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Belize*Belize flag
Basic facts
The country 
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Capital: Belmopan
Area: 22,965 sq km; 8,867 sq miles
Population: 241,546 (2000 Estimate)
Urbanisation: Urban 47 per cent (1998 Estimate); Rural 53 per cent (1998 Estimate)


Exports: Sugar, citrus fruits, bananas, clothing, fish products, molasses, wood, marine products

Industry: Garment production, food processing, tourism, cigarettes, beer and soft drinks, fertilisers, construction

Agriculture: Bananas, coca, citrus fruits, sugar cane, beans, corn, coconut, fish, cultured shrimp, timber

Currency: 1 Belizean dollar (BZ$), consisting of 100 cents

Natural resources: Arable land, timber, fish


The people

Ethnic: Mestizo 44 per cent, Creole 30 per cent, Maya 11 per cent, Garifuna 7 per cent, Other 8 per cent

Language: English (official), Spanish, Maya, Garifuna (Carib). English is the country's official language and is spoken by everyone, except for some Belizeans living in remote areas. Most people also speak Creole and everyday speech is often a combination of Creole and English. Creole is based on English, but is distinct from it. It is a melodic dialect with roots in the days of slavery. It does not have a written tradition, but it does have a definite grammatical structure. Spanish is spoken by mestizos in the Cayo, Corozal and Orange Walk districts, but not by some mestizos in other areas. English is the language used in school, but teachers may also use Creole or Spanish for the benefit of non-English-speaking children in their first few years at school. Mayan groups speak their ethnic languages and the Garinagu speak Garifuna.

Religion: Roman Catholic 62 per cent, Protestant 30 per cent, Other 6 per cent, None 2 per cent. Freedom of religion is valued and respected in Belize. Schools are generally church-run and most people are Christians of one kind or another. About 62 per cent are Roman Catholic, 12 per cent are Anglican and 6 per cent are Methodist. Mestizos and Maya are mostly Catholic. Mennonites are Protestant, as are the majority of Creoles. Some of the Maya and the Garinagu still practise their indigenous religions.


The history

Independence: 21 September 1981 (from the United Kingdom)

Government: The head of state is Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, who is represented in Belize by a Governor-General. The head of Government, the Prime Minister, is the leader of the party with the largest number of seats in the parliament. The bicameral legislature consists of a 29-member House of Representatives, which is elected for a five-year term (although elections can be called at any time) and an 8-member appointed senate. The voting age is 18.

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