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The OAS welcomes two new members.

On January 8, 1991 Belize and Guyana were ratified as the thirty-fourth and thirty-fifth members of the Organization of American States (OAS), at a Special Session of the OAS General Assembly.

The Charter of the Organization was signed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belize, Said Musa, and the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs of Guyana, Keith Massaih, in the presence of OAS Secretary General Joao Clemente Baena Soares.

Ambassador Baena Soares stated that "the admission of Belize and Guyana as full-fledged members of the Organization of American States is a reason for the Secretary General to rejoice. It is a demonstration of the continuous relevance of the OAS as the forum for dialogue and agreement among American countries." He went on to point out that "the oldest international organization now has as members all the countries in the continent. This strengthens its role of promoting security, economic progress and social justice for the peoples of the Hemisphere."

Foreign Minister Musa, of Balize, told the General Assembly "this marks an important milestone in the political life of the sovereign nation of Balize. Today, we join and are accepted into the great family of Western Hemisphere Nations, the Organization of American States." Attorney General Massiah, of Guyana, remarked "today marks the culmination of Guyana's diplomatic efforts to have its right to membership of this Organization and to participate in arrangements within the Inter-American System, fully acknowledged."



Located on the littoral of South America between Suriname on the east, Brazil on the south and Venezuela on the west and with its northern shores carressed by the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean, is the Republic of Guyana. Guyana is a relatively small developing country of 83,000 square miles. Better known in the history books as "Demerara" or "British Guiana," Guyana has a multi-ethnic population of just over 800,000 people which reflects the country's immigrant history.

The largest ethnic group is the descendants of the East Indian indentured labourers from India. The descendants of Africans who were brought as slaves from West Africa, comprise the next largest ethnic group. Other significant groups are the native Amerindians, (who it is believed, came originally from Mongolia) Chinese and Europeans, many of the latter being of Portuguese extraction. Like the Indians and the Chinese, the Portuguese who came to "Demerara" mainly from Mandeira, the Azores and Cape Verde, were indentured labourers. During colonial rule they were regarded as separate and apart from other Europeans because of their indentured status. Due to many years of interracial marriage, a large segment of Guyana's population today is racially and ethnically mixed.

The name "Guyana" is derived from an Amerindian word which means "land of many waters." it is certainly an apt description of this sub-tropical country with its intricate network of rivers, streams, numerous rapids and waterfalls. Among the more notable of its waterways is the so-called Hot and Cold Lake which is one body of water in which the temperature varies from extreme hot to cold. Better known internationally, is the famous Kaieteur Falls where the continuous perpendicular drop of a large volume of water for 741 feet makes it the highest waterfall in the world.

Georgetown is the capital city of Guyana. It is a port city and the main commercial and administrative center of the country. With a checker-board street layout, tree-lined avenues, well manicured parapets and an interesting mix of architectural designs, Georgetown has often been referred to as the "Garden City of the Caribbean." It is an accolade of which all Guyanese are proud.

Although Guyana is geographically a South American nation, it has always been historically, politically and culturally linked to the English-speaking Carribean. The official language is English, making Guyana the only English-speaking country on the continent. An English-based Creole dialect called Creolese is widely used as an informal means of communication. The indigenous Amerindians have maintained their many dialects, while Hindi and Urdu are used almost exclusively for religious purposes by Hindus and Muslims respectively.

The earliest records of Guyana's history date to the sixteenth century when Spanish conquistadores discovered the guianas. After being settled by the Dutch in the seventeenth century, there was a succession of conflicts among the Dutch, the French and the British for outright possession of the then colonies of Essequibo, Demerara and Berbice which today comprise the three counties of Guyana. In 1814, these three colonies were ceded to the British who, in 1831, merged them into one colony which they called British Guiana. Guyana gained her independence from Britain in 1966 and in 1970 became a Republic within the British Commonwealth of Nations. Guyana is one of the Charter Members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).



For over 4,000 years, Belize was part of a major trade route in the Mayan empire. The Mayan culture persisted even as the first shipwrecked British pirates landed and began converting the region's vast mahogony forests into a thriving lumber industry to meet the European demand for tropical wood. After defeating several Spanish attempts to claim the country, British control gradually increased and Belize, then known as British Honduras, became a Crown colony in 1862. Belize finally achieved constitutional independence in 1981, 160 years after the rst of Central America. Tourism and agriculture are top priorities in Belize and the government is committed to strong conservation measures to preserve the country's natural treasures and heritage.

Tucked between Mexico and Guatemala, this English-speaking country comprises 9,000 square miles of spectacular beauty, both inland and along the coast. The capital city, Belmopan, is located 50 miles west of Belize City, which is the site of the international airport and home to about one-third of the country's 175,000 residents. Belize is also the gateway to the country's beautiful island Cayes. The Cayes are part of a 176 mile barrier reef, second largest only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Ambergris Caye is the most developed of the islands, with San Pedro its seaside hub.

Although the official language is English, a lyrical Caribbean-sounding version of "broken English" has evolved with the Creole culture. The Creole population is a mixture of the many distinct ethnic groups in Belize and the language captures the essence of the gentle Belizian folk-wisdom. "Wen fish co(me) fram riva-battan an' tell you haligetta gat pain-a-belly, belive a(m)" (When a fish comes from the river bottom and tells you the alligator has a belly-ache, believe it), generally means that information obtained from a person in the know is likely to be true. "Two stick grow da bush' one grow straight, one grow crooked" is generally understood to mean that people are inexplicably different.

The origin of the name "Belize" is still uncertain. Some say it is a derivation of the Mayan word "beliz" meaning "muddy river." Others speculate that it is a corruption of the name Peter Wallace, the notorious buccaneer who founded the first settlement; but more likely it is the adaption of the French word "balise," meaning "beacon."

What is certain is that Belize has been a beacon welcoming diverse peoples who find racial harmony, relgious freedom and peaceful living within its borders.
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Title Annotation:The Inter-American System; Organization of American States
Publication:Americas (English Edition)
Date:Nov 1, 1990
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