Relations with the United States

Belize Table of Contents

Belize had close and cordial relations with the United States, which was a leading trading partner and principal source of foreign investment and economic assistance. As early as the 1940s, leaders of the anticolonial movement sought close ties with the United States, not only to pressure and embarrass Britain, but also to try to eliminate the colonial government's pro-British trade and economic policies, which were detrimental to many Belizeans.

Since independence, Price and the PUP have charted a foreign policy that proclaimed Belize's nonalignment and affirmed the country's special relationship with the United States. The PUP's favorable attitude toward the United States (when nationalist opinion elsewhere in Latin America and the Caribbean has often been strongly anti-United States and sometimes pro-Cuban) probably reflects the country's colonial experience, which cast Britain, rather than the United States, as the main obstacle to national sovereignty. Additionally, the influential role of Christian Democratic thought on the early nationalist leaders, especially Price, undoubtedly helped steer Belizean political dialogue away from the Marxist influences that have helped shape anti-United States feelings elsewhere in Latin America. The PUP and the UDP were in broad agreement on the country's relationship with the United States, so the PUP's defeat in 1984 did not upset ties between the United States and Belize. On the contrary, the business-oriented UDP was highly favorable to the ideological outlook of the United States in the 1980s, and the Esquivel government was eager to implement free-market policies to attract United States investment.

United States foreign policy objectives in Belize included the promotion of economic development and political stability under democratic institutions, the promotion of United States commercial interests, the suppression of narcotics trafficking, and the continuation of the marijuana eradication program. While recognizing Britain as Belize's primary supplier of military aid, the United States sought cooperative military relations with Belize and the development of an apolitical professional military capable of performing defense and counternarcotics functions. AID's plans for the 1991-95 period focused on the agricultural and tourism sectors and were aimed at helping Belize achieve sustainable private-sector-led growth.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, United States foreign assistance to Belize totaled between US$9.3 million and US$10.7 million a year, a sharp decline from 1985, when it totaled US$25.7 million. Development Assistance and Peace Corps programs accounted for the bulk of the aid. In 1990 Development Assistance totaled US$6.5 million and Peace Corps programs totaled US$2.5 million. Belize received no food aid from the United States in the 1980s or early 1990s. Although Belize received a total of US$32.0 million in Economic Support Funds (ESF) from 1983 through 1987, it received no funds from this program in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Belize was a beneficiary of the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI), under which the United States permits duty-free access to United States markets for imports from most Caribbean Basin countries.

Military aid made up only a small percentage of United States assistance to Belize. From 1982 through 1990, Belize received over US$3 million in military assistance from the United States. In 1990, military aid totaled about US$615,000.

The PUP and the UDP governments both welcomed assistance from the United States, but this assistance was sometimes the subject of criticism. In the mid-1980s, for example, the presence of Peace Corps volunteers in government offices, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and secondary schools raised concerns that jobs were being taken away from Belizeans. People also complained that the volunteers interfered unduly in internal government affairs. In response to this criticism, the Peace Corps reduced the number of volunteers in Belize from more than 200 to less than 100 by early 1991. The role of AID consultants in preparing government development plans under the UDP government and the strings attached to aid from the United States have also been subjects of criticism. Belizean officials echoed this criticism because they did not believe that the restrictions (regarding trade and economic liberalizations) on the aid took into account local conditions. Although the Belizean government and business community felt positively about the CBI, they were concerned that the tradeliberalization component of President George Bush's Enterprise for the Americas Initiative and negotiations for a North American free-trade zone with Mexico might make it impossible for the small countries of the Caribbean to compete with countries such as Mexico and Brazil in the absence of special provisions to preserve existing preferential trade arrangements.

Latin American and Caribbean Countries

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress