Today, villagers of Barranco staged a protest in front of the National Assembly in Belmopan. They were protesting the fact that outsiders were granted licenses to conduct logging in their village, while the villagers were denied. Love News spoke with Beatrice Mariano, Vice-Chairperson of Barranco Village Council just before the members of the village met with the Forestry Department.
Beatrice Mariano – Vice-Chairperson of Barranco Village Council: “I am here with my people today because of some injustices we have been experiencing at the hands of the Forestry Department with regards to logging concessions within our area. I would say over 25 years if not more concessions have been granted to people to go and log within Barranco area. The community has not been benefiting from these concessions because they are given to outsiders and we had meetings with the Forestry Department of Toledo and we had an agreement with them that consideration will be given to Barranco local folk who apply for logging concession. We were made to understand of the five applicants who applied, none of them received those applications none of them were approved so we are here to find out why these applications are not approved and we were made to understand that it was given to an outsider, not from within the district, non- Garifuna, not from Barranco.”
How long has the outsider been logging in your village?
Beatrice Mariano – Vice-Chairperson of Barranco Village Council: “We have had several outsiders for, well it started with the Malaysians from in the 90’s and then also we set up against that. Well normally our cries fall on deaf ears and you know concessions just continue to be given out to people who are not from Barranco. They don’t come and meet with us; because the priority is that they come and meet with the community and they don’t. From this meeting we would like to have control of our area, we would like that our rights as indigenous people be respected because Barranco has the last remaining forest and because of the Maya Land claim the government doesn’t issue licenses to anybody to go into the Mayan Land but the licenses go to for them to harvest within Barranco and that is our right to control what is ours; it is our right to benefit from what is left that is all we are asking for to benefit from what is left.”
After the meeting, the villagers of Barranco held a press conference where the villagers shared what they put forth in the meeting with the Forestry Department and the response. Fabian Cayetano, one of the rejected logging concession applicants, spoke with the media.
Fabian Cayetano: “Five rejected logging concession applicants want and we are clear about what we want and here the three men thinks the are we the logging applicants logging concession applicants want. The five applicants want the following things to happen: one we want to know why our five applications were rejected and not a word from the Minster of Forestry and Fisheries to us with an explanation. Two, we the five rejected Barranco logging concession applicants request the approval of our logging concession applications with the licenses for two logging seasons October 15, 2018 to June 15, 2020. Three to apply to the Ministry of Forest and Fisheries as an indigenous people to manage the entire Barranco Forest Area form the Moho River to the Northern Banks of the Sarstoon River. To do reforestation and the sustainable logging and eco-tourism to generate economic activity and jobs for our people. This includes the unique comfort wetlands and some of the oldest red mangroves Forest Long Temash River in the world. It has now been acknowledged that two of the concessions were already issued. The concession for Mr. Leslie Collon and for Mr. Rash. They were issued to one Mr. Blanco from Boom Creek. The other three are pending but Mr. Sabido promised he would get in touch with us tomorrow about the final decision from the Minister.”
Ruperto Blanco who received the logging concession is not from Barranco Village. By next week, the villagers will know if three of their villagers would be considered for logging concessions or if only outsiders will continue to benefit from Barranco’s prized assets.