Ladies and Gentlemen
Before I begin, I would like to say a few words about the devastating earthquake in Ecuador. The thoughts of the British government and people are with the people of Ecuador at this difficult time.
Friends. Welcome, and thank you very much for coming.
Today is the 90th birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the second. Born in 1926, she acceded to the throne in early 1952 at the young age of 25. She became Queen of a country which, like the rest of Europe, was still dealing with the aftermath of the Second World War. She has been Queen for an extraordinary 64 years. She is now the UK’s longest reigning monarch, having last year overtaken the record set by her great great grandmother, Queen Victoria. Yet none of that stops her sense of adventure, and her sense of humour. Many of you will remember the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games, when she made her dramatic entry to the arena accompanied by James Bond, played by Daniel Craig. The Queen was the ultimate Bond Girl.
One of the many historic events during the Queen’s reign occurred in 1973 (check) when the UK joined what is now the European Union. As many of you will be aware, the UK is holding a referendum in June this year on whether to stay in the EU, or whether to leave. The position of the British government is clear: that the UK should remain a member of the EU. The government believes that the UK is stronger, safer and more prosperous within the EU, a borderless trading zone of 500 million people. In June however, it will be the British people who will decide, not the government. If there are any British Citizens in the audience who are eligible to vote but have not yet registered to do so, please contact the British Embassy urgently.
I arrived in Guatemala as British Ambassador in August last year, just as the remarkable events of 2015 were reaching their climax. I witnessed an extraordinary democratic awakening of the country, as people took to the streets to protest against corruption, and then elected a political outsider as their new President, who had campaigned on a clear anti-corruption ticket. Suddenly the world sat up and noticed that something remarkable was happening in Guatemala. Until then, British people had tended to equate Central America with violence, crime, and corruption. Suddenly here was Guatemala showing the region, and the world, what democracy was all about, and committing itself to fight corruption and impunity. It was an immensely positive moment.
The British government, through the British Embassy, wants to support the government and people of Guatemala in the fight against corruption. We see it as extremely positive that President Morales has just this week in New York asked for the mandate of CICIG to be extended for another two years. The British government are donors to CICIG, and we congratulate the Commissioner and the Fiscal General on the tremendous work which CICIG and the Ministerio Publico are doing together.
There has been some discussion in recent weeks on the role of ambassadors. For the British government at least, there is little doubt what we are here for. The fundamental aim of British foreign policy is to make the world a better place. We want to make the world safer, stronger, and more prosperous. And that means promoting the universal human values of integrity, the respect of human rights, good governance and the rule of law. A country which embodies those fundamental principles will attract trade and investment, and become more prosperous. That is what I am here to do, and that is what every other British ambassador around the world is doing too. No country is perfect. My own country is far from perfect, and we are striving at home to embody those same principles. But here in Guatemala it is my job to promote those principles. And we do so working with Guatemalan partners, who may be from government, from institutions, from civil society, from the church, or from the business community. Many of these partners are gathered here today, and I thank you all very sincerely for all the work you do to help make the world a better place, to make Guatemala a better place.
The British community in Guatemala is small but active, and I would like to say a few words in English to them. “Thank you for all you do to promote Britain, and the bilateral relationship. And remember that the British Embassy is here to support you. And please also remember to vote in the referendum!” I would also like to thank our commercial sponsors of today’s event, without whom we would not be able to do any of this. You will find details of who they are around the tent, and also by looking at the impressive collection of British cars outside.
Today is the 90th birthday of Her Majesty the Queen, and I am sure you will all join be in wishing her a very happy birthday. I would now like to propose a toast to Her Majesty.
[Play God Save the Queen]
I would now like to propose a toast to His Excellency the President of Guatemala, Jimmy Morales. The President.
[Play Himno Nacional de Guatemala]
I would now like to invite the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs to speak on behalf of the government of Guatemala.