/ beliːz /
Country in Central America, bounded N by Mexico, W and S by Guatemala, and E by the Caribbean Sea.
The 1981 constitution provides for a parliamentary government on the British model, with a prime minister and cabinet drawn from the legislature and accountable to it. The national assembly consists of a senate and a house of representatives. The senate has eight members appointed by the governor-general for a five-year term, five on the advice of the prime minister, two on the advice of the leader of the opposition, and one after wider consultations. The house of representatives has 28 members elected by universal suffrage. The governor-general appoints both the prime minister and the leader of the opposition.
Once part of the Maya civilization, and colonized in the 17th century, British Honduras (as it was called until 1973) became a recognized British colony 1862. A 1954 constitution provided for internal self-government, with the UK responsible for defense, external affairs, and internal security.
The first general election under the the new constitution, and all subsequent elections until 1984, were won by the People's United Party (PUP), led by George Price. Full internal self-government was achieved 1964, and Price became prime minister.
The capital was moved 1970 from Belize City to the new town of Belmopan. British troops were sent 1975 to defend the long-disputed frontier with Guatemala. Negotiations begun 1977 were inconclusive.
full independence achieved
The United Nations called 1980 for full independence for Belize. A constitutional conference broke up 1981 over Guatemala's demand for territory rather than just access to the Caribbean. Full independence was achieved 1981 with George Price as the first prime minister. The UK agreed to protect the frontier and to assist in the training of Belizean forces. The PUP's uninterrupted 30-year rule ended 1984 when the United Democratic Party (UDP) leader, Manuel Esquivel, became prime minister. The UK reaffirmed its undertaking to protect Belize's disputed frontier. Still led by George Price, the PUP unexpectedly won the Sept 1989 general election by a margin of 15 to 13 seats in the house of representatives.
Guatemala border dispute
Diplomatic relations were established with Guatemala Sept 1991 after the latter announced its recognition of Belize's independence. However, the British government's decision to relinquish its responsibility for the country's external defense from 1994 was treated with some unease. The July 1993 general election was won by the UDP and Esquivel returned as prime minister. He promptly suspended the legislation that had resolved the border dispute under the previous administration, arguing for the need for a national referendum on the issue.
A country of Central America on the Caribbean; formerly under British control; Also called: British Honduras.