Indigenous Groups Denounce Government’s New Director of Indigenous People’s Affairs

Indigenous Groups Denounce Government’s New Director of Indigenous People’s Affairs

The Maya Leader Alliance (MLA) and the Toledo Alcalde’s Association (TLA) are denouncing the appointment of the government’s new Director of Indigenous People’s Affairs. On Friday, the Government of Belize (GOB) announced that Gustavo Requena assumed the position on Monday, March 18, replacing Gregory Choc. GOB says Requena has a deep-rooted connection to indigenous communities, but his appointment was not well received by two of the south’s indigenous groups. The spokesperson for MLA and TLA, Cristina Coc, spoke to Love News about their concerns regarding the appointment. 

Cristina Coc, Spokesperson MLA and TLA: “So we were not informed as a party and an integral part of the Maya Land Rights Implementation. That office holds a mandate to help to move forward the implementation of the Maya Lands Rights Casse. So we were not informed directly or formally. We learnt of it through a press release from the government. So that’s the first thing. The second thing is that we learnt that this office is going to be led and this position will be filled by Mr.Gustavo Requena who is as we all know the young brother of the area representative Mr.Oscar Requena. Now we’re not worried or we don’t have a problem with anyone getting a job, what we are worried about and what our press release is very clear on is that we are concerned because Mr.Gustavo Requena has made public statements against the Maya Land Rights case and you know he is going to be the person that would be incharge of the very office that has a mandate to work directly with us on this implementation. He has on numerous occasions we have recordings of him making public declarations against Maya Customary Land Rights. And so our question then is how could he then be objective in implementing this Maya Land Rights Case ? Right ? Let alone representing in an objective way indigenous issues that might arise not just from the Maya people but indigenous peoples in general.”

Coc added that Gustavo Requena has constantly made public statements denouncing customary Maya Land rights in his consultations with San Pedro Columbia and the People’s Constitution Commission.

Cristina Coc, Spokesperson MLA and TLA: “In the practice of good governance principles there is an obligation on the state for consultation in good faith when it makes decisions that would affect and impact the lives directly of a particular group of people and in particular in this case the indigenous peoples of Belize. And so the fact that were not even consulted let alone notified directly is cause for concern for us because again it proves that the government cannot be trusted and cannot be relied on in terms of good faith and so that’s something that we are really concerned about. Trust is very important in this process and if we cannot trust the government with the small things then we certainly cannot trust them with the larger things.”

The MLA added that it will raise their concerns at the next compliance hearing with the Caribbean Court of Justice, given that they continue to maintain a supervisory role over the implementation of the Maya Land Rights case. Our newsroom sought comment from Minister of Indigenous Affairs Dolores Balderamos-Garcia and Area Representative of Toledo West, Minister Oscar Requena, but our efforts were to no avail.

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