Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. Keith Gilges’ Remarks at the 243rd Independence Day Celebration
July 2, 2019, 4:00 p.m.
Chief of Mission Residence
With protocol already established, I would like to welcome our special guests:
Deputy Governor General, The Honorable Carlos Perdomo;
Speaker of the House, The Honorable Laura Longsworth;
Chief Justice, The Honorable Kenneth Benjamin;
Members of the Government;
Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Welcome and Good Afternoon.
My special thanks to our private sector sponsors: American Airlines; Best Western Belize Biltmore Hotel; Bowen & Bowen; eData Ltd.; Madisco Food & Beverage; Karl H. Menzies, Ltd.; Madisco Food & Beverage; Ramada Princess Hotel & Casino; Sabido & Company; Southwest Airlines; the Twin Palms Inn; United Airlines; and Valley of Peace Farms Limited.
On behalf of the people of the United States, thank you for joining us on our nation’s birthday.
Every year on the 4th of July, Americans come together to celebrate our birth as a nation. 2019 is a particularly auspicious year. In addition to recognizing the 243rd anniversary of America’s independence, we are also commemorating the Department of State’s 230th anniversary, the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon, and 38 years of U.S.-Belize bilateral relations.
And on this day, we celebrate more than independence as a nation. We celebrate all of the incredible attributes that make America, America. Our pioneering, entrepreneurial spirit – our creativity – our diversity – our curiosity. We celebrate our uniquely American creations – Jazz, Apple Pie, Levi’s, and the Quarterback Sneak to name a few. And, we celebrate our enduring dedication to freedom and the sacrifices that so many have made in its name.
In President Trump’s D-Day speech, he paid tribute to the unbreakable bonds of friendship and allegiance that were forged in war and “proven in the blessings of peace.” His remarks may have been pointed to the allies who fought together on the beaches of Normandy, but the sentiment is so much broader. The ideals that he spoke of and that we celebrate today – the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – are not unique to the United States of America. Rather, these are shared and embodied by both of our beautiful countries, as well as our friends and partners around the world.
The Belizean people displayed their unwavering dedication to those principles most recently on May 8th by participating in the historic National Referendum. Whether you voted yes or no, you can be proud of what that day stands for. It was an exercise in peaceful, participatory democracy that was an honor to observe.
Looking past Belize, to our larger neighborhood, there is no doubt that Central America faces tough challenges. But we should not let those obstacles take away from the Western Hemisphere’s democratic progress. Today, more than ever before, the Western hemisphere is the hemisphere of freedom – where our peoples can speak their mind, pray – or not – as they wish, build a business, run for office, and live out their dreams.
But that promise can only be fulfilled if we draw on our collective strength as free nations to bolster those places where democracy is under attack.
The U.S. government is placing an unprecedented level of attention on the Western Hemisphere right now. It is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.
Assistant Secretary Kim Breier stated, “we believe the Western Hemisphere has an incredible opportunity now to cement a future of democracy and prosperity.” But the United States is still one nation, one voice. We need Belize and our other partners to join us in standing up for those principles and with the people who are fighting to enjoy the same peace that we have.
As Vice President Pence and Assistant Secretary Breier have so often expressed, the horrific humanitarian and economic crises Nicolás Maduro has imposed on the Venezuelan people – and, by extension, its neighbors – threatens our international peace and security.
Belize has, so far, avoided the ravages of these crises and others. But we know that our world is too small to expect that it will never be impacted. The United States will continue to partner with Belize to prepare for – and mitigate – any consequences of the regional challenges we all face. As importantly, we will continue collaborating to build on our already strong cultural and economic ties, and the incredible affinity shared by our people.
This 38th year of U.S.-Belize relations was a remarkably productive one.
We signed our first bilateral Open Skies Agreement, which will expand opportunities for air travel and commerce.
We are cooperating on Belizean and regional border security at an unprecedented level.
We inaugurated a Court-to-Prison Video Link system, which is just one example of our strong law enforcement and justice sector cooperation.
And, as you all know, Belize was successfully upgraded from Tier 3 to Tier 2 Watch List in the 2019 Trafficking in Persons report. We are very much looking forward to strengthening our partnership in this space to keep the positive momentum going.
As we move forward, I will continue to do my best to ensure that U.S.-Belize relations remain as strong as ever. While we don’t have any news on the nomination and confirmation of a new U.S. Ambassador, we all hope to hear something before too long.
Please join me in giving a big round of applause to our Independence Day Celebration committee, headed by Jennifer Robinson. Thank you to all my embassy colleagues who worked hard to make this event a success.
In conclusion, I am honored that we can come together this afternoon and want to take this opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to working with all of you to build a better world for generations to come.