farms or plantations are devoted to the raising of crops for export, such as sugarcane, citrus fruits, and bananas.

      Sugarcane is grown around the towns of Corozal and Orange Walk, and sugar is exported to the United States and the European Union (EU). Some sugar is converted into molasses for rum distillation. In the latter part of the 20th century, sugar production increased 10-fold, but it decreased in the 21st century because many sugarcane fields were destroyed in 2000 in a hurricane. At the same time, the production of corn (maize) and kidney beans for export became more profitable. Citrus crops (oranges and grapefruit) and bananas, which are grown mainly in the Stann Creek and Cayo areas, south and west of Belize City, have been affected by world price fluctuations but are still produced for export. Rice is cultivated on large mechanized farms in the Belize River valley, while corn, roots and tubers, red kidney beans, and vegetables are raised throughout the country, mostly on smaller plots. Increased production of nontraditional agricultural products such as papayas and habanero peppers has aided the economy.

       marijuana is widely, though illegally, grown in Belize, and, in the 1980s and '90s, isolated Belizean airstrips became transshipment or refueling points for cocaine smuggling. At the onset of the 21st century, marijuana was used mainly for local consumption, but money laundering related to drug trafficking was prevalent.

      Large-scale chicken farming was introduced by the Mennonite community in Belize. That community gained a national reputation for its strong work ethic, largely by transforming uninhabited land into productive farms and dairies. Beef cattle and pigs are raised in many parts of Belize.

      Much of Belize's forest has been destroyed by logging; however, mahogany, pine, cedar, and rosewood have increased in economic importance, and chicle, used in the manufacture of chewing gum, is obtained from the sapodilla tree. Furniture and timber for utility poles are the major products of the forestry industry, which includes many sawmills. As part of efforts to increase foreign income in the 1990s, the Belizean government granted long-term contracts to foreign logging companies. Thousands of trees were destroyed in traditional Mayan territory, sparking protests among Maya communities, two of which won a case in the Belizean Supreme Court in 2007 that granted them greater autonomy over their communal landholdings. (Earlier, in 2004, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights had determined that, in opening this land for logging, the Belizean government had violated the rights (human rights) of the Maya in the southern part of the country by denying them secure land tenure.)

      Fishing for lobster, shrimp, scale fish, conch, and sea turtles is conducted mainly by several cooperatives, some of which have freezing plants. Exports of seafood to the United States are substantial. Aquaculture, especially shrimp farming, is significant.

Resources and power
      Although Belize generally lacks natural resources, mineral production includes clays, limestone, marble, sand, and gravel for the construction industry. There is also some placer mining of gold. Belize relies heavily on imports for its mineral fuels, fossil fuels, and electricity but also generates some of its electricity domestically through the use of fuelwood, firewood, and other biomass products. bagasse, a by-product of sugarcane, has been used for fuel. Belize has adopted renewable-energy technologies and is connected to a power grid in Mexico. In the early 21st century the Chalillo hydroelectric (hydroelectric power) dam, covering about 3 square miles (8 square km), was built on the Macal River in western Belize, despite the safety and environmental concerns of certain groups. The Chalillo Dam's reservoir has enough water storage capacity to power its own hydroelectric plant and that of nearby Mollejon Dam.

      Manufacturing (mainly food products, fertilizers, and textiles) accounts for about one-eighth of the gross national product (GNP). In the latter part of the 20th century, the Belizean government stressed import substitution to promote industrial development. This initiative was not successful, however, because Belizean industry's overall development strategy remained export-oriented. Fertilizer and animal-feed plants were opened, as well as numerous sawmills, a wire and nail plant, and a roofing-materials plant that serve the construction and furniture-manufacturing industries. Footwear, rum, beer, soft drinks, and cigarettes are also produced. Central to the food-processing industry is the sugar refinery at Tower Hill, the output of which contributes to sugar making up about two-thirds of total exports. Processed citrus, beef, rice, and canned fish are also important. Garment factories utilizing imported fabric produce clothing for the export market.

