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May 22, 2015

Caneros in Santa Marta Issued Eviction Notice for Farming on Private Land

There is a very ugly situation brewing in the village of Santa Marta in the Orange Walk District, and it involves squatting. Thirteen farmers cleared and cultivated five hundred and twenty acres of land decades ago. They have been working the land since then, primarily to grow cane. But the land is privately owned, part of a parcel of six thousand acres, and the owner has come calling. The farmers have received an ultimatum from his representative in Belize giving them an ultimatum which threatens their livelihood. Mike Rudon was in Santa Marta and has the story.

 

Mike Rudon Reporting For News Five

 

This is the land in Santa Marta which has become an issue of serious contention for thirteen farmers and their families. They’ve divided up an area encompassing five hundred and twenty acres and have been working it for decades, some of them for as long as thirty years. Antonio Chan is one of those farmers who has fifteen acres. Like the other farmers, he grows primarily cane, but he also has coconuts and even a pineapple plantation.

 

Antonio Chan

Antonio Chan – Farming on Private Land

“I remember during the times of Mr. Aragon, the first one. He came and surveyed here and told us to take thirty acres each, and we started working here. Those times he was the Minister, and he made us start working here. And we worked and worked and worked and never heard from the owner until now.”

 

Patricio Acuna

Patricio Acuna – Chairman, Santa Marta Village

“ Thirty years ago we had this land here, unoccupied, nothing here, and as villagers we came to this village and we decided to go through and start working the land, and this is why we are now having this big problem with the land.”

 

Mike Rudon

 

That big problem refers to this eviction letter to those farmers, delivered last week by a representative of the owner. It informs them that because of a failure to reach some form of compromise with either the government or those farmers, the owner has now been forced to issue an ultimatum.

 

Patricio Acuna 

“ I received this letter from him in which he is expressing himself that he has been getting together with the government and nothing is done, so he says alright guys, you have three options here – the option number one is renting the land, number two is buying the land, and number three is getting away from the land, leaving everything here. I automatically expressed myself to him directly that this is sad for us, because as villagers and as hardworking people here in Santa Marta, we have big loans at DFC because of replanting cane, and this is what is making me, myself…how can I express my feelings…? I think that we have to get together and try to seek help from the government. That is what I feel.”

 

Mike Rudon

 

Actually that is what all thirteen farmers feel. Like most caneros, they do not have ready cash available to buy the acreage they are using, and even renting would stretch already thin resources. But leaving is not something they are prepared to entertain. So they are looking to big brother, the Government of Belize, for help.

 

Antonio Chan 

 

“ This is something which worries all of us. We know that it is a private property, but we think that the government can do something for us, and we hope that they can get the land for us, but we don’t know yet what action they would take to do that.”

 

And if that doesn’t work out…then these farmers will have to find another solution, one which likely will include incurring even more debts to secure what they already feel is theirs.

 

Patricio Acuna

“If we don’t see anything from the government…no help from the government, I think the second option will be the only one that we have to do, buying the land, or the first option, renting the land, so I think those are the ones we have to look for.”

 

Antonio Chan 

“ This is something that we owe too, because this cane that we have here we owe the bank – they lend us and we pay them back, and this is how we live. If they take this away from us where we go? Look at all the work we have here.”

 

Mike Rudon

According to the letter, the farmers have until June twenty-eighth to decide. Failing that, the letter instructs them that they will have to leave their land, and everything on that land, behind.

 

 

 

 

 

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2 Responses for “Caneros in Santa Marta Issued Eviction Notice for Farming on Private Land”

  1. Concern says:

    They had options given by the owner, they could have save their money during all these years to buy and would not be in this situation of “mercy pleading”. I am seeing a similar situation with BTL not paid yet to the owners. I wonder if same mercy pleading will happen, as what have they been doing with all the profits collected?????

  2. lf says:

    The powers of the elected Ministers needs to be curbed. Why should a Minister be able to distribute land that is clearly owned by others. They have and, continues to abuse their powers. It is time that changes are made. They seem to have a blank check in all aspects of Belizean life including the purse strings of the Treasury of Belize. Most are corrupt.

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