In the opinion of its Spanish conquerors, Belize was a backwater, good only for its harvestable logwood, which was used to make dye. Far from being profitable, Belize was dangerous, because the barrier reef tended to tear the keels from Spanish ships attempting to approach the shore.
The lack of effective government and the safety afforded by the barrier reef attracted English and Scottish pirates to Belizean waters during the 17th century. They operated mostly without serious hindrance. In 1670, however, Spain convinced the British government to clamp down the pirates' activities. By this time, Belize was already British.
Belize's next trade boom was in arms, ammunition and other supplies sold to the Maya rebels in Yucatan who fought the War of the Castes during the mid-19th century. The war also brought a flood of refugees to Belize. First came the whites and their mestizo lieutenants, driven out by the wrath of the Maya; then came the Maya themselves when the whites regained control of Yucatan. In 1862, while the USA was embroiled in the Civil War, Great Britain declared Belize its colony, calling it British Honduras. The declaration encouraged people from many parts of the empire to settle in Belize, which accounts for the country's present- day ethnic diversity.
On September 21, 1981, the colony of British Honduras officially became the indepedent nation of Belize. As a member of the Commonwealth, Belize recognizes the British monarch as its head of state. The Crown is represented on Belizean soil by the governor-general, who is appointed by the monarch with the advice of the prime minister, the actual political head of Belize.
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Belize Defence Force
The Belize Defence Force (BDF) was established in January 1978, after it's independence in September 1981 training enabled the BDF to deal with basic threats to the new sovereignty. The threats mainly came from neighboring Guatemala, which continues to claim large areas of Belize to secure its coastline and single Caribbean port. To deal with the threat and to give a clear statement Guatemalan the Royal Air Force maintained 1417 flight equipped with Harrier GR3s and 1563 flight with Puma HC1 helicopters in Belize.
In 1983, the Air Wing was formed at Belize City - Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport, next to the main land base of the Belize Defence Force and British Forces Belize at Price Barracks in nearby Ladyville. The main tasks of the Air Wing are reconnaissance, SAR, casevac, aerial resupply and troop lift. Two Britten-Norman Defenders were bought and formed the backbone of the air wing for years. The two aircraft could be equipped with light armament as rocketpods and guns, the first armed Belizean aircraft.
In 1991 the Guatemalan government recognized the self determination of the Belizean people, followed in 1992 by a declaration of the Guatemalan president of the recognition of the independent state of Belize and the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Following this de facto declaration of peace the RAF Harriers were withdrawn from Belize in 1993, and the Puma helicopters in 1994 marking the disbandment of the British Force Belize (BFB). The BDF assumed total defence responsibility on 1 January 1994.
The United Kingdom continues to maintain the British Army Training Support Unit Belize (BATSUB) to assist in the administration of the Belize Jungle School. The only British flying unit left in Belize was 25 Flight equipped with Bell 212 helicopters. However, this unit returned to the United Kingdom in September 2011.
In the mid-nineties the Air Wing was expanded by a Cessna 182 and a Slingsby T67M-260 basic training aircraft, the latter acquired in 1996 in Britain and marking another step towards self-reliance of the Belize Defence Force by training the Air Wing's own pilots. In the 2010s, both these aircraft were taken out of service, and one of the original Defenders still soldiers on. Taiwan provided two Bell UH-1H Huey helicopters in 2016, but unfortunately one was lost in a crash early 2020.