Belize

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Belize: 

Belize September 27,2007

Geography: 

Geography Caribbean coast of Northern Central America Mexico to North, Guatemala to West Area:22,960 sq km (slightly smaller than Massachusetts) Because of lagoons and swamp areas total land mass only 21,400 sq km 280 km north to south 100 km east to west Highest point Victoria Peak (1160 m) Lowest point Caribbean Sea Victoria peak

Climate: 

Climate Tropical climate Pronounced wet and dry seasons Wide temperature and weather according to region Small fluctuation in temperature Northern regions get average of 1350 mm of rain (approximately 53 in.) Southern regions get average of 4500 mm or rain (approximately 177 in.) South dry season is shorter Hurricanes have been very devastating in the past

Flora: 

Flora Belize has one of world’s richest habitats Over 4000 flowering plants About 700 species of trees About 250 species orchids Several hundred species of other types of plants Some kind of forest cover over 70% of country Almost half of primary forest still standing National tree mahogany National flower Black Orchid Mahogany and logger tree important exports Many fruit and nut trees among them: Cashew, Coconut, Guava, Mango, Papaya, Banana and Pineapple

Fauna: 

Fauna National animal Tapir On endangered species list 5 species cat—most revered is jaguar 3 of world’s 8 species of sea turtle are found in Belize Snakes, lizards and crocodiles also common http://www.tapirback.com/tapirgal/bairds/pix-liv/tapir002.htm

Population: 

Population 294,385 (2007 est.) 31/sq mi Population growth: 2.31% 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 Witness 1.5% None 9.4% Other 14% Language Official—English Spanish Mayan Garifuna (Carib) Creole Literacy (age 15+ can read and write) Total population 94.1% Male 94.1% Female 94.1%

History-1: 

History-1 Belize held many important Mayan centers In 1600’s Spanish came to Belize and launched several incursions into Belize Mayan cities Chetumal and Dzuluinicob successfully resisted Spanish domination at first and became place of refuge from Spanish Refugees brought diseases they had picked up from Spanish which devastated population and ended resistance Spanish missionaries eager to spread Spanish control built churches and tried to convert Mayans Pirates cut off supplies and exports so Spanish left Balacar which severed their control over Chetumal and Dzuluinicob 1696 Spanish used Tipu as base and established control in the area once more Belize didn’t attract many Spanish settlers but British colonists got interested in area When British started settling Belize, the Mayan political center, Dzuluinicob, died

History-2: 

History-2 Logwood was thick in Belize and was the main source of attraction for British setters In 1670 the Godolphin Treaty between Spain and England was signed. It stated that England got countries and islands in Western Hemisphere they already occupied, but the countries were not named so coastal area between Yucatan and Nicaragua remained an area of conflict Spain expelled British settlements in 1717, 1730, 1754, 1779 but Spanish never settled so British always came back British and Spanish always in conflict over Belize in early history until 1798 1738 without sovereign recognition, British settlers started electing magistrates annually to establish common laws for settlement Jamaican governor put Colonel Edward Marcus Despard in charge of Belize settling in Bay of Honduras 1786, Convention of London allowed British settlers to cut and export logwood and mahogany from Hondu river to Sibun River but forbid any fortifications or any form of government or development of pantation agriculture

History-3: 

History-3 Spain retained sovereignty and reserved right to inspect twice a year British also agreed to evacuate Mosquito Coast in east Nicaragua 2000 British and their slaves arrived in Belize from Mosquito Coast, strengthening British presence In 1798 Spain attempted to regain control again. British drove them off however and it marked the end of Spanish resistance to settling Plantation agriculture and self-government grew despite both activities being banned In late 1700’s wealthy settlers controlled political economy and claimed 4/5 of land and half of slaves, controlled imports and exports, wholesale and retail trades, and taxation They elected magistrates and granted them executive and judicial control The royal government had appointed superintendents to oversee settlements but they had little or no power over the people

History-4: 

History-4 Slaves were imported for cutting logwood The first record of saves in Belize was in 1724 By 1824 there were 2300 slaves Slaves tried to retain their own culture at first but they slowly adapted and created what is now Creole culture Whites were a minority but by controlling economy and first legislature, judicial and administrative institutions they maintained their hold on the power and wealth In the early 1700’s the settlers only needed 1 or 2 slaves to harvest logwood. When the focus changed to Mahogany in the 1770’s they need much more land, money and slaves Since the slaves were treated harshly as a general rule many of them escaped In small communities it was generally easy to escape since Belize was still fairly sparsely populated The owners tried to keep their slaves from free Creoles from fear they would induce uprisings

History-5: 

History-5 Creole couldn’t hold commissions in military or act as jurors or magistrates and all economic activities were restricted They could only vote if they owned more property and had inhabited the area longer than the whites Because other officials in other colonies started expanding Creole rights, the British Colonial Office pressured Belize officials to do so also July 5, 1831 “Colored Subjects of free conditions” were granted civil rights but it was still over a century before blacks were able to ascertain them In early 1800’s Garifuna (descendants of Carib and Africans) arrived in settlement They had resisted French and British but had been defeated They were then moved to Bay Islands but had gradually migrated to Caribbean coasts of Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, and south Belize Found jobs cutting Mahogany They were viewed by whites as squatters and told them they had to get leases from the royal government to stay on land so they were removed to reservations They were not allowed to own land and were treated no better than their labor proved useful

History-6: 

