Valley of Peace Farmers versus Green Tropics
C.E.O. in the Ministry of Agriculture Jose Alpuche has scheduled a meeting today with representatives of Green Tropics and the Valley of Peace Farmers Association. The meeting became necessary after peaceful negotiations between both parties broke down last week. On Monday, thirty-two farmers were served with an eviction notice from Green Tropics, ordered that they must remove themselves and their crops from the land in question by July fifteenth. The farmers have obtained legal representation courtesy of Area Representative Julius Espat. Today, he explained to us that it’s not so much about taking sides as it is about levelling the playing field so that farmers can stand on equal footing, either in court or in negotiations.
Julius Espat, Area Representative, Cayo South
“I am fundamentally opposed to comments made by government ministers and government representatives when it comes to leaving it to court. You see, for too long the impoverished people of Belize are not treated fairly. You have a large conglomerate that has access to money, access to attorneys going to court against a farmer that does not understand the system, has no money to take an attorney to court, and I believe it is the representatives’ responsibility, the thirty-one of us, to protect our people. And I am saying that you cannot let them go to court when it’s unfairly done, when it’s not equal so what our role is and what I am doing, and I believe what my role is as an area representative, is to give the ammunition to the impoverished people, to the farmers so that they can become equal and then you take them to court, or then you negotiate. You cannot negotiate on weakness. You have to negotiate on strength. And that’s all we are doing…giving them access to an attorney, giving them access to information, explaining the law to them and letting them understand that they are not there alone. And after that if it has to go to court we are fine with that…and even if it has to go to negotiations we are fine with that too. But don’t put me in a room with a Sumo wrestler that is five hundred pounds…and I am only fifty pounds, and tell me that it is fair. It is not fair, and that’s where we are with that.”