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Briceno Administration Playing Hardball in Implementing Maya Free, Prior and Informed Consent Protocol

At the center of the CCJ Maya Land Customary Consent Order is the Free, Prior and Informed Consent Protocol. The CCJ is expecting that a working document establishing this protocol be produced soon. But spokesperson, Cristina Coc-Magnusson says the Briceno Administration is playing hardball. She says that several other smaller groups have sprung up and considers it as a divide and conquer move.

Cristina Coc Magnusson, Spokesperson, MLA/TAA: “Over the last six years that we have been trying to implement the Caribbean Court of Justice’s order we made some headway in 2018 when an agreement was signed between the parties, between the Maya communities the Government of Belize. This came to be known as the December 2018 agreement which sets out the road map for implementation. One outcome of this road map was to develop a free prior consent protocol and since that time we have been working with the Government of Belize to develop that protocol. That protocol was in its final draft even before this new administration took office and consistent with what the previous administration had issues with this new government has also indicated that it has issues with the fact that the process for decision making rests with the Maya villages represented through their Alcaldes which is the customary elected leaders of the Maya Villages and on matters where it concerns the broader Maya community they are represented collectively by the Toledo Alcaldes Association. Both the past administration and this new administration seem to think that an FPIC protocol should not include the traditional governance system of the Maya communities but of course that is contrary to self determination and the process by which indigenous communities are afforded the right to determine their own representation. And so the FPIC protocol seems to us from our side that the government is unwilling or reluctant to adopt this FPIC protocol of course in this instance we have learnt that the Government of Belize is telling us that there are other groups that have emerged and that want to be able to provide their inputs and in fact are objecting to the FPIC protocol again raising the issue of representation.”

In April the Alcalde of Big Falls Village, Eulalio Choko, wrote a letter indicating that that the village does not want to be part of the customary land rights process. Coc-Magnusson explained that the Alcalde expressed his own personal view.

Cristina Coc Magnusson, Spokesperson, MLA/TAA: “That decision and that letter sums up the personal views of the Alcalde himself. His village has since cautioned him and I’ve understood that he also met with the commissioner who also cautioned him that it is not for him alone to make a decision as such. Only the members of his community can determine whether or not they want to give up their rights to their lands and resources under the customary land tenure system. Only the members of his community can do that at a community meeting where a collective decision is taken, the Alcalde himself cannot make that decision or any leader or individual for that matter unilaterally cannot make those decisions. The community is interested in understanding better the nature of the rights that are afforded to them under these affirmations. They want to understand better what the implications are particularly since much of Big Falls lands is being held in one form or the other by many third parties. And they’re interested in understanding and making a decision as a community as to whether or not they will continue to claim ownership of their lands under now their affirmed customary land tenure system or in fact they will decide otherwise and to continue with the traditional forms of land acquisition and property.”