by Larry Smith
BELMOPAN, Belize -- In a historic ruling here Wednesday (April 16), the Supreme Court nullified offshore oil exploration licenses issued by the government in 2004 and 2007, and extended in 2009.
The concessions were awarded secretly by this CARICOM nation of 356,000 people - sandwiched between Guatemala and Mexico. They included rights to drill for oil on land and in offshore waters, including sensitive protected areas of Belize's famed barrier reef - a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
After a whistleblower brought the concessions to public attention in 2010, scores of civil society groups banded together to form the Belize Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage. The Coalition launched a vigorous campaign against offshore drilling, which was supported by the international marine conservation society, Oceana.