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Belize Scolded Over Reported Treatment of the Mayans

Love News has received a copy of a letter that The Executive Committee and Council of the World Archaeological Congress reportedly sent to Belize’s Prime Minister, Dean Barrow.  The letter has expressed concerns surrounding the treatment of Maya citizens of Belize in their struggle to protect their material and cultural heritage and exercise their legally established land rights. The concerns stem from the incident where damage was caused to the archaeological site of Uxbenka which in turn resulted in the arrest of Maya village leaders. The letter stated, quote, “Rather than arresting the violator of the Uxbenka site, the police arrested the Maya leaders who sought to defend it.  The incident at Santa Cruz follows the world-shocking destruction of Nohmul, continued reports on rampant looting of Maya sites in the Belizean Chiquibul region, and in many other parts of the country. In this context it is of serious concern to the Congress that customary attempts to stem destruction were impeded and even punished. Considering the degree to which Belize depends on the archaeological wealth provided by ancestral Maya to support tourism, it would seem prudent to support descendant communities that take responsibility for site protection and preservation. Many countries across the world have come to acknowledge that the rights of stewardship for archaeological sites fall most clearly to descendant communities, and procedures to ensure human rights protections for Indigenous peoples and their cultural property are parts of national codes and international treaties.”  End of quote.  The release went on to say, quote, “The WAC membership recognizes the difficulties posed by heritage management for Belize. We advocate for the priority of human rights in all questions of heritage.  In Belize the courts have consistently found that the Maya and Q’eqchi’ people of Belize have rights to control the use of their communities and their land. The World Archaeological Congress urges the government of Belize to recognize these rights and support of the cultural property rights of all people.”  End of quote.  The World Archaeological Congress is an international organization whose mandate is to support the rights of Indigenous and descendant communities to preserve and protect their heritage according to their own sensibilities and cultural values, as indicated in the Tamaki Makau-rau Accord adopted in 2006.  It is non-governmental, not for profit body and is the only elected international group of practicing archaeologists.  Every four years, the international Congress meet to exchange of the results of archaeological research; professional training and public education for disadvantaged nations, groups and communities; the empowerment and betterment of Indigenous groups and First Nations peoples and the conservation of archaeological sites.  The Congress is reportedly made up representatives from the United States, Japan, Nigeria, India, Malaysia, Israel, Australia, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Kenya, among other nations.