Belize has the bare-bones self-defense force that can only act defensively. Historically, Belize relied on the United Kingdom for protection from a possible invasion by Guatemala. After recognizing the independence of Belize, British forces left the country, leaving only a training base. Currently, Belize’s military includes two infantry battalions and one battalion consisting of volunteers. The male population can be conscribed, provided the lack of volunteers in the regular forces. Sea defense is carried out by Bezil Coast Guard Service. The country has no aircraft to cover its air defense. Therefore, Belize’s military potential is limited to border protection with minimal assault capabilities.
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Comparison with Neighbors
The largest Belize neighbor is Mexico, which has naval, air, and infantry forces. With over 125 million people, Mexico’s available manpower constitutes about 48% of its population. On multiple occasions, Mexico deployed the military outside its borders, including the United Nations peacekeeping operation in Haiti and the relief effort in Central America. In contrast to Belize, Mexico’s armed forces are superior in size, skills, and operational capabilities.
Guatemala is Belize’s second neighbor, which is represented by four military branches: land forces, navy, air forces, and the Presidential Honor Guard. Over 16 million people live in Guatemala, with 85 000 military personnel. Similar to Mexico, Guatemala provides the UN peacekeeper forces in the Caribbean region. The military strength of Guatemala outweighs Belize’s capacity to project power, both inside and outside of its area of jurisdiction.
Belize’s Military Situation
The major factor disrupting stability in Belize’s affairs is its territorial dispute with Guatemala. Guatemala claims the territory south of the Sibun river as its own, which comprises two-thirds of Belize’s overall land expanse. The rising tensions propelled Belize to ask the United Kingdom to renew its military presence in the country, which resulted in the reemergence of a British training base. Belize’s military stability is directly influenced by the outcome of the territorial dispute, which remains unresolved.