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Issues in the south with the Mayans

In recent weeks we have brought you land issues from within several districts and while there is another currently brewing in the Orange Walk District, there is one that has ignited in the south.  This one is in the Toledo District where reports are that surveyors are entering Maya lands establishing survey lines that are cutting through crop fields. According to a press release from the Maya Leaders Alliance, Julian Cho Society and the Toledo Alcaldes Association these surveyors have been in the villages of Golden Stream, Medina Bank, San Pedro Colombia, Indian creek, Laguna, San Marcos and Sunday Wood conducting land surveys and opening survey lines. The lines are cutting through cacao and corn fields and in some instance even through residential areas that are enclosed.  Love News spoke with the spokesperson for the Maya Leaders Alliance and the Toledo Alcaldes Association, Cristina Coc who told us that the number of lands that is being surveyed is alarming and it may have to do with the upcoming general elections.

Christina Coc, Spokeswoman, Maya Leaders Alliance: This is why this is very concerning to us that we see now an increase, an escalation of what we refer to as illegal activities on Maya lands because the Government is under a court obligation to cease and desist. Whether it is by third parties or agents of the state itself and so we have received a credible report from many of our villages in particular Golden Stream, Medina Bank, San Pedro Colombia, Laguna, San Marcos, Sunday Wood of an increase in the amount of surveying that they are witnessing on their lands. They have gone to talk to these surveyors they have inquired where their authority comes from because our community leaders know that their village themselves have not granted these permission and we have seen in bits and pieces information that it is being facilitated by the lands and survey department and so that is very concerning for us and we denounce that action because it is in direct contravention with the Caribbean Court of Justice’s order. And so that said I have to emphasize that we hope that these land grabs and land distribution and land surveying we hope that they are not politically motivated. We say that only because we see an increase in the last two weeks leading up to the last hour of the general elections this is a practice that we used to see prior to the land rights cases where we saw lands being distributed right before a general election. Now bear in mind that that is not possible in the Toledo district where there is a firm customary rights to land and so the only people that can distribute those lands are the rightful and customary owners of those lands and that is the Maya villages themselves.”

Coc added that this is not the first time that they are seeing these incursions.  She says that they have brought the issues to the attention of the Government but their concerns have fallen on deaf ears.

Christina Coc, Spokeswoman, Maya Leaders Alliance: “We have on numerous occasions, this is not the first time that incursions are occurring. Why it is alarming at this time is because of the number and frequency at which it is occurring. We have on numerous occasions written to the Attorney General’s Ministry, written to various government agencies, the Lands and Survey Department, inquiring about these permissions to do survey on lands that are clearly within the territory of the Maya people. We have provided to the state by way of an indicative analytical map the area in which we believe the Maya communities, all forty one of them, make customary claim and so they would know that within that area at the very minimum even though we have not yet defined and delimited the territory because we’re in the process of auto delimitation that it is within those areas that we would be concerned and so we have sent numerous communications to these government agencies at times it falls on deaf ears. We also have an established mechanism through the Caribbean Court of Justice to file formal complaints to the authority that’s responsible for dispute resolution. She has in fact presented eight reports with substantive recommendations on how to address some of these incursions now those eight reports don’t include these new survey lines that we’re seeing. At the same time the government has not concretely said how they’re going to address what the authority has already found, has already investigated and so this is concerning for us. Instead of addressing what the authority has recommended and what her findings are we see an increase.”

Coc noted that they will continue the fight to protect the Maya lands and people as the incursions do not bode well on the economic development of Maya people.