Finance, trade, and services
      The Central Bank of Belize oversees the country's banks and issues the country's currency, the Belize dollar. Chief trading partners include the United States, the United Kingdom, Mexico, the EU, and certain members of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (Caricom), which Belize joined in 1974. The country's main exports are seafood, sugar, citrus products, bananas, and clothing, and its chief imports include machinery and transport equipment, food, fuels and lubricants, and chemicals. Since the 1990s, Belize has had a substantial trade deficit in goods.

      The service sector of the economy has accounted for the largest share of the GNP since the early 1980s, when it surpassed the agriculture, forestry, and fishing sectors. Nearly one-half of the labour force and the GNP are sustained by services. Tourism became a major source of foreign exchange as the industry expanded rapidly in the 1990s, and the number of visitors increased fivefold from the late 1990s to the mid-2000s. Fishing, boating, swimming, and diving along the Belize Barrier Reef are popular, and ecotourism in the interior has grown. The country's many Mayan ruins are also popular tourist sites; the most notable are Caracol, Xunantunich, El Pilar, and Cahal Pech.

Transportation and telecommunications
      Agricultural and forest produce is usually transported by road, although rivers are still used. The road network extends west to the Guatemalan border and north to the Mexican border. All-weather roads link Belize City and Belmopan with other towns in the central and northern areas of Belize and with Punta Gorda on the southern coast.

      Belize City is the main port but does not have modern facilities; vessels with more than the allowable cargo limit must anchor more than a mile offshore. Barges are available to transport sugar for export, and tenders carry passengers to and from cruise ships. Another port, at Commerce Bight, handles the citrus exports of the Stann Creek district, and a port at Big Creek is used primarily for banana exports. Punta Gorda handles seaborne trade with Guatemala and Honduras.

      An international airport is about 9 miles (14 km) from Belize City; scheduled flights link it to the United States, Mexico, and other countries of Central America. There is also regular domestic service to a number of local airports throughout the country.

      Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL), a private company, provides telephone, cellular, Internet, and other services to about half the population. Many Belizeans communicate by cellular phone and Internet, but others are still physically isolated by poor roads and services.

Government and society

Constitutional framework
 Belize's government is based on the British parliamentary system. The 1981 constitution provides for a bicameral National Assembly composed of an elected House of Representatives and an appointed Senate. Members of the House and the Senate both serve five-year terms. The governor-general, a Belizean national who represents the British crown, nominally appoints the prime minister (the leader of the majority party in the House) and the opposition leader (the leader of the principal minority party). The prime minister appoints the cabinet.

Local government
      Local government consists of the Belize City Council and town boards with authority over most municipal affairs. Most villages have councils, and some Mayan villages have an alcalde (a traditional community-elected leader) with limited powers. The Mennonite community administers its own form of local government.

 The legal system is modeled on English common law. A chief justice heads the Supreme Court, but the Court of Appeal is the country's highest court; both are independent of the national government. In 2001 Belize joined most members of Caricom to establish a Caribbean Court of Justice, which was inaugurated in 2005. Civil and criminal cases that are heard in the Court of Appeal may be brought before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, while cases regarding Caricom treaties may be appealed in the Caribbean Court of Justice.

Political process
      There is universal suffrage for Belizean citizens age 18 and older. The country's ethnic diversity affects political issues but is not reflected in its political parties, which are not ethnically oriented. There are no restrictions on the right to organize political parties. There is little ideological difference between the two major parties, the centre-right United Democratic Party (UDP) and the centre-left People's United Party (PUP).

Health and welfare
      The majority of Belizeans have access to government hospitals, clinics, and maternal, child-care, and dental facilities. Infant-mortality rates have been reduced by improved water supplies, waste-disposal systems, and disease-control and vaccination programs. Malaria, however, remains a problem. Nurses are trained locally, but there remains a shortage of doctors and dentists, especially in the rural areas. A social security program was created in the 1980s to provide pensions for senior citizens and to extend assistance to pregnant, sick, disabled, and unemployed workers and to the survivors of insured workers.

      Since World War II, Belizeans have created a variety of institutions to meet their social needs, including trade unions, credit unions, cooperatives, and many other nongovernmental organizations that address health care, social services, women's and indigenous rights, education, and community development. The National Trade Union Congress of Belize is an umbrella organization representing workers from different occupations.

