Latin America & Caribbean

Belize profile - Timeline

A chronology of key events:

16th-17th centuries - The Spanish arrive, but fail to convert the indigenous Maya to Christianity.

1600s - The area of present-day Belize becomes part of Spain's possessions in Central America and the Caribbean; British buccaneers and woodcutters begin to settle around the Belize river.

1763 and 1783 - Spain signs treaties granting British subjects the privilege of wood-cutting, but retains sovereignty.

1798 - Spain tries to remove British settlers from the area by force but fails.

1847-53 - Several thousand Spanish-speaking refugees settle in northern Belize and Maya communities relocate to the north and west following the Caste War in Yucatan.

1859 - Britain and Guatemala sign treaty defining border with Belize.

British rule

1862 - Belize formally declared a British crown colony and named British Honduras.

1893 - Mexico renounces claim to Belizean territory.

1930s - Belizean economy hit by Great Depression; Belize City largely destroyed by hurricane.

1954 - Constitutional reforms give Belize limited autonomy; general elections won by People's United Party (PUP), led by George Price.

1961 - Hurricane Hattie kills more than 260 people.

1964 - New constitution gives Belize full autonomy and introduces universal adult suffrage and a two-chamber parliament.

1970 - Belmopan replaces Belize City as capital.

1973 - The country changes its name from British Honduras to Belize.


1981 - Belize becomes independent with George Price as prime minister, but Guatemala refuses to recognise it. About 1,500 British troops remain to defend the country against Guatemalan territorial claims.

1984 - Manuel Esquival of the centre-right United Democratic Party (UDP) becomes prime minister after defeating Price's PUP in the general elections.

1992 - Guatemala recognises Belize as a sovereign and independent state.

1993 - Manuel Esquival becomes prime minister after his UDP defeats PUP in general elections; Britain says it will withdraw troops by 1994 after Guatemala recognises Belize; Esquival suspends agreement reached with Guatemala while Price was premier, claiming it made too many concessions in return for recognition.

1998 - Said Musa becomes prime minister after the PUP wins a landslide election victory.

2000 October - Hurricane Keith causes widespread devastation.

2001 October - Towns flattened, thousands left homeless after Hurricane Iris hits.

Border dispute

2002 September - Belize, Guatemala agree on a draft settlement to their long-standing border dispute at talks brokered by the Organisation of American States (OAS). The deal, which proposed referendums in both countries, is rejected by Guatemala in 2003.

2003 March - Said Musa is elected for a second term as prime minister.

2004 January - Britain's Privy Council dismisses an appeal to overturn the Belize government's approval of the proposed Chalillo dam. Campaigners say the dam threatens rare species and communities downstream.

2005 April - Rioting breaks out in the capital during a wave of anti-government protests.

2006 April - Belize begins commercial exploitation of its oil reserves.

2007 November - Organisation of American States (OAS) recommends that border dispute with Guatemala be referred to International Court of Justice (ICJ).

2008 February - Dean Barrow becomes prime minister after the United Democratic Party (UDP) wins a landslide election victory.

2010 May - Government says it will stop sending appeals cases to British Privy Council starting 1 June.

2011 September - Belize is added to US blacklist of countries considered to be major producers or transit routes for illegal drugs.

2012 March - Elections. Governing United Democratic Party (UDP) wins another term.

2012 September - Belize wins 60-day reprieve from bondholders after paying a portion of its overdue £14.2m debt interest. Ratings agency Standard & Poor's categorises Belize as being in "selective" default, one step below a full default.

2014 March - Despite their continuing border dispute, Belize and Guatemala reach an agreement on prohibiting illegal logging.

2015 May - Belize's energy ministry says it is considering plans open up the coast to oil and gas drilling; conservation groups voice concern about the possible impact on the marine environment.

2015 November - Prime Minister Barrow leads his ruling United Democratic Party to a record third consecutive five-year term in a snap election.