High Commissioner for BELIZE
Newly appointed Belize High Commissioner, Perla Perdomo, enormously enjoyed her time at the London Olympics. ‘I thought that the opening ceremony, the whole theme of it and the presentation of British culture was very cleverly done,’ she says. However, not easily swayed by ceremony, she adds that ‘As a young diplomat, you tend to get caught up in the pomp and circumstance of diplomacy, whereas now
I like to focus on achieving results.’
The High Commissioner takes a uniquely businesslike approach to diplomacy. ‘I think that being in the private sector has helped me to look at diplomacy from a different perspective,’ she says. ‘I’m very much interested in getting a return for my investment. There is so much work to do and so many events to attend here in the UK, that I really have to start choosing and planning my priorities carefully to make the most of my time here.’
Ms Perdomo’s uncle was a Minister for the People’s United Party in the pre-independence government, and she says that listening to his political discussions with her father had a strong influence on her as a child, driving her political interests from an early age and resulting in her choice to study Political Science at the University of Florida. Later, she helped in the Political campaign of another uncle in the United Democratic Party.
Although Ms Perdomo spent ten years as a Deputy Head of Mission for the Belize Embassy in Mexico, her most recent experience is in business. As Chairman of Belize’s Development Finance Corporation (DFC) from 2008-12, she led the team that brought the DFC back from insolvency to a successful lending institution, granting over 2,700 loans during her time there. As the current General Manager of her family-owned rum company, Travellers Liquors Limited, she has an impressive history of successful negotiation, including negotiating an EU grant of over US$2 million for a waste water treatment plant and sending the first export of Travellers’ ‘One Barrel’ rum to the US, Canada and several European nations. Clearly proud of their achievements, she explains: ‘My father literally started the business mixing and blending different alcohols in the backyard, and today it’s doing business all over the world!’
Ms Perdomo’s ambitions for her diplomatic post are just as concrete and business-oriented as her approach to diplomacy. Specific goals include seeking out technical and financial assistance for the Prime Minister’s new security programme ‘Restore Belize’, which coordinates activity on the root causes of crime. The High Commissioner also plans to enthusiastically promote Belize as a tourist destination, and increase trade. Her plans to improve flight links into the country from the UK are a crucial part of all of this.
‘Knowing the development needs of Belize makes me want to get things done in a concrete fashion,’ Ms Perdomo says. ‘On the business side, I think the UK is a gateway for Belize to Europe, and I would even say Asia and the Middle East because we don’t have any embassies there.’ Her ultimate goal? ‘I want to get Belize on the map,’ says Ms Perdomo, ‘to make it a place that people look to invest and tourists look to visit.’
What does she think is Belize’s greatest diplomatic challenge? ‘This is a challenge that we’ve had for years: the issue of the Guatemalan claim.’ She’s referring to the unresolved territorial dispute between Belize and neighbouring Guatemala. Belize or Belizean-controlled territory has been claimed in whole or in part by Guatemala since 1940. ‘We have a dilemma where Guatemalan citizens are illegally coming across the border into Belize. The challenge is how we secure our borders and protect our natural resources from encroachers while remaining sensitive to the human rights of the people coming in.’
With the High Commissioner’s extensive experience and determined approach to diplomacy, no doubt she’ll make progress on this matter as well as her other priorities going forward.