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Southern Maya Leader Calls for Greater Consultation in Implementing Village Boundaries

The 2015 Consent Order by the Caribbean Court of Justice solidified land rights of Maya people in southern Belize. To implement the order, communities in Toledo District have begun ratifying the result of the auto-delimitation process and inter-boundary agreement called the “The Honourable Word of Respectful Neighbors.” The villages of Jordan and Blue Creek undertook that process on August 28. The same is going to take place in Santa Teresa Village but the elected chairman, Juan Chub is concerned not only about the speed of the process, but what appears to be a lack of consultation. Chub

Juan Chub, Chairman, Santa Teresa Village: “As the Chairman in the village of Santa Teresa my major concerns regarding the border demarcation project that the MLA are doing at this present moment really and truly I want to register this because I’m really deeply disappointed on the way they’re carrying and doing this in the village of Santa Teresa. One, that as the Chairman I am not being involved in all the activities that they’re doing within the village of Santa Teresa because as I understood that on Tuesday September 7th both villages Jordan along with Santa Teresa will be signing a document to state that they have come to a mutual respect and agreement within the two villages and my dissatisfaction is that I am not being invited, I am not being part of this signing you know ? And I don’t believe that this organization has been really and truly educating the members of the villages to be aware of the whole idea behind this signing because it’s not just signing for argument’s sake it is for the community to have a sound idea of what is it and what we’re going to sign up. So it seems like the MLA are not inviting me, they are not inviting me to be a part of this and that’s where I felt that I am left out and exactly as an elected Chairman I must have an important say in all this official document. That is my most concern at this time. I would ask that if they can make it to be much more fair and honest so that everyone is aware of this document because at the end of the day the members of the village will have to be acquainted with it.”

Many of those communities operate both a village council system and an Alcalde system. Chub surmises that because the two systems exists, there is a power struggle, which in turn affects the opportunity for everyone in his community to make an informed decision on land rights as a whole.

Juan Chub, Chairman, Santa Teresa Village: “At this time as an elected chairman I will request the MLA and those who are behind it to put it on hold or until I have a sound education, until we have a discussion, until all the people in the village are sound and aware and educated of this ongoing agreement. I want them to put on a hold and ask the chairman because I am not part of any activity or any decision making or any meeting that regards to this border agreement.”

Reporter: From your perspective have they been able to communicate with the villagers of your community in a respectful and meaningful way and how has that consultation prices gone if one has taken place ?

Juan Chub, Chairman, Santa Teresa Village: “In relation as being the chairman there is no communication with me at this time but I believe that the communication is one sided. One sided means that they are communicating more to the Alcalde in the village of Santa Teresa and then whatever the Alcalde gets he does not communicate to me and so therefore I’m left isolated alone and not aware of what all these activities are happening. But again I say in each village we have two systems of governance one is the traditional Alcalde and two is the village council. So I am not being involved and that is where I felt a little bit concerned.”

Chub continues to call for open communication with the Maya Leaders Alliance, the Toledo Alcaldes’ Association and the village council. The alliance describes the auto-delimitation process as one that is owned and driven by communities who are committed to harmonizing their village boundaries based on Maya values of truth, honesty, maintenance of peace and equilibrium while acting in and with harmony, respect, love, and care for each other.