Government Responds to Maya Lands Issue Amid Accusations of Politicization
In this morning’s session with the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs, the government also weighed in on the politicization of the Maya lands issue, as seen at the recent gathering of Mayan communities in Santa Elena Village, Toledo. Two weeks ago, villagers from thirty-eight communities met in Toledo along with members of the Toledo Alcalde’s Association and Maya Leaders Alliance. The groups stated they had invited the government to attend the meeting, but it was not accepted. However, the Minister of Indigenous Affairs, Dolores Balderamos Garcia, says that was not the case. Garcia explained that the ministry took a phased approach at consultations and divided the villages into zones. Balderamos says the team was scheduled to meet at the Social Security Building in Punta Gorda Town, but received last-minute demands from the villages.
Dolores Balderamos Garcia, Minister of Human Development, Families and Indigenous People’s Affairs: “What basically happened is that the plans for the consultation that Saturday and Sunday were already in place long before when all of a sudden a few letters started to come in to the office of Indigenous People’s Affairs in Punta Gorda saying “We noh di come da PG we want you to come to Santa Elena.” and clearly it was not a situation that the government could have responded to in any kind of responsible approach because had – well I don’t want to use the word capitulated but had we said okay we’ll go to Santa Elena we would have met twenty bus loads of people with placards that had been prepared for them saying “Remember you have to come back to us for your vote.” turning the entire situation completely political. And then of course I don’t have to mention the tirade that happened after that and as the Prime Minister said in his interview with the media last Friday we would have run into a shouting match that would have made absolutely no sense whatsoever. And you have heard the comments of the Prime Minister that they’re welcomed to go to his house at #2 Dunn Street. I live at Mile 6 Philip Goldson Highway Ladyville. And so basically what I’m saying, not making fun of a serious issue but we have to have a little humor in our exchanges as well but what I’m saying is that we are willing to go to the people. We will be in Big Falls on Sunday and I’m not certain of the crowd that we will meet but we will be more than happy to discuss the concerns of the people and we will do our level best to go back and visit as many villages as possible even if it slows the process somewhat but I did want to clear up that issue of what actually took place.”
Minister Balderamos-Garcia also touched on the statements by MLA Spokesperson, Cristina Coc, who stated that the communities could hold the government ransom if they so choose. Coc has been one of the loud voices behind the movement, whose words towards the government have come off as less-than-respectful. The disrespect continued today when the government wrote on social media, about its engagement with the media and the importance of transparency, Coc shared the government’s post and wrote, quote, “Transparent to everybody else but the Maya People? I hope the breakfast at least was good!” End of quote. Both Minister Dolores and Senior Counsel Marshalleck spoke about the politics within the villages themselves, and those in the villages who oppose the idea of communal lands.
Dolores Balderamos Garcia, Minister of Human Development, Families and Indigenous People’s Affairs: “The Prime Minister did make a statement on Friday that he was disappointed in the village leader who tore up the draft. I would maybe take a different approach. I believe that village leader was misinformed so I wouldn’t blame him. I would have tore up something too if somebody comes and tells me we’re going to pen you into one kilometer. So I don’t pu the responsibility so much on that village leader. I’m not sure if it was Mabil Ha or if it was Criquejute but anyway I really put the responsibility on those who were riling up the crowd unnecessarily and that is my response to that occurrence. But please let me hasten to reiterate members of the media that government will do our level best to be responsive to the political reality and go to as many villages as we possibly can.”
Andrew Marshalleck, Lead Government Attorney: “There is some dissent, some internal politics that go on there as well. When I hear it I listen to it. I observe, I make a note of it but there are some who will come to those consultations and rail against what the TAA and the MLA is doing and it has nothing at all to do with government or what we say. Those differences of opinions exists and it’s for the Maya people to resolve those among themselves. When you deal with large groups not everybody are of the same mind, not everybody is on the same page and that is true for that community as well as you would expect. But that is not to say that they don’t have their ways of resolving that and we need to interfere in that in order to help that one way or the other.”
On Sunday, the ministry is scheduled to meet with several Mayan Villages in Big Falls, Toledo.