OFFICIAL NAME: Belize
SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT: Constitutional Monarchy
AREA: 22,963 Sq Km (8,866 Sq Mi)
ESTIMATED 2000 POPULATION 225,300
LOCATION & GEOGRAPHY: Belize is located on the eastern
coast of Central America. It is bound by the Caribbean Sea
to the east, Mexico to the north and northwest and Guatemala
to the west and southwest. The coastline is fringed by cays
as well as the world's second longest barrier reef while
the coastal plain is flat and swampy, although the inland
terrain rises gradually below the peaks of the Maya Mountains.
The country is more fertile inland and also has Savannah,
pine and tropical forests. Belize is drained by seventeen
rivers with the Belize River dissecting the country from
west to east. Major Cities (pop. est); Belize City 48,000,
Orange Walk 12,000, San Ignacio/Santa Elena 10,000, Corozal
8,000, Belmopan 4,000 (1993). Land Use; forested 92%, pastures
2%, agricultural-cultivated 3%, other 3% (1993).
CLIMATE: Belize has a subtropical climate that is uniformly hot
and humid, although it is tempered by the trade winds. The dry season is
from February to March with another brief spell during August, while the
hurricane season which often causes severe damage is from July to October.
Average annual precipitation varies from 1,270 mm (50 inches) in the north
to more than 3,810 mm (100 inches) in the south. Average temperature ranges
in Belize City are from 19 to 27 degrees Celsius (66 to 81 degrees Fahrenheit)
in January to 24 to 31 degrees Celsius (75 to 88 degrees Fahrenheit) in
PEOPLE: Belize is sparsely populated with 50% of the population
living in six main urban areas while around 23% live in the former capital
of Belize City. The population is of mixed racial descent with Creoles
predominantly Black Africans accounting for approximately 40% of the population
while Mestizos who are of mixed European and AmerIndian descent account
for 33%. Another 20% of the population are comprised from Arab, Mayan and
other AmerIndian ethnic groups. The remainder includes Europeans, Spanish,
East Indians, Lebanese and Chinese.
DEMOGRAPHIC/VITAL STATISTICS: Density; 8 persons per sq km (22
persons per sq mi) (1991). Urban-Rural; 51.6% urban, 48.4% rural (1990).
Sex Distribution; 50.7% male, 49.3% female (1987). Life Expectancy at Birth;
67.0 years male, 72.0 years female (1989). Age Breakdown; 45% under 15,
28% 15 to 29, 12% 30 to 44, 8% 45 to 59, 5% 60 to 74, 2% 75 and over (1987).
Birth Rate; 36.0 per 1,000 (1989). Death Rate; 6.0 per 1,000 (1989). Increase
Rate; 30.0 per 1,000 (1989). Infant Mortality Rate; 36.0 per 1,000 live
RELIGIONS: Mostly Christians with around 60% of the population
Roman Catholic while the remaining 40% are from the Anglican or other Protestant
LANGUAGES: The official language is English which is spoken by
nearly the entire population. Spanish is the native tongue of nearly 40%
of the population and is spoken by 20% of the population as a second language
while the AmerIndian tribes still speak their original native languages.
EDUCATION: Aged 25 or over and having attained: no formal schooling
10.7%, primary 75.3%, secondary 11.7%, higher 2.3% (1980). Literacy; literate
population aged 15 or over 99,000 or 93.0% (1991).
MODERN HISTORY - WWII TO 1993: From 1954 to 1960 there was an
increase in the number of elected members of the legislative council. In
1960 the leader of the majority party was allowed to become the country's
first Minister. The constitution affirmed the loyalty of the people of
Belize to the British Crown and their desire to advance toward self-government
within the Commonwealth. In 1962 Guatemala pressed its claims to annex
Belize, however, this was not supported by the people of Belize. Guatemala
recommended steps to foster economic cooperation between Belize and Guatemala,
although Guatemala broke diplomatic relations with Britain to protest the
grant of further autonomy to Belize in 1963. In 1964 the British controlled
Executive Council was replaced by a cabinet headed by a Prime Minister
and Belize became internally self-governing. On June 1, 1978 the country's
name was officially changed from British Honduras to Belize. Further progress
towards independence was delayed by the fear that Guatemala would invade
Belize once the British withdrew from the country. In 1981 Britain, Guatemala
and Belize reached an understanding, while plans were being made towards
independence. On Sept. 21 1981 Belize gained independence within the Commonwealth.