      More than nine-tenths of the population aged 14 and older is literate. Primary schooling is compulsory between ages 5 and 12. Most schools are government-subsidized parochial (principally Roman Catholic) schools. The Mennonite community runs its own schools without government interference. One-half of primary school graduates continue on to secondary school, and only a small elite receive any form of higher education. The University of Belize (2000) in Belmopan is the country's only full-fledged university. A centre of the University of the West Indies School of Continuing Studies (1949) in Belize City provides continuing adult education. There are also a community college, a school for arts and sciences, and Galen University, an independent school in the west of the country.

Cultural life

Cultural milieu
      Belize's small but culturally diverse population is reflected in the country's multiplicity of ethnicities, languages, religions, cuisines, styles of music and dress, and folklore. There are many ethnically distinct communities, but people of different groups also mix in many social contexts, with the exception of the Mennonite community, which sets itself apart from other groups. Social class often determines whether Belizeans will have amenities such as a car or a television set or if their children will complete secondary school.

Daily life and social customs
      Belizean cuisine reflects ethnicity and international influences, but corn tortillas, stewed chicken, and rice and beans are widespread staples. Other assorted fare may include Creole-style stews, barbecued chicken, beef, and pork; Mayan-style tamales (cornmeal with a chicken or vegetable stuffing that is steamed in banana leaves); and Mexican-style chilies and roasts. Typical Garifuna dishes include hudut, mashed green plantains in a fish stew steeped in coconut milk. A common dish in coastal regions is seviche. One of the game dishes is the tailless gibnut (Agouti paca; a relative of the guinea pig), called “royal rat” on many Belizean menus because the British press had objected to its being served to Queen Elizabeth II in 1985. Locally produced rum and beer are common, and rum is often mixed with coconut water. Soft drinks and fruit juices are popular.

      Among the numerous celebrations in Belize are the Christian religious holidays. Baron Bliss Day (March 9) is a national festival honouring a British resident who died while on vacation in Belize and donated his fortune to the construction of local libraries, schools, and other institutions (including the Baron Bliss Institute). St. George's Cay Day (September 10) recalls a sea battle in 1798 off the coast of Belize between Great Britain and Spain, and Independence Day is celebrated throughout the country on September 21. Garifuna Settlement Day (November 19) commemorates the arrival in 1832 of a group of Garifuna people. The San Pedro Costa Maya Festival is a multicultural celebration that takes place on Ambergris Caye each August.

The arts
      The music to which Belizeans listen largely reflects the traditions of their ethnic group, though recorded music from the Caribbean and the United States is widely enjoyed by young people. One hybrid musical form, “punta rock,” blends Caribbean soca, calypso, and reggae styles with merengue, salsa, and hip-hop. One of the country's best-known and most honoured musicians, Andy Viven Palacio (1960–2008), blended traditional Garifuna music with punta rock to stimulate interest in the Garifuna culture and language. The traditional sounds of brukdown—the tapping of assorted bottles, tables, cans, or other objects—an energetic percussion that originated in the logging camps, are heard less often now than in the past. The Belize National Dance Company (1990) performs throughout the country and internationally.

      Belize's best-known contemporary author is Zee Edgell. Her most widely read novel, Beka Lamb (1982), describes the emerging sense of nationalism in the 1950s in Belize City through the eyes of a young Creole girl. Another of Edgell's novels, Time and the River (2007), looks at the slave society of Belize in the early 19th century.

Cultural institutions
      The National Institute of History and Culture manages archaeological and cultural sites throughout the country. Most cultural institutions are in Belize City, including the Baron Bliss Institute for the Performing Arts, the Belize City Museum (housed in a former colonial prison), and the Image Factory Art Foundation (1995), which features contemporary art by Belizean artists. The National Library Service of Belize also has its headquarters in Belize City but operates mobile libraries throughout the country. Its national archives are in Belmopan.

Sports and recreation
      Belize's sports culture reflects the historical influences of Britain (football (football (soccer)) [soccer] and, to a lesser extent, cricket) and the United States (basketball and softball). Despite poor facilities and little sponsorship or professional training, many Belizeans participate in regional and international competitions. In 1986 Belize became a member of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). Semiprofessional football teams from each of the country's districts compete with each other, and a women's league was started in the late 1990s. Other popular sports include athletics (track and field), boxing, tennis, and volleyball. Cross-country cycling has been popular since 1928, and there are now two significant annual road races. After participating three times as British Honduras, Belize made its first Olympic appearance as an independent country at the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles.

