Mayan Villages Reject Government’s Land Policy, Minister weighs in on mounting tensions
Several Mayan villages in southern Belize have rejected the government’s draft land policy. The Maya Customary Land Policy was presented to the communities last December but is now being rejected in acts of disapproval. The villages have raised concerns regarding a particular section of the policy which seeks to demarcate villages based on a circular radius of 1 kilometer of the village’s center. This week, the Toledo Alcalde Association sent out numerous videos showing village leaders physically tearing the policy into pieces. Yesterday, the Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Dolores Balderamos Garcia, weighed in on the rising tensions and why she believes the communities are jumping the gun.
Dolores Balderamos Garcia, Minister of Human Development, Families and Indigenous People’s Affairs: “What they tore up was a draft so we’re not going to cry over that. And please, no disrespect whatsoever to those village members. But we honestly believe that they’re acting a bit hasty and because of influence that is coming. And one would probably know from where. Now I can confirm to you that the policy is still in draft stages and that we will be carrying out further consultations. All I ask of everyone out there and even the gentleman that tore up the paper and everything, give us an opportunity to consult with you. If we say, and we believe this, that we respect indigenous land rights which has been adopted by the court then we have to roll that out. But in rolling it out we cannot forget the rights of other Belizeans. You remember what you call the Bacchanal, I would call it the Bacchanal and Bangarang that was happening in Laguna and Yemeri Grove. And guess what? I commend the people of Yemeri Grove, of course they put us under a little bit of pressure as government, but I commend them for standing up and saying, we have our rights as well. The sixth form students came out of the East Indian community and the Creole community and the Mestizo community. The sixth formers came out and said we want a piece of the jewel too. What happened to we? So I commend them for that. But give the government an opportunity to try to roll out this thing in the best way.”
Garcia added that the ministry will continue to engage with the southern communities. Love News understands that the Maya Leaders Association, led by Cristina Coc, will be having a meeting in Santa Elena, Toledo District tomorrow morning. Minister Balderamos-Garcia told the media that the government will have representation at the meeting.