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Aug 27, 2015

Belmopan Squatters Given Deadline to Vacate Premises

A piece of the jewel – any piece of the jewel – is as coveted as the Holy Grail. But unless you’ve got money, power, political connections or any combination of the above…owning a piece of the jewel is as likely as a sighting of the Loch Ness Monster. The difficulties associated with common people obtaining a legal piece of land have given rise to an unpleasant phenomenon known as squatting. We’ve seen it in Belize City, and today we saw it in City of Belmopan. Twenty families living on a parcel of land on the border of San Martin and Maya Mopan have been given two weeks to pack up and move…or they will be moved by the City Council. Mike Rudon was there today and has the story.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

This large parcel of land lies along the creek which separates the communities of San Martin and Maya Mopan. At least twenty families have made their homes here. This is where they live…where they cook their meals, where they lay their heads at night, where they’ve raised their children over the years and planted subsistence crops to feed those children. But they have two weeks to pack up those homes and to leave – by order of the Belmopan City Council. They say that the area is dangerous because the creek floods. But even if that wasn’t the case, these families are squatting.

 

Khalid Belisle

Khalid Belisle, Mayor, Belmopan

“This Council now has taken the approach and the decision to try and get this people out of harm’s way. We understand the considerations as far as removing people who had settled into an area. But at the same time we need to consider what’s right for the city…what’s lawful and legal, and so that is why we have now started the process of removing some structures, and we will continue to remove structures where people are in harm’s way.”

 

And the Council isn’t joking about removing those structures. They started on Tuesday.

 

Reyes Cal

Reyes Cal, Ordered to Vacate Premises

“Yesterday my daughter tell me that they wanted to shove my house, but the same time she came into the house and opened it and she was there when they were pushing this one here, so they told her that this one here has to go, but you’re lucky you’re here.”

 

Said Silva, Ordered to Vacate Premises

“It’s wrong what they did. They came and knocked down my house. And I asked them, I pleaded with them. I did not beg the government not even one time to help me buy materials, but I had to beg them to please don’t demolish my house. And they didn’t listen to me. They didn’t give me any formal letter. They just came, knocked down my house, laughed about it and moved on.”

 

Said Silva

Khalid Belisle

“We do notify these people…not only the City Council, but our sister body here in Belmopan has been notifying these people – and I’m referring to Recondev next door – for many months now. I sit on the Board of Directors for Recondev and so I’m privy to that information. Letter after letter has been sent out.”

 

Fibiano Cal, Ordered to Vacate Premises

“I was at work when my dad gave me a phone call and said son your house is down. And then I made contact with my brother and he said yes it’s true. And then I really got shocked, because it’s my money. Nobody helped me to invest. I invested on my own. I invest more than seven years, putting up piece by piece, and now who will help me to build my house again.”

 

Fibiano Cal

It’s a heartbreaking situation for these twenty families. They know the land they’ve called home for years does not belong to them. But they have nowhere else to go, and they don’t know what else to do.

 

Reyes Cal

“I’ve gone two times to Recondev to find out if they can give me a lot to live and the lady who works there she told me that they don’t have any lots available now.”

 

Maria Cal, Ordered to Vacate Premises

“We don’t have any place to go. We always go to Recondev and we fill in our forms. But like what a young girl said yesterday she saw with her own eyes when they filled in the form and the people turned their backs, the form goes straight in the trash can. That’s what they do. And when we go there all the time they always have excuse. Sometimes they say they’re sick or they’re in a meeting and they can’t attend to us.”

 

Maria Cal

Reyes Cal

“If we have to move I don’t know. If they can pay my house I don’t mind moving. I am not selling the land. I don’t own the land. I am just staying here until I can get my property. But I don’t know when.”

 

The Council is operating by the strictest sense of the law, and squatting is against the law. But that’s a position which threatens to leave all these Belizeans, and all these children, out in the cold.

 

Said Silva

“That might be true in a sense, but you don’t correct a wrong with another wrong. And you have other people that have been living here eighteen plus years who qualify for squatter’s rights. And this land, to be honest with you, has never been developed by the City Council. It is the people who have been living here that have maintained this piece low like this.”

 

Eugenio Cal

Eugenio Cal, Ordered to Vacate Premises

“I can’t go anywhere. We cleaned this place because when we came here it was bushy. It wasn’t good. Me and my son cleaned it. That’s why I don’t want to go anywhere. I have to stay here. I have to stay here and they have to measure the place for us. That’s what we want.”

 

In two weeks, if these families don’t leave, they’ll be forced off the piece of land – their homes broken down like those of their neighbours, pushed to the ground earlier this week by City Council employees using heavy equipment.

 

Khalid Belisle

“I don’t think we’ve gotten to the bulldozer point as far as I know. We have never visited the area with a bulldozer. From my understanding the City Council workers who have been carrying out this process have tried to maintain as much as possible whatever resources were used in the construction of these dwellings in terms of the wood and the zinc and whatever else may be salvageable for future use when they relocate to a more suitable and legal piece of land.”

 

So what happens next?

 

Maria Cal

“If he could please try to see where he can put us, or get a piece of land for us, or survey this piece…well we would give him thanks.”

 

Khalid Belisle

“I’m human. I do have that heart and it’s unfortunate that people must now be moved from what they had hoped would be their place of residence, but the consideration of the Council must prevail and we have to do what is right not only for them but for everybody else who is going through the proper way of finding a piece of property here in Belmopan.”

 

Those words are cold comfort for these residents who say they have gone that route, and have been ignored. Mike Rudon for News Five.

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3 Responses for “Belmopan Squatters Given Deadline to Vacate Premises”

  1. Timber says:

    I cringe every time I read about what it seems is all negative news coming out of Belize. Yes, it’s illegal to squat, but that’s a culture we’ve fostered for years. I’ve asked Channel 5 to keep up with news like this and, a couple months ago, suggested that you employ and send your staff abroad to gain more experience and catalogue these type of incidents in the country. There are some software and programming that will let you retrieve these type of information years from now if you’re researching the same story or similar topics, rather than just using memory. You’d have to catalogue your news pieces in a specific manner. That’s what effective journalism is about. I guarantee you that six months from now some UDP flunky will be in possession of these lands. Now that the land has been developed, they see the intrinsic value. I digress.

  2. John says:

    This is full of racial and poverty discrimination. It is time the people rise and take a stand, this is there home, there land. please someone help the people. where is COLA, the GOV, the PUP, the advocates,

  3. nikki says:

    What is unlawful is that you ran for politics while working under John Saldivar ministry. The publiic service regulation is part of the constitution violated at will by you cronies. Out of harms way? give me a break you bigot! What could be more harmful than being homeless..exposed to crime and elements of the weather. All you evil politicians who fool ignorant people so you can stay in power will feel the wrath one of these days