In 1982 a split in the governing party developed with George Price being
accused of allying too closely with the left wing governments of Cuba and
Nicaragua and not the USA. In Dec. 1984, Price lost his seat and the opposition,
under Manuel Esquivel who became Prime Minister, were elected. In Sept.
1989 general elections resulted in the return of George Price as Prime
Minister, who had promised to reverse his party's previous policy of "Savage
Economic Liberalism". On Aug. 7, 1991 Belize and Mexico established
a joint commission to help control drug trafficking. On Sept. 5, 1991 Guatemala
recognized Belize as a sovereign nation and peacefully abandoned its long-standing
territorial claims. On Sept. 10 the two countries established diplomatic
relations and in Oct. 1991 Prime Minister Price visited Guatemala. Also
during 1991, Belize was admitted to the Organization of American States
(OAS) while the economy also strengthened with growth in tourism and production
with sugar and banana exports also increasing. In Feb. 1992 expelled and
resigned members of the United Democratic Party (UDP) formed the National
Alliance for Belizean Rights (NABR). During 1992 the Belize government
allowed 100 Haitian refugees to stay in resettlement areas while the economy
in the tourism, construction, transport and communications sectors also
grew. In May 1993, the UK announced that the British garrison staffed for
45 years would be withdrawn due to the improved relations between Guatemala
and Belize. Early elections called by the PUP for June 30, 1993 resulted
in the UDP being elected to government with Manuel Esquivel as Prime Minister.
After Esquivel's appointment as Prime Minister he asked for the resignation
of governor-general Dame Minita Gordon, a moved that resulted in PUP objection.
CURRENCY: The official currency is the Dollar (BZD) divided into
ECONOMY: Gross National Product; USD $499,000,000 (1993). Public
Debt; USD $180,300,000 (1994). Imports; BZD $561,600,000 (1993). Exports;
BZD $263,100,000 (1993). Tourism Receipts; USD $73,000,000 (1993). Balance
of Trade; BZD -$170,600,000 (1994). Economically Active Population; 66,060
or 33.1% of total population (1993). Unemployed; 30.8% (1994).
MAIN TRADING PARTNERS: Its main trading partners are the USA,
Canada, the UK and other CACM (Central American Common Market) countries.
MAIN PRIMARY PRODUCTS: Bananas, Citrus Fruits, Coconuts, Corn, Fish,
Maize, Rice, Sugar Cane, Timber.
MAJOR INDUSTRIES: Agriculture, Brewing, Clothing, Fishing, Footwear,
Forestry, Soft Drink Bottling, Sugar Refining, Textiles.
MAIN EXPORTS: Bananas, Citrus Fruits, Clothing, Fish Products, Molasses,
TRANSPORT: Railroads; nil. Roads; length 3,000 km (1,864 mi)
(1985). Vehicles; cars 1,352 (1989), trucks and buses 2,328 (1989). Merchant
Marine; vessels 3 (1990), deadweight tonnage 305 (1990). Air Transport;
COMMUNICATIONS: Daily Newspapers; nil, Weekly Newspapers; 4 (1994).
Radio; receivers 106,000 (1994). Television; receivers 27,048 (1994). Telephones;
units 28,600 (1993).
MILITARY: 950 (1994) total active duty personnel with 94.7% army,
3.7% navy and 1.6% air force while military expenditure accounts for 2.6%
(1990) of the Gross National Product (GNP).