      With more than 3,000 square miles (7,770 square km) of protected waters, Belize is one of the best places in the world for recreational diving. There are an abundance of cays and an underwater cave system. Bird-watching, hiking, snorkeling, and fishing are also popular activities.

Alfred E. Alford

Media and publishing
      The Belize Broadcasting Network, which was privatized in 1998, provides television programming in English and Spanish and operates many radio stations; however, it does not broadcast news on weekends or holidays. Belizeans also have satellite access to U.S. television broadcasts, and those who own a television watch mostly foreign programs, such as Mexican soap operas and North American sports. The country has no daily newspapers, and most of the country's several weekly newspapers are politically affiliated. The Belize Times is the organ of the PUP, and The Guardian is the official newspaper of the UDP. The Reporter and Amandala are independent newspapers. There is no press censorship, but Belize relies heavily on external news sources, chiefly from the United States. Belizean Studies, a journal published three times a year by St. John's College (a secondary school), is an outlet for local research and writing, as are Cubola Productions, which publishes both fiction and nonfiction, and the Angelus Press. The Society for the Promotion of Education and Research (SPEAR) publishes books and reports as well as a quarterly publication on Belizean issues.

O. Nigel Bolland


Early history
      The following is a history of Belize focusing on events since European settlement. For further treatment, see Central America; Latin America, history of; and pre-Columbian civilizations: Mesoamerican civilization (pre-Columbian civilizations).

 The Maya lived in the area now known as Belize for centuries before the arrival of Europeans (colonialism, Western), as manifested by more than a dozen major ruins such as La Milpa, Xunantunich, Altun Ha, and Caracol. The Spanish penetrated the area in the 16th and 17th centuries and tried to convert the Maya to Christianity, but with little success. The Maya population had begun to decline long before the Spaniards arrived, and the remaining Maya lived in politically decentralized societies. Although the Maya did not have the resources to defeat the Spaniards, they could not be decisively beaten.

      British (British Empire) buccaneers and logwood cutters settled on the inhospitable coast in the mid-17th century. Spain regarded the British as interlopers in their territory. By treaties signed in 1763 and 1783, Spain granted British subjects the privilege of exploiting logwood and, after 1786, the more valuable mahogany, though only within specified and poorly surveyed territories. Indeed, Spain retained sovereignty over the area, which Britain called a settlement, as distinct from a formal colony. The Spanish also prohibited the settlers from establishing a formal government structure, so the British conducted their affairs through public meetings and elected magistrates. However, superintendents, appointed by the British government after 1786, slowly established their executive authority at the expense of the settlers' oligarchy. In 1798 the British overcame Spain's final attempt to remove them by force, and Belize became a colony in all but name. The British government instructed the superintendent to assume authority over the granting of land in 1817, and he assumed the power to appoint magistrates in 1832. In 1854 a constitution formally created a Legislative Assembly of 18 members, who were elected by a limited franchise, and the next year the Laws in Force Act validated the settlers' land titles.

       Guatemala challenged the British occupation on the grounds that it had inherited Spanish interests in the area, and from time to time Mexico also asserted a claim to part of Belize. Great Britain and Guatemala appeared to have settled their differences in 1859 by a treaty that defined boundaries for Belize. The final article of the treaty, however, bound both parties to establish “the easiest communication” between Guatemala and Belize. (Conflict between Guatemala and Belize over land boundaries would persist into the 20th and 21st centuries; the dispute became intractable after 1940 when Guatemala declared that the treaty was null and void because such communication had never been developed.)

      Belize became the British colony of British Honduras in 1862—which was ruled by a governor who was subordinate to the governor of Jamaica—and a crown colony in 1871, when the Legislative Assembly was abolished. British Honduras remained subordinate to Jamaica until 1884, when it acquired a separate colonial administration under an appointed governor.

      The British settlers, who called themselves Baymen, began importing African slaves (slavery) in the early 18th century to cut logwood and then mahogany. Although the conditions and organization of labour in timber extraction were different from those on plantations, the system was still cruel and oppressive. There were four slave revolts in Belize, and hundreds of slaves took advantage of the terrain and the freedom offered over the frontiers to escape.

