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Guatemala holds referendum on territorial dispute with Belize

GUATEMALA BELIZE | 15 de abril de 2018

Guatemala City, Apr 15 (efe-epa).- Polling places opened in Guatemala on Sunday so that more than 7.5 eligible voters can cast their ballots in a referendum to decide how to resolve the territorial dispute with neighboring Belize.

A total of 2,782 polling places opened at 7 am without any reported incidents and are scheduled to close at 6 pm.

Guatemalan voters are being called upon to decide whether or not to bring the territorial - including islands and ocean waters - dispute before the International Court of Justice with an eye toward defining the frontier between the two nations.

The question being put to the citizenry is: "Are you in agreement with submitting any Guatemalan legal claim against Belize over continental, island and any maritime ... territories ... to the International Court of Justice for its definitive resolution and that this will determine the borders of the respective territories and areas of the parties?"

The Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) officially inaugurated the voting day at a polling place in the capital, with TSE authorities urging the populace to vote and expressing their desire for the balloting to transpire calmly around the country, where more than 39,000 police and members of the army are overseeing security.

TSE authorities believe that the biggest challenge will be to get voter participation in the referendum, since historically - in the two similar votes held on the matter in the past - absenteeism exceeded 80 percent.

Almost 400 national and international observers will monitor the process and a meeting to evaluate the vote will be held once the work of the local election boards, the vote count and the processing of the results have been completed. A report will be issued on the matter containing observations and potential recommendations for Guatemalan election authorities.

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