Guatemalans voted Sunday in a referendum that could take the country a step closer to resolving a longstanding territorial dispute with neighboring Belize. The ballot asked whether voters agree to send the issue to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, for a binding ruling. However, Belize has yet to hold its own referendum as stipulated under a 2008 agreement with Guatemala, under which both countries would ask the court to take up the matter. Guatemala claims some 4,200 square miles (11,000 square kilometers) of terrain administered by Belize — essentially the country’s entire southern half.
The area is home to a number of nature reserves and is sparsely populated for the most part, with scattered farming villages, fishing towns and some Caribbean beach tourism destinations.
The origin of the dispute dates back over 200 years to when Guatemala and Belize were Spanish and British colonies, respectively.
Guatemala became independent in 1821 and argues that it inherited Spain’s original claim on the territory.