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Country Overview:
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. Tourism has become the mainstay of the economy.

Central America, bordering the Caribbean Sea, between Guatemala and Mexico

Geographic coordinates:
17 15 N, 88 45 W

Total: 22,966 sq km , land: 22,806 sq km, water: 160 sq km

Area – Comparative:
Slightly smaller than Massachusetts

Land boundaries:
Total: 516 km, border countries: Guatemala 266 km, Mexico 250 km

386 km

Tropical; very hot and humid; rainy season (May to November); dry season (February to May)

Flat, swampy coastal plain; low mountains in south

Elevation extremes:
Lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m

Highest Point:
Highest point: Doyle’s Delight 1,160 m

Natural Resources:
Arable land potential, timber, fish, hydropower

301,270 (July 2008 est.)
Noun: Belizean(s)

Adjective: Belizean

Ethnic groups:
Mestizo 48.7%, Creole 24.9%, Maya 10.6%, Garifuna 6.1%, other 9.7% (2000 census)

Roman Catholic 49.6%, Protestant 27% (Pentecostal 7.4%, Anglican 5.3%, Seventh-Day Adventist 5.2%, Mennonite 4.1%, Methodist 3.5%, Jehovah’s Witnesses 1.5%), other 14%, none 9.4% (2000)

Spanish 46%, Creole 32.9%, Mayan dialects 8.9%, English 3.9% (official), Garifuna 3.4% (Carib), German 3.3%, other 1.4%, unknown 0.2% (2000 census)

Country Name:

Government Type:
Parliamentary democracy

Capital Name:

21 September 1981 (from UK)

National Holiday:
Independence Day, 21 September (1981)

21 September 1981

Legal System:
English law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

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 BARROW (since 8 February 2008); Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar VEGA (since 12 February 2008)

Cabinet appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister

The monarch is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition is usually appointed prime minister by the governor general; prime minister recommends the deputy prime minister

About the author

Staff Writer