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Belize, Central America...

This tiny country of Belize, about the size of Massachusetts, oddly stands out among the isthmus of Latin music, culture, history, language and customs. Belize is part of the British Commonwealth of Nations and Queen Elizabeth is the second titular head of state. It is the only Central American country where english is the official language. Most of the country's 200,000 people live on the caribbean coast, leaving the inland rain forest, jungle and swampy plains almost uninhabited.

Crystal clear coastal waterways are shallow and protected by the longest barrier reef in the western hemisphere. More than 200 islands, called cayes, extend the entire length of the country and provide unlimited investment potential.

Belize is undergoing a tourism boom. The combination of white sand, clear water, jungle wildlife, champion fishing, tropical climate and Mayan ruins provide an irresistible mix for eco-tourists. Plans have been made to make Belize one of many offshore financial centers.

Although located in Central America, Belize is culturally more influenced by the Caribbean than by Latin America. The country is a melting pot, where the main ethnic groups are Creole, Mestizo, and Garifuna. It is the most expensive place to live in Central America but the most economical Caribbean destination.

Belize Profile...

OFFICIAL NAME Belize

CAPITAL CITY Belmopan

GEOGRAPHY

Location: Middle America, bordering the Caribbean Sea, between Guatemala and Mexico

Area:
total area: 22,960 sq. km
land area: 22,800 sq. km
comparative area: slightly larger than Massachusetts

Land boundaries: total 516 km, 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 miles; 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

International disputes: border with Guatemala in dispute; talks to resolve the dispute are stalled

Climate: tropical; very hot and humid; rainy season (May to February)

Terrain: flat, swampy coastal plain; low mountains in south

Natural resources: arable land potential, timber, fish

Land use:
arable land: 2%
permanent crops: 0%
meadows and pastures: 2%
forest and woodland: 44%
other: 52%

Irrigated land: 20 sq. km (1989 est.)

Environment:
current issues: deforestation; water pollution from sewage, industrial effluents, agricultural runoff
natural hazards: frequent, devastating hurricanes (September to December) and coastal flooding (especially in south)
international agreements: party to - Biodiversity, Climate Change, Endangered Species, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping

Note: national capital moved 80 km inland from Belize City to Belmopan because of hurricanes; only country in Central America without a coastline on the North Pacific Ocean

Country...

Belize, formerly called the British Honduras, is bordered to the east by the Caribbean sea, to the northwest by Mexico and to the west and south by Guatemala. The sea is only around 5 meters deep, all the way out to the more than 200 cayes. Beyond the cayes is a spectacular barrier reef that is a Mecca for divers and snorkelers.

The Maya Mountains to the west, together with the Cockscomb Range to the south, form the country's rugged backbone. The highest peak, Victoria, rises 3,700 feet (1,110 meters). The northern Coastal Lowlands are hot and swampy.

The southern part of the country is constantly humid and receives almost 157 inches (400 cm.) of rain per year. Mountain temperatures are comfortably warm and humid, while the coastal areas are always hot, but tempered by trade winds.

Most of Belize mainland is covered by dense forest. Many shallow waterways snake through the country, some are partially navigable.

History...

Filled with ancient indian ruins, Belize occupies the eastern most limit of the Mayan empire, which reached its height in 300 and 900 A.D.

Columbus reached Belize waters in 1502 and named the Bay of Belize, but never explored the hot, humid region. The first european settlers were shipwrecked British sailors and unemployed pirates.

After England wrestled control of Jamaica from the Spanish, disbanded soldiers and sailors arrived in Belize and a budding colony was formed, whose economy revolved around the cutting of log wood, used to make dyes.

Not to be outdone, the Spanish waged war on the settlement for the next 150 years, unwilling to concede even this tiny, new world foothold to the feared English.

The treaties of Paris and Versailles, signed in the late 1780's, granted the British rights to farm and harvest the log wood, but the Spanish attacks continued until the Iberians were soundly stomped by Belize settlers, reinforced by the British navy, in 1798 at the Battle of St. George's Caye. In 1862, British Honduras was officially declared a colony.

Primitive democracy, revolving around the Public meeting, governed the region in the early years. Later a constitution was drafted and an Executive Council was created. The public meeting gradually evolved. into a partially elected Legislative Assembly. After the colony was made official, England appointed a lieutenant governor, who was subordinate to the governor of Jamaica. The administrative tie with Jamaica was finally severed in 1884. An elective form of government based upon partially adult suffrage was introduced in 1935. Full adult suffrage and an elected majority in the Legislature was adopted in 1954.

After WW II, the economy worsened and colonist began clamoring for independence from England. The colony's name was changed from British Honduras to Belize in 1973. Complete independence was achieved in 1981, and a new constitution was drafted. Belize is now a member of the British Commonwealth, the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Organization of American States, and the Caribbean Community.

Government...

constitution provides for the appointment of a Prime Minister by the
Governor - General from among members of the House of Representatives who, in his or her opinion is considered the leader of the majority of the members of the House.

The Prime Minister appoints Ministers of Cabinet who are collectively
responsible for every part of the Government's Administration.