      Trade with Spain's colonies in Central America flourished, even after those colonies attained independence in the 1820s; however, the development of plantations in Belize was forbidden by the treaties with Spain. After emancipation in 1838, the former slaves remained tied to the logging operations by a system of wage advances and company stores that induced indebtedness and dependency. When the old economy, based on forest products and the transit trade, declined in the mid-19th century, these freedmen remained impoverished.

      Beginning in the early 19th century, a mixed population of Carib Indians and Africans exiled from British colonies in the eastern Caribbean (formerly called Black Caribs, now referred to as Garifuna) settled on the southern coast of Belize. The Caste War, an indigenous uprising in the Yucatán that began in 1847, resulted in several thousand Spanish-speaking refugees' settling in northern Belize, while Mayan communities were reestablished in the north and west. These immigrants introduced a variety of agricultural developments, including traditional subsistence farming and the beginning of sugar, banana, and citrus production. In the 1860s and '70s the owners of sugar estates sponsored the immigration of several hundred Chinese and South Asian labourers. In the late 19th century Mopán and Kekchí Maya, fleeing from oppression in Guatemala, established largely self-sufficient communities in southern and western Belize.

      By the early 20th century the ethnic mixture of the area had been established, the economy was stagnant, and crown colony government precluded any democratic participation. In the 1930s the economy was hit by the worldwide Great Depression, and Belize City was largely destroyed by a hurricane in 1931. A series of strikes and demonstrations by labourers and the unemployed gave rise to a trade union movement and to demands for democratization. The right to vote for the Legislative Assembly was reintroduced in 1936, but property, literacy, and gender qualifications severely limited the franchise. When the governor used his reserve powers to devalue the currency at the end of 1949, leaders of the trade union and the Creole middle class formed a People's Committee to demand constitutional changes. The People's United Party (PUP) emerged from the committee in 1950 and led the independence movement. The PUP would be the dominant political party for the next 30 years.

      Belize evolved through several stages of decolonization, from universal adult suffrage in 1954 to a new constitution and internal self-government in 1964, when George Price, a middle-class Roman Catholic intellectual of mixed Creole and mestizo ancestry, became premier. (Price became leader of the PUP in 1954.) Unrelenting Guatemalan hostility, however, impeded independence. In the 1970s Belize took its case for self-determination to the international community, appealing to the United Nations (UN) and joining the Nonaligned Movement (see neutralism). Although the dispute between Guatemala and Great Britain remained unresolved, Belize became independent on Sept. 21, 1981, with a British defense guarantee, and was admitted to the UN. The British military presence was withdrawn in 1994, and border security became the sole responsibility of the Belize Defence Force, which had been created in 1978. By the early 1990s Guatemala had formally recognized Belize as an independent state, and Belize had joined the Organization of American States (American States, Organization of) (OAS); however, the territorial dispute heated up again in the late 1990s. In 2002 an OAS-assisted facilitation process formally proposed a solution, but Guatemala refused to accept it. In 2005 the two countries agreed that if a negotiated settlement proved to be impossible, the dispute could be settled by an international legal entity. In 2008 the governments of Belize and Guatemala agreed to submit their case to the International Court of Justice, subject to referenda in both countries.

      In domestic politics the United Democratic Party (UDP), formed in 1973 and led by Manuel Esquivel, won the general election in 1984, but in 1989 the PUP won the election and Price again became prime minister (as the office was now called). The UDP won in a close election in 1993, and Esquivel again assumed leadership. In 1998, however, the PUP won by a landslide and its new leader, Said Musa, became prime minister.

William J. Griffith
      Musa's decision to raise taxes to pay off foreign debt sparked riots throughout Belize in 2005, and his administration was accused of corruption. The UDP, now led by Dean Barrow, triumphed in the 2008 general elections, and Barrow became the country's first black prime minister. His party promised to end crime and government corruption and to create an elected Senate. Although a democratic tradition has been established in Belize, the country has struggled to develop under a dependent economy, and it has been pressured politically by the pervasive influence of the United States. The discovery of abundant quantities of oil near the Mennonite community at Spanish Lookout in the early 2000s was a boon for the country's ailing economy, but, because Belize has no oil refineries, most of its crude oil is exported to the United States.