History-6 The Clayton-Bulwar treaty between the U.S. and Britain was signed in 1850 In it Britain and the U.S. agreed that they would both encourage a canal construction across Central America but neither of them would attempt to colonize any part of Central America Britain gave up Bay Islands and Mosquito Coast but quickly wrote a constitution for Belize and had it ratified Belize became British Honduras in 1862 The government set up in the constitution had an 18 member Legislative assembly, who each had to own property worth at least 400 pounds sterling silver, and 3 “official” members who the superintendent appointed Voters had to be land owners or rich Superintendent had complete authority in everything

History-7: 

History-7 Because of fighting and oppression in land, many Maya refugees settled in Belize They were not allowed to own land They generally worked cutting logwood and mahogany and were underpaid and oppressed They started some uprisings in the North but British soldiers defeated them eventually and many of them moved onto reservations Mostly because of military costs of suppressing the Mayan rebellions, expenses for new colony increased and at the same time the economy depressed The legislation were unable to agree on how to tax to raise money, they resorted to giving government control to direct British rule A new constitution was ratified in 1871 The new legislature council had a lieutenant governor, who had same power in British Honduras as the former superintendents but had more influence in London, 5 “official” members and 4 appointed members The change moved power from settler elite’s rule to Colonial office in London

History-8: 

History-8 Despite a growing population, there was still much unused, sparsely populated land, mostly because a handful of white Europeans still controlled the land Forestry interests hindered agricultural development and kept population dependent on imports Mahogany and logwood was still 80% of export but demand and prices had dropped considerably which sent the colony into a prolonged depression The results of the depression were: A decline of old settler class An increase in capital consolidation Intensified British land ownership Concentration and Consolidation meant the control of the economy would be entirely in Britain’s hands

History-9: 

History-9 All legislative seats were still by appointment which meant the governing was done by rich whites Creole’s requested that a few seats be left open for election thus providing some representation but the request was denied Meanwhile, the mahogany trade was still depressed and efforts in plantation agriculture (sugarcane, coffee, bananas etc.) failed The lack of conservation and reforestation was depleting logging resources During prohibition some Creoles sold alcohol to the U.S. and acquired much wealth while many white merchants went bankrupt during the depression The millionaire Creoles were given some seats in the legislature

History10: 

History10 The Great Depression destroyed the economy and unemployment was high. Mahogany and Chicle harvest was hardly existent and then on top of everything a big hurricane demolished Belize Town The British government took control and seized the opportunity to tighten their grip on Belize by giving the governor reserve power for disaster aid The economy continued declining. Total value of imports and exports was about ¼ of what it was in 1992 (3 years earlier) One of the only companies that remained in tact was the Belize Estate and Produce Company. The owners had contacts and support in London that helped them. When a Creole millionaire beat ex owner of Belize Estate and Produce Company in legislature elections, it marked the decline of British influence and the rise of Creole entrepreneurs with U.S. commercial connections

History-11: 

History-11 Finally the poor got fed up with being oppressed and they responded with a series of strikes, demonstrations, petitions, and riots. That marked the beginning of modern politics Strikes and petitions led governor to provide relief work and pressure on legislature for semi-representative government in an effort to avoid civil disturbances New Constitution in April 1935 Allowed for 5 electoral seats in legislature but high voter-eligibility kept only richest 2% able to vote 1930’s highly transitional period for politics, spurred by labor issues and voter eligibility expansion In 1950 George Cadle Price became a very dominant politician The event that started his career was the devaluation of British Honduras dollar in 1949 That move helped white elites who traded with the British but hindered the Creoles who traded with the U.S. It also hurt the poor and laborers because most of their food was imported from the U.S. so the prices jumped

History-12: 

History-12 The unions’ power was increasing so political leaders took over in order to gain their power but union declined with increasing dependence on politicians in 1950’s The People’s United Party (PUP) became the leading people’s voice in politics then. They pushed for representative and responsible government Seeing how strong PUP was getting, the Colonial administration started attacking They succeeded in dissolving a smaller people’s voice group and removed the most powerful of PUP’s leaders which led to Price having an open door 2 years later (1954) PUP became powerful again and Price was the clear leader 1954 election issue was colonialism. Voting for PUP meant voting for self-government That election PUP gained 8 of 9 electoral seats

History-13: 

History-13 There were basically only two obstacles to British Honduras becoming a free country: Britain unwilling to relinquish control, and Guatemalan conflict over land rights In 1961 Britain finally willing to release British Honduras but Guatemala still unmoving on insistence for land Britain slowly let go and in 1973 British Honduras changed name to Belize in anticipation of independence Territory dispute still a problem but Belize became a free country anyway in 1981

Government: 

Government Parliamentary Democracy Head of state is Queen of Belize, Elizabeth II of United Kingdom who is represented by Governor-General Prime Minister head of government and leads cabinet who act as advisors and exercise executive authority Cabinet ministers hold electoral seats and part of the majority of political party in parliament National assembly of Belize is House of Representatives and Senate House has 29 members elected to maximum 5 year term. They introduce legislation dealing with Belize development Governor-General appoints Senate (12 members) They select Senate President and are responsible for debating and approving bills passed by house

Economy: 

Economy Belize has one of highest unemployment rates in Central America—9.4% 33.5% population in poverty Agriculture, agro-based industry, merchandising, tourism and construction Tourism and construction are more important Chief crop is sugar. Make up nearly half of exports Banana industry largest employer Petroleum newly developed industry Citrus recently became a major industry Major concerns are rapid growth in trade deficit and foreign debt

Main Sources: 

Main Sources http://countrystudies.us http://worldfacts.us

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