Prime Minister, Minister of Finance and Foreign Affairs. (Hon. Said Musa)

Profile of Prime Minister Said W. Musa


Said Wilbert Musa was born in San Ignacio, Cayo District in the morning from humble stock and modest means. From his early years, Said learned the value of of 19 March, 1944. He was the fourth of eight children by Hamid and Aurora Musa. The Musas are hard work. His parents instilled in him discipline, respect for others, and a commitment to serve his community and country. Growing up in San Ignacio in post-World War II British Honduras, Said and his family shared the hardships of rural life in a colonial backwater. He quickly realized that education was the key to a better future. Hamid and Aurora Musa sacrificed much for their family, but the education of their children was always given
a high priority. From this, Said learned the simple lesson that there is no greater tool of upliftment and empowerment than education. To do better and to make life better for others has been and continues to be the central theme of his life's work.

As a boy, Said attended Saint Andrew's Primary School in San Ignacio. After primary school, his family moved to Belize City where Said went to distinguish himself as a student at St. Michael's College and later at St. John's College Sixth Form. He then went to England where he studied law at Manchester University. In 1966, he obtained an Honours Degree in Law (L.L.B., Hons.). He was called to the Bar at Gray's Inn, London, after obtaining a Certificate from the Council of Legal Education in 1960. During this period, he married Joan Musa and started a family.

The young Belizean lawyer returned home in 1967, filled with a passion to participate in the growth and development of our yet unborn nation-state. He served as a Circuit Magistrate during the latter part of 1967 into 1968, and as Crown Counsel in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions between 1968 and 1969. His interest in the welfare of civil servants at that time led to his election as President of the Public Service Union.

But Said was restless. He needed more excitement, more challenges. He also needed to be free from the restriction the colonial administration put on its bright, young rising stars. After two years in the public service, doing his bit for the public and the service, he decided to enter private practice as an Attorney-at-Law in 1970. He teamed up, first with Assad Shoman, and then with Lawrence "Ronnie" Balderamos and co-founded the law firm of Musa and Balderamos. As a young lawyer and a political and social activist, Said became involved with the United Black Association for Development (UBAD) with Evan X Hyde and a group of young, talented, socially conscious Belizeans, who made an impact on the Belizean scene of the early to mid-1970's. During this time also, along with Assad Shoman, he formed the People's Action Committee (PAC) and the Society for the Promotion of Education and Research (SPEAR).

Early in 1974, Said found a home in the People's United Party, where he joined in the struggle for Belizean Independence. He saw in the PUP a party of hope, vision and change, and he embraced its philosophy. His first general election bid in 1974 was unsuccessful, but Premier George Price, appreciating the political promise in this young lawyer, appointed him Senator for 1974-79 term.

Said went back to the voters of the Fort George constituency in 1979 and waged a political comeback that demolished the then UDP Leader, Dean Lindo and convincingly christened him a consummate politician. He was appointed Attorney General and Minister of Education and Sports in the 1979-84 PUP Government. Later in that same administration, Musa was given the additional portfolio of Minister for Economic Development.

These were exciting times in Belize's struggle for Independence and territorial integrity. Musa jumped into the fray with vigour and determination. He helped to mastermind the internationalization of Belize's struggle and participated in negotiations with Britain and Guatemala. He represented Belize at the Caribbean Community, the Commonwealth of Nations, in Latin America and at the United Nations, and traveled extensively in Belize's quest for worldwide support for our independence and the preservation of our traditional and existing borders.

Musa helped to win that Independence and the guarantee of our territorial integrity in 1981. But before the culmination of this phase of the struggle, Musa was a key figure in the drafting of the Constitution of the independent Belize and the discussions leading to the peaceful transition from self-governing colonial status to independent state. As Minister of Foreign Affairs in independent Belize, Said honed his diplomatic skills as he presided over such notable triumphs as the recognition of Belize's sovereignty and independence by Guatemala, and the admission of Belize into the Organization of American States.

Said Musa has been in public life for the past twenty five years. During this time he worked and served Belize as Attorney General; Minister of Education; Foreign Affairs; Economic Development; Sports and Culture. He has won four general elections as the representative of the Fort George constituency of Belize City. He has earned his stripes.

In 1996, the People's United Party called on him to take over the reins of leadership from its great leader Emeritus and Father of the Nation George Price. Again, he embraced the challenge, with humility, but with new hope and a new vision for a better Belize.

As Party Leader, Said Musa has traveled throughout Belize, to towns, villages, scattered communities. He has met, listened and spoken with Belizeans from all walks of life. He has a gut sense of what makes this nation tick and what are the hopes and aspirations of its people.

As a person, Said is easily approachable, warm and compassionate. He is a listener more than a talker, although he handles himself masterfully in front of a microphone, on a rostrum or in the blaze of television lights. He is a man of action, yet a closet intellectual, as familiar with Camus and Voltaire, and Vivaldi, as he is with baca a'town Blues and Punta Rebels. From Majestic Alley to Belmopan, Said Musa is the archetype of Kipling's man. He can walk among kings, but still keep the common touch.

Said Musa is now the Prime Minister of Belize - the third in our nation's short history. The baton has been passed to a new leader, to a man of vision and a man of action. Through training, experience and compassion, Prime Minister Musa is well suited to carry out the Belizean agenda for the new millennium. Having helped to Set Belize Free, Musa and the PUP are now poised to implement a new, bold, creative agenda for real change.

The Cabinet is the chief policy making arm of the government and is made up of a body of persons who formulate the policy and programme of the government and is headed by the Prime Minister. Persons are drawn from the National Assembly's House of Representatives and the Senate, to make up the Cabinet.
Cabinet (1998 - 2003)

US diplomatic representation

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