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Jul 3, 2015

Maya Leaders Converge in Toledo

Maya leaders converged today in Golden Stream, Toledo, in solidarity with the Santa Cruz Thirteen. The gathering is their first since the arrest of Cristina Coc and twelve other Maya leaders on June twenty-third.  But there was an added dimension to this morning’s event.  The MLA is going back to the Caribbean Court of Justice seeking the court to detail the interpretation of their judgment which reaffirms their property rights based on their customary land tenure. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

An assembly of traditional leaders from villages across the indigenous community was present in Golden Stream this morning, where MLA spokesperson Cristina Coc broke radio silence in the aftermath of her arrest, along with twelve others, a week ago.  Flanked by her sibling, a young attorney representing the Maya Leaders Alliance, and Professor James Anaya, former UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Coc chose not to comment on her detention last Thursday.  Instead, she began by reiterating that the ongoing struggle for recognition of indigenous rights is an effort shared by both Maya and Garifuna communities.

 

Cristina Coc

Cristina Coc, Spokesperson, MLA

“We face an attack on the right to communal land, to practicing autonomy within our communities.  These are rights we have as indigenous people that scares the powerful.  Only when it suits them politically do we ever have the government or the support of the educated and powerful and so we must unite and we must seek good allies and support.  We agree completely and we embrace and appreciate this crucial message from our Garifuna brothers in the Cerro.  Thank you brothers of St. Vincent Block, Cerro Garifuna communal lands.  This struggle is for you too.”

 

The process for an outsider to access Maya communal lands is a series of actions, as outlined by attorney Monica Magnusson, that must be taken in advance of joining the community.  That course was seemingly skirted by Rupert Myles in Santa Cruz Village.

 

Monica Magnusson

Monica Magnusson, Attorney for MLA

“Whenever somebody wants to come into those communities you go to the traditional leader who is the alcalde and this is a system that’s been in place for hundreds of years.  So, I can’t speak to what may or may not have been said because I was not there but I can speak to the fact that you can’t just go into a community, you have to go through the proper channels and like Mr. Myles said, he didn’t go through the proper channels.  The authorities in the village tried to engage him and he refused to meet with them.”

 

That procedure is best described by Ligorio Coy, alcalde of Santa Ana, where a young man from outside of that village is assimilating into the community.

 

Ligorio Coy

Ligorio Coy, Alcalde, Santa Ana Village

“We are not saying that different races of people can’t come and live.  For example, in Santa Ana three days ago a Garifuna young boy is beginning a new life with a young girl in Santa Ana and we are not saying no but these are the rules.  And if you can’t handle a machete my brother, pay you lee contribution and everything will work out good.  We have a Spanish man living in Santa Ana.  We have a Coolie man living in Santa Ana and now a Garifuna man is coming, I don’t see any problem but they have to follow the channels.”

 

James Anaya

Professor James Anaya, Former UN Special Rapporteur

“The decision of the Caribbean Court of Justice last April which affirms that the Maya people have property rights based on their customary land tenure follows in line with international standards and with the 2004 decision of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights which is an arm of the Organization of American States.  Both the Caribbean Court of Justice and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have found that the government must take specific action to recognize the property rights of Maya people over the traditional lands.  According to the Caribbean courts and the courts of Belize, these rights are protected by the Constitution of Belize and according to the Inter-American Commission, these rights are protected by international human rights law.”

 

That judgment, in the form of a consent order, is being read differently by both sides, including the Government of Belize.  Coc explains the interpretation of the Maya community.

 

Cristina Coc

“Like every other people in Belize, the courts have given us property rights.  What we understand as property rights are two kinds, private property and leasing which is borrowing from the government.  Now the courts have said that we have something equivalent to private property.  Now I ask a question: can we just go, can I, can you just go to anybody, pick anybody that you know that has a private property, can you just go and build and attach your house there and build on that person’s private property without any sanction, without any kind of removal, without any kind of question?  Can you do that?  Then the answer is very clear because Maya people have private property rights to their land, the only difference is that we hold it in common together on their private property.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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3 Responses for “Maya Leaders Converge in Toledo”

  1. Rod says:

    Unu need fu March tha this pm house drag him out of his bed and lock him up for corruption show him you are not afraid ti die for your beliefs.

  2. dejavu says:

    This is the same thing ISIS/ISIL is fighting for “an Islamic State”. We now a “Mayan State” in Belize given to the Mayas by the ICJ. Where do we get visa to go this new country or is it on arrival?

  3. Sofia says:

    LEAVE THE MAYANS ALONE PM.. I VOTED FOR YOU BUT DO NOT MAKE THIS A RACE ISSUE TO TARNISH THE MAYAN RIGHTS AND STRUGLE THAT WE KNOW YOU DO NOT AGREE.. THERE ARRE REAL PROBLEMS IN THIS COUNTRY AND STOP WASTING TIME ON WHAT HAS BEEN HISTORICALLY THEIRS. REMEBER THIS COUNTRY HAS AN ALMOST 50% MESTIZO POPULATION THAT ALSO COME FROM THE MAYA.. MR. MILES GOT WHAT HE CAUSED. THE PEOPLE OF BELIZE CITY NEED JOBS AND INDUSTRIES FOR THEM TO BE BETTER.. NOT HANDOUTS AND POOR PROGRAMS AND PETROCARIBE FUNDS.. THEY NEED TO GET OUT OF POVERTY.. IF YOU LOVE YOUR CONSTITUENTS FIND INDUSTRIES THAT CAN CURE THE CANCER OF POVERTY AND LEAVE THOSE HARD WORKING MAYANS ALONE .

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