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Belize was the site of several Mayan city states until their decline at the end of the first millennium A.D. The British and Spanish disputed the region in the 17th and 18th centuries; it formally became the colony of British Honduras in 1854. Territorial disputes between the UK and Guatemala delayed the independence of Belize until 1981. Guatemala refused to recognize the new nation until 1992 and the two countries are involved in an ongoing border dispute. Guatemala and Belize plan to hold a simultaneous referendum to determine if this dispute will go before the International Court of Justice at The Hague, though they have not yet set a date. Tourism has become the mainstay of the economy. Current concerns include the country's heavy foreign debt burden, high unemployment, growing involvement in the Mexican and South American drug trade, high crime rates, and one of the highest prevalence rates of HIV/AIDS in Central America.


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Government

Country name
Conventional long form None
Conventional short form Belize
Former British Honduras

Government type
Parliamentary democracy and a Commonwealth realm

Capital
Name Belmopan
Geographic coordinates 17 15 N, 88 46 W
Time difference
UTC-6 (1 hour behind Washington, DC during Standard Time)

Administrative divisions
6 districts; Belize, Cayo, Corozal, Orange Walk, Stann Creek, Toledo

Independence
21 September 1981 (from the UK)

Constitution
21 September 1981

Legal system
English common law

International law organization participation
Has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdiction

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 Dean Oliver BARROW (since 8 February 2008); Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar VEGA (since 12 February 2008)
Cabinet
Cabinet appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister from the General Assembly
Elections
The monarchy is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition usually appointed prime minister by the governor general; prime minister recommends the deputy prime minister

Legislative branch
Bicameral National Assembly consists of the Senate (12 seats; members appointed by the governor general - 6 on the advice of the prime minister, 3 on the advice of the leader of the opposition, and 1 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; to serve five-year terms) and the House of Representatives (31 seats; members are elected by direct popular vote to serve five-year terms)
Elections
House of Representatives - last held on 8 March 2012 (next to be held in 2017)
Election results
Percent of vote by party - UDP 50.4%, PUP 47.5%, other 2.8%; seats by party - UDP 17, PUP 14

Judicial branch
Supreme Court (the chief justice is appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister); Court of Appeal; Privy Council in the UK; member of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ); Summary Jurisdiction Courts (criminal) and District Courts (civil jurisdiction)

Political parties and leaders
National Alliance for Belizean Rights or NABR; National Reform Party or NRP [Cornelius DUECK]; People's National Party or PNP [Wil MAHEIA]; People's United Party or PUP [John BRICENO]; United Democratic Party or UDP [Dean BARROW]; Vision Inspired by the People or VIP [Paul MORGAN]; We the People Reform Movement or WTP [Hipolito BAUTISTA]

Political pressure groups and leaders
Society for the Promotion of Education and Research or SPEAR [Nicole HAYLOCK]; Association of Concerned Belizeans or ACB [David VASQUEZ]; National Trade Union Congress of Belize or NTUC/B [Rene GOMEZ]

International organization participation
ACP, AOSIS, C, Caricom, CDB, CELAC, FAO, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ITU, LAES, MIGA, NAM, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, PCA, Petrocaribe, SICA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO

Diplomatic representation in the us
Chief of mission Ambassador Nestor MENDEZ
Chancery
2535 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
Telephone [1] (202) 332-9636
FAX [1] (202) 332-6888
Consulate(s) general Los Angeles

Diplomatic representation from the us
Chief of mission Ambassador Vinai THUMMALAPALLY
Embassy
Floral Park Road, Belmopan City, Cayo District
Mailing address
P.O. Box 497, Belmopan City, Cayo District, Belize
Telephone [501] 822-4011
FAX [501] 822-4012

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 of 50 mahogany leaves; the colors are those of the two main political parties: blue for the PUP and red for the UDP; various elements of the coat of arms - the figures, the tools, the mahogany tree, and the garland of leaves - recall the logging industry that led to British settlement of Belize
Note
Belize's flag is the only national flag that depicts human beings; two British overseas territories, Montserrat and the British Virgin Islands, also depict humans

National symbol(s)
Baird's tapir (a large, browsing, forest-dwelling mammal); keel-billed toucan

National anthem
Name "Land of the Free"
Lyrics/music
Samuel Alfred HAYNES/Selwyn Walford YOUNG
Note
Adopted 1981; as a Commonwealth country, in addition to the national anthem, "God Save the Queen" serves as the royal anthem (see United Kingdom)


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  Belize (Belmopan):


  GPS points from Belize (Belmopan)

Southern Lagoon Belize District

Pine Ridge Creek Toledo District

Cotton Tree Bank Cayo District

Aguacate Camp Cayo District

New Bight Belize District

Cenoti Creek Orange Walk District

Ships Bogue Belize District

Mangrove Cays Toledo District




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