O. Nigel Bolland

Additional Reading

Tom Barry and Dylan Vernon, Inside Belize, 2nd ed. (1995), is a concise study of Belizean politics, economy, and society that also treats foreign influences on Belize. Five chapters in Tim Merrill (ed.), Guyana and Belize, 2nd ed. (1993), summarize the country's history, society and environment, economy, government and politics, and national security. A.C.S. Wright et al., Land in British Honduras (1959), reports on soils and agricultural land use. O. Nigel Bolland and Assad Shoman, Land in Belize, 1765–1871 (1975), studies the origins of the system of land tenure and patterns of land use and distribution. Grant D. Jones, The Politics of Agricultural Development in Northern British Honduras (1971), focuses on the Corozal region between 1848 and 1968. Norman Ashcraft, Colonialism and Underdevelopment: Processes of Political Economic Change in British Honduras (1973), studies small farming and urban markets in central Belize in the mid-1960s. Assad Shoman, Party Politics in Belize (1987), is a brief examination of the political system by a participant. Julio A. Fernandez, Belize: Case Study for Democracy in Central America (1989), studies Belizean politics and international affairs. Barbara S. Balboni and Joseph O. Palacio (eds.), Taking Stock: Belize at 25 Years of Independence (2007), is a collection of essays on Belize's economy, environment, society, and culture.Studies of the Garifuna include Virginia Kerns, Women and the Ancestors: Black Carib Kinship and Ritual, 2nd ed. (1997); Carel Roessingh, The Belizean Garifuna: Organization of Identity in an Ethnic Community in Central America (2002); and Joseph O. Palacio (ed.), The Garifuna: A Nation Across Borders (2005).Other anthropological works include Richard R. Wilk, Household Ecology: Economic Change and Domestic Life Among the Kekchi Maya in Belize (1991); Mark Moberg, Citrus, Strategy, and Class: The Politics of Development in Southern Belize (1992); Irma McClaurin, Women of Belize: Gender and Change in Central America (1996); Mark Moberg, Myths of Ethnicity and Nation: Immigration, Work, and Identity in the Belize Banana Industry (1997); and Anne Sutherland, The Making of Belize: Globalization in the Margins (1998). Richard R. Wilk, “ ‘Real Belizean Food': Building Local Identity in the Transnational Caribbean,” American Anthropologist, 101:244–255 (June 1999), examines the evolution of Belizean tastes and cultural preferences in the late 20th century.

General histories include Narda Dobson, A History of Belize (1973), from the growth of the British settlement to 1970; D.A.G. Waddell, British Honduras: A Historical and Contemporary Survey (1961, reprinted 1981), including a good but dated bibliography; O. Nigel Bolland, Belize: A New Nation in Central America (1986), the first general historical and contemporary survey following independence; and Assad Shoman, Thirteen Chapters of a History of Belize (1994), the first general history by a Belizean. O. Nigel Bolland, Colonialism and Resistance in Belize (1988), contains nine essays on aspects of social and cultural history from the early British settlement to nationhood.Specific periods are addressed in O. Nigel Bolland, The Formation of a Colonial Society: Belize, from Conquest to Crown Colony (1977), a thoroughly researched history from the Mayan period to 1871; R.A. Humphreys, The Diplomatic History of British Honduras, 1638–1901 (1961, reprinted 1981), the standard work on the colony's disputes with Mexico and Guatemala in the 19th century; J. Ann Zammit, The Belize Issue (1978), a brief summary of the dispute with Guatemala; Wayne M. Clegern, British Honduras: Colonial Dead End, 1859–1900 (1967), a well-documented study of economic and political changes in the late 19th century; C.H. Grant, The Making of Modern Belize: Politics, Society & British Colonialism in Central America (1976), which studies Belize between 1950 and 1974; and Anne S. Macpherson, From Colony to Nation: Women Activists and the Gendering of Politics in Belize, 1912–1982 (2007). Ralph Lee Woodward, Jr., Peggy Wright, and Brian E. Coutts (compilers), Belize, 2nd ed. (1993), is an annotated bibliography on all aspects of the country.O. Nigel Bolland

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