Squatting is an illegal activity under the laws of Belize. Despite its illegality, PUP’s Area Representative Cordel Hyde has gone on record to say that he understands the plight of squatters and that he supports it. His comments came on Sunday as Petillo attempted to carry out another mass gathering at mile forty four on the George Price Highway. Hyde represents the Lake Independence division which has a high concentrate of squatters.
Cordel Hyde, Area Representative, Lake Independence: “You can’t attack the cause. You can’t question the cause and this is not about red or blue this is about being a Belizean because whether you’re red or blue, whether you’re blue or red, whether you are Catholic, whether you are Mestizo, whether you are Anglican, whether you are Garifuna, whether you are from Corozal, from Orange Walk, from Belize, from Cayo, from Stann Creek and if you are a Belizean you’re supposed to have access to that land because this is a gift to us from God. This is not a gift to the people that have money this is a gift to all the people that are from here, that belong here, that stay here, who are raising their children here, that are investing here.”
Reporter: So as a politician of influence do you support part of the MO of the movement that says land at any cost, land by any means even if it involves squatting ?
Cordel Hyde, Area Representative, Lake Independence: “Well squatting is happening from a long time because people always repeat this statement from the late great Dr.Martin Luther King that rioting is the voice of the unheard. Squatting is the voice of the poor people, of the landless because people don’t squat because they want, they squat because they don’t have a choice. I just finished explaining to you that if you’re only making $3.30 an hour you can’t pay rent, you can’t feed your children, you can’t clothe your children, you can’t send them to school, you can’t pay light bill, pay water bill out of that because that is $1.50 a week. In Belize City it’s $75 for one room for one week sometimes you have to share bathroom. You can’t live with $150 so everybody is trying to figure out how do I get away from the rent? How do I try to establish a little something so I could have more money to feed my kids, I could have more money to take care of them. So people don’t squat because they’re just lawless they squat because they really have no choice and their backs are against the wall and they’re desperate and that is where governments come in.”
Many have taken to social media commenting on Petillo’s project. One person drew an analogy asking if stealing food to feed a hungry family would be legal because of the cause. Hyde, who had served ten years in Government under the PUP’s Musa administration told the media that idle lands should be taken away and redistributed to the poor people.
Cordel Hyde, Area Representative, Lake Independence: “Go find land that is idle. Go find land that people aren’t paying taxes. Go find land that is fertile that you can help poor people get and when you bring it to me I will sit down and I will do my best to make sure that we can work through the process, work through the red tape and figure out a way how we can get those lands to ordinary people. It’s not that you want to strong arm people you know ? But if you’re not paying your taxes how do you deserve to hold all those lands for decades and decades and decades and then you have people starving out here. You have some people that just want a quarter acre out here, some people just want half an acre, some people just want a house lot. That is the difference sometimes between surviving and dying, it’s the difference sometimes between advancing or staying in poverty and our job is to help – it’s not even about us any more you know brother? At some point in time it has to be about our children. This life doesn’t really matter much if you don’t try to make an effort to try improve their lives, if you don’t make an effort to try to make things better for them. This is what this is about because at some point all this land will be done and our children no matter where they com from won’t have an opportunity but the people that long did, that have the thousand of acres their children and their unborn set for the next hundred years. What makes them more special than the people that don’t have? I’m tired of living in that system.
As we noted, squatting is not unique in Belize. As a matter of fact, in September 2015 one hundred persons were evicted from their homes in the Gungulung Area, Lake Independence division due to illegal squatting. Their plight was addressed by the then UDP Area Representative, Mark King who ended up acquiring acres of land from private owners to relocate the squatters. Although illegal, the issue of squatting has proven to be a sticky issue as it is a means for politicians to gain favor with the electorate. Recently the Ministry of Natural Resources issued a public notice on the unlawful occupation of National Land. They cited that it is an offence under the National Lands Act, Chapter 191 of the Laws of Belize, Revised Edition 2000-2003.