A group of 96 investors crowdfunded the purchase of Coffee Caye, off the coast of Belize City, for $180,000 (£140,000) in December 2019, with the first groups of ‘residents’ arriving this month.
Since the purchase of the island, the three initial investors who led the charge on the project have renamed the island “The Principality of Islandia”, given themselves diplomatic titles, and created a flag, passports, and even a national anthem.
“The Principality of Islandia is a micronation experiment within the greater IBG project,” reads a statement on the group’s website, letsbuyanisland.com.
“We plan to use our island paradise to forward our own ideals of democracy, inclusion and sustainability. We will do this in a manner that is in keeping with, and enhances the laws of, our host nation.”
The group is mostly American, with one British “director of investor relations”.
But Belize’s Prime Minister, John Briceño has called them “stupid”, insisting that no one is able to create an independent nation inside his country.
When a local reporter from7 News Belize asked Mr Briceño about “the island [that] a bunch of white people bought and want to make their own country,” he replied, “They are some stupid people. Next question.”
When a second reporter pushed him for more, he said: “We will never allow anybody to have their own country within this country – what a stupid thing. If you [are] stupid enough to pay a lot of money to buy [a] piece of land, good for you.
“Obviously it has absolutely no support from the government. It’s not going to happen.”
He called the group’s move “misleading advertising”, saying of the owner promoting the island: “He is misleading his investors. He should stop insisting on owning a country by buying shares in an island.”
The country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Eamon Courtenay, also weighed in, saying: “Belize is sovereign and indivisible, over all its land, islands, and sea. This includes Coffee Caye. People should be careful of what are clearly spurious claims.”
Marshall Mayer, one of Let’s Buy an Island’s co-founders, told The Independent : “We understand Prime Minister Briceño’s concern and response based on the somewhat leading question he was presented in that press conference and the misleading headlines about our project that have circulated around the world.
“However, our project is 100% in Belize and subject to Belize law, we are proud to be working in Belize and have no intention whatsoever about attempting to change our legal status.“