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Executive Summary

Belize is a constitutional parliamentary democracy. In the most recent national election, held in November 2020, the People’s United Party won 26 of 31 seats in the National Assembly and selected John Briceno as prime minister. Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state and is represented by a governor general. On May 27, Froyla T’zalam assumed the post of governor general following the forced retirement of Sir Colville Young, who held the role for 27 years.

The Ministry of National Defence and Border Security is responsible for oversight of the military and the Coast Guard, while the Ministry of Home Affairs and New Growth Industries has responsibility for police and prisons. The Belize Police Department is primarily responsible for internal security. The small military focuses on external security but also provides limited support domestically to civilian authorities. The Belize Defence Force has limited powers of arrest within land and shoreline areas, and the Coast Guard has arrest powers and jurisdiction within coastal and maritime areas. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed some abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: inhuman treatment by security and prison officers; widespread and serious corruption by government officials; trafficking in persons; and the worst forms of child labor.

The government took steps both administratively and through the courts to prosecute some public officials who committed abuses, but there were few successful prosecutions. The government did not effectively implement the laws on corruption, and officials often engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.

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U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future