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Jan 19, 2015

Caneros Protest House Meeting

Even as the debate raged inside the House, outside cane farmers and supporters were gathered in protest. There weren’t many of them – at peak probably fifty – but there was representation from the N.T.U.C.B., V.I.P., COLA, ROC and even random activists. Mike Rudon has that story from outside the House.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

Holding cane stalks and placards, a small group of cane farmers stood in the sun outside the National Assembly to send a message to government. They were joined by representatives from various groups who are showing support for the hard working men and women from the north.

 

Alfredo Ortega

Alfredo Ortega, Director, Orange Walk Branch, B.S.C.F.A.

“We know that in heart there are many that would want to come because as you know many of them have families and have things to do on their own. But we have this amount of farmers here in symbolism that we need changes to be done in favour of the farmers. So the amount of farmers we have here; we know that there are some that are coming on their way. It doesn’t reflect the number, but the cause that we are fighting for. That is it.”

 

There was no militancy in the group – just an insistence that they must be heard by the government which many feel have betrayed them. This small group, dubbed extremist and radicals by Prime Minister Dean Barrow, condemned the current agreement with ASR/B.S.I. That battle is lost, but today they know that the government is pushing the amendments to the Sugar Industry Act through all its stages. They are hoping that even now, at the eleventh hour, benefits to farmers are factored into those amendments.

 

Ofelia Montejo

Ofelia Montejo, Cane Farmer, Libertad Branch

“We can’t fight any more. It’s over. But we are here to show that we are not satisfied with what we were forced to do because we were expecting that the prime minister would give us a better deal. But he didn’t give us a good deal so the big farmers that have ten, twelve tons are scared that they are going to lose their cane—they don’t need that money—so they gave up. So the small farmers had to just give up. So we had to go and sign, but we are here because we are not satisfied.”

 

Alfredo Ortega

“What we want to accomplish is that we want respect from the government to our cane farmers. It is true that the cane farmers yesterday said yes to signing and we are not going against that because we want our farmers to deliver their cane. And we see that farmers have been cornered and I have been saying this from ever since. The situation is that what we are looking for, we heard the Prime Minister announce that he will be making some changes on the law. We want those changes to reflect on them, benefits to the farmers.”

 

Last week the N.T.U.C.B. pledged support for the cane farmer, and today representatives were out – though not in the numbers which would have ensured the message be heard. Still, they are on board.

 

Marvin Mora

Marvin Mora, Second Vice President, N.T.U.C.B.

“The National Trade Union Congress really did not get on board late. The problem was how the events unfolded. We had been on ground for at least about two months right now to get their leadership to react. But we had to, in a sense, bypass their leadership and go directly to the cane farmers and that took a lot of energy and a lot of resources. So it is not that the N.T.U.C.B. came out late; that is a misconception that is there in the media.”

 

They chanted and marched around the National Assembly. They stood shoulder to shoulder – stevedores from Belize City with farmers from the north. And they made their stance outside the House, where their representatives sat in session. And when this is done, the farmers will get ready to deliver their cane, because their survival depends on it.

 

Alfredo Ortega

“Yes of course, each and every member, even myself I didn’t sign the paper. I am not in agreement with it. But the law says that any farmer, once the doors are open, that the farmers have the privilege to deliver their cane. It is true that the farmers approved to sign the paper, but the farmers are not in content with that. They did so because they were cornered, because our own Prime Minister said that the farmers had to sign or else there will be no crop; Mister Elrington came out and said that the farmers had very little opportunity to have any negotiation because of the product we have. Well we are showing them that we have good product.”

 

The protest outside the House broke up just as the House meeting neared its end, the amendments to the Sugar Industry Act pushed through all stages. Mike Rudon for News Five.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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1 Response for “Caneros Protest House Meeting”

  1. melinda says:

    not one worker in the sugar cane industry in the fields belong to a trade union, except those that work for BSI

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