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Belize - Introduction

Belize is a peaceful, democratic, English speaking nation located in Central America, and it fuses the distinctive culture and rhythm of the English speaking Caribbean with the Latin America flavor of Central America in a most inviting manner. Belize is both Caribbean and Central American at the same time; we are the bridge between these two regions, and the Government of Belize is working assiduously to bring these two families closer together. This former British Commonwealth country, h was always known to be peaceful, so much so, it used to be called the Jewel in the Caribbean.

Belize (formerly British Honduras [digraph = BH], until the name of the country was changed in 1973 to Belize [digraph = BZ ] lies on the eastern or Caribbean coast of Central America, bounded on the north and part of the west by Mexico, and on the south and the remainder of the west by Guatemala. The inner coastal waters are shallow and are sheltered by a line of coral reefs, dotted with islets called 'cayes', extending almost the entire length of the country.

There is a low coastal plain, much of it covered with mangrove swamp, but the land rises gradually towards the interior. The Maya Mountains and the Cockscomb Range form the backbone of the southern half of the country, the highest point being Doyle's Delight (1124 meters above sea level) in the Cockscomb Range. The Cayo District in the west includes the Mountain Pine Ridge, ranging from 305 to around 914 metres above sea level. The northern districts contain considerable areas of tableland. There are many rivers, some of them navigable for short distances by shallow-draught vessels. A large part of the mainland is forest.

The area of the mainland and cayes is 8,867 square miles. The country's greatest length from north to south is 280 kilometres and its greatest width is 109 kilometres. The climate is subtropical, tempered by trade winds. Temperatures in coastal districts range from about 10 C (50F) to about 35.6C (96F); inland the range is greater. Rainfall varies from an average of 1,295 millimetres in the north to 4,445 millimetres in the extreme south. The dry season usually extends from February to May and there is sometimes a dry spell in August.

One of the nicest things about visiting Belize is the weather. With an average yearly temperature of 84 F (29C), its always warm, yet comfortable. Costal sea breezes as well as our jungle and rainforests keep you cool even in the hottest summer months while winters can be cool but never very cold. In short, the climate is pretty much near perfect. Even in winter (November-March) the temperature in Belize rarely falls below 60F (16C), while the summer (May-September) is around 86F (30C). Humidity is also fairly consistent at around 85 percent.

Belizes dry season is between February and May and has significantly lower rainfall than the rest of the year. When it does rain, it is usually in mild, short bursts. June through December is the wet season, when parts of the country receive up to 150 inches of rain and the heavy, sometimes wild storms associated with the Caribbean occur, usually in the late afternoons. The most frequent rainfall usually happens in June or early July and is punctuated by a break in late July or August known as the "little dry."

The most frequent natural disasters are hurricanes and tropical storms. Hurricane Hattie destroyed much of Belize City in 1961. September-October is when tropical storms have generally affected Belize. Belize has very limited capabilities to respond adequately to the aftermath of a direct major hurricane hit. Although the National Emergency Management Office (NEMO) has analyzed Belizes vulnerability to a hurricane, preparations in response to these reports remain inadequate. Hurricane shelters exist along the coast, but limited emergency food and water stockpiles would be exhausted quickly by the high number of potential victims of a serious storm. Belize has a rudimentary evacuation plan, but practical implementation would likely be difficult. In October 2010, Hurricane Richard slammed into the coast, resulting in power outages throughout 65 percent of the country, extensive flooding, and the blockage of Belizes major highways.

Road conditions generally can be characterized as very poor. The rainy season, which occurs from winter into spring, exacerbates the poor road conditions. The road systems range from short stretches of newly-paved roads in Belize City to decades-old pavement on the major highways that connect north-south and east-west. Major highways can be characterized as two-lane in some stretches, but the roads can narrow depending on the paving and the frequent break-off of the pavement along the edges of the roads. The highways are mostly not illuminated, laden with potholes, and contain unpaved dirt shoulders. Pedestrians, bicyclists, cars, and buses utilize the same roads day and night. Stray dogs wander freely in close proximity to the many small villages that dot the major highways.

Due to the small population (335,000) and high murder rate per capita, Belize consistently ranks among the top 10 in the world for homicides, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, with an average of around 40 homicides per 100,000 residents. Overall crime in Belize City increased significantly in 2014 due in part to the increase in gang violence and drug trafficking and remained largely the same in 2015. Criminal acts, including extremely violent acts, can and do happen in Belize.

After setting an all-time record in 2012 for homicides at 145, the number of murders significantly decreased to 99 in 2013. However, in 2014 the number of murders surged to 123. In 2015, the total number of murders dropped slightly to 119. The Belize District, which includes Belize City, continues to have the highest number of murders in the country, due in large part to dozens of street gangs. Belmopan, the tiny capital of Belize and home to several diplomatic missions, including the U.S. Embassy, recorded 21 murders in 2015, a dramatic increase from five in 2014.

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Page last modified: 06-09-2016 12:26:54 ZULU