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The main economic resource is the arable land, only a small fraction of which is under cultivation. Agricultural exports include sugar, citrus fruits, and bananas. Rice, beans, and corn are grown as subsistence crops. Lumbering, formerly the chief economic activity, has declined in importance. Major manufactures are processed food, wood products, and clothing. A road network of about 3000 km (about 1865 mi) links the major urban centers, but some areas remain inaccessible. An international airport serves Belize City. The unit of currency is the Belize dollar (2 Belize dollars equal U.S.$1; 1990). In the late 1980s annual exports earned about $119.2 million, and imports cost about $160.7 million. The annual budget included about $64.2 million in revenue and about $89.4 million in expenditure.
In pre-Columbian times Belize was part of the territory of the Maya. It was included in the viceroyalty of New Spain in the 1500s, and sometime later English woodcutters from Jamaica established a settlement on the Belize River. During the wars between England and Spain in the 1700s, Spain failed to dislodge the British from the area. In 1836, after the emancipation of Central America from Spanish rule, the British claimed the right to administer the region; it was declared a British colony, subordinate to Jamaica, in 1862 and an independent crown colony in 1884.
Long-range constitutional reforms were initiated by the British in 1954, resulting in a new constitution ten years later. Progress toward independence, however, was hampered by an old Guatemalan claim to sovereignty over the territory. When Belize finally attained full independence on September 21, 1981, Guatemala refused to recognize the new nation; about 1500 British troops remained to protect Belize from the Guatemalan threat. Prime Minister George Price of the United Party, who had led the country to independence, was replaced by Manuel Esquivel when Belize held its first national elections, on December 14, 1984. Price returned to power after the elections of September 1989. In May 1993 Great Britain announced that it would end its military involvement in Belize. All British troops would evacuate the country by October 1994. Esquivel regained the prime ministership in June 1993 elections. In July Esquivel announced the suspension of a pact reached with Guatemala during Price's prime ministership, claiming Price had made too many concessions in order to gain Guatemalan recognition. The pact would have resolved a 130-year-old border dispute between the two countries.
"Belize," Microsoft(R) Encarta(R) 98 Encyclopedia. (c) 1993-1997 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
On August 27th, 1998, Belize once again had a peaceful democratic election. The People's United Party won the election and are now in power.
Belize is very peaceful and Guatemala's claim to Belize has always been a joke for most Belizeans. Even though the British military presence has been reduced by 85%, Belizeans are comfortable and unconcerned with Guatemala's claim!