Belize's 1st prime minister, George Price, dies

AP News
Posted: Sep 19, 2011 5:30 PM
Belize's 1st prime minister, George Price, dies

Belize's founding father and first prime minister, George Price, died early Monday, just short of three decades since he led the small Central American nation to independence. He was 92.

Price died at the Belize Healthcare Partners Hospital in Belize City, said a grand nephew, Henry Charles Usher. He was hospitalized Wednesday after a fall at his Belize City home and put in a medically induced coma following surgery to remove a blood clot.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow declared a week of mourning lasting until Sept. 26.

Price was Belize's first leader when it became independent from Britain on Sept. 21, 1981. As head of the centrist People's United Party, he served two terms as prime minister, in 1981-84 and 1989-1993, and is considered the father of the Caribbean country of about 300,000 people that borders Mexico and Guatemala.

Belize is on the Central American mainland but maintains closer cultural ties with other English-speaking former British colonies in the Caribbean than with its Spanish-speaking neighbors.

In a message broadcast to the nation, the current prime minister called Price "a giant of a man, the greatest architect of Belizean nationalism and Belizean sovereignty."

The government and Price's family planned a state funeral for next Monday, Barrow said. Until then, flags in Belize will be flown at half staff, except for Independence Day on Wednesday.

"On behalf of a grateful nation to which Mr. Price devoted his entire life, I offer condolences to his immediate and extended family and to the People's United Party," Barrow said.