Tucked between the Caribbean Sea and the rainforest on the eastern coast of Central America, Belize is the home of a small and diverse nation.
The country, formerly known as British Honduras, was the United Kingdom’s last colony on the American mainland and still maintains strong ties with Britain.
Today Belize, which considers itself part of both the Caribbean and Central America, is cultivating relations with Latin America and the United States, although there is a lingering dispute with neighbouring Guatemala, which has made claim to part of Belize’s territory in the past.
Tourism is a major source of foreign currency. Belize’s attractions include wildlife, Mayan ruins and one of the longest barrier reefs in the world.
Belize has a problem with violent crime, largely drug-related, and the trafficking of narcotics to the US, however. In 2011 Belize was added to a US blacklist of countries considered to be major producers or transit routes for illegal drugs.
Head of state: King Charles III is the head of state, represented by a governor general
Prime minister: Johnny Briceño
On 11 November 2020, the People’s United Party (PUP), led by Johnny Briceño, defeated the United Democratic Party (UDP) for the first time since 2003, having won 26 seats out of 31 to form a government.
In 2008, Guatemala and Belize held referendums in which voters in both countries decided to submit the issue of their historic border dispute to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). As of June 2022, both countries confirmed that they had submitted their initial briefs to ICJ for consideration.
Belize compares favourably for media freedom with neighbouring countries.
There are no daily newspapers. Radio and TV outlets are privately-owned.
Internet use is limited by a lack of infrastructure and high prices.
Some key dates in the history of Belize:
16th-19th centuries – The Spanish arrive; Spanish rule ends in 1862 when Belize is formally declared a British crown colony and named British Honduras.
1954 – Constitutional reforms give Belize limited autonomy; general elections won by People’s United Party (PUP), led by George Price.
1964 – New constitution gives Belize full autonomy and introduces universal adult suffrage and a two-chamber parliament. In 1973, the country changes its name from British Honduras to Belize.
1981 – Belize becomes independent with George Price as prime minister, but Guatemala refuses to recognise it. About 1,500 British troops remain to defend the country against Guatemalan territorial claims. Guatemala recognises Belize’s independence in 1992 although the territorial conflict remains.
2002 – Belize, Guatemala agree on a draft settlement to their long-standing border dispute at talks brokered by the Organisation of American States (OAS). The deal, which proposed referendums in both countries, is rejected by Guatemala in 2003.
2005 – Rioting breaks out in the capital during a wave of anti-government protests.
2011 – Belize is added to US blacklist of countries considered to be major producers or transit routes for illegal drugs.
2008 – Guatemala and Belize hold referendums and submit the border dispute to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for arbitration.
2022 – Both countries submit their initial briefs on the border dispute to ICJ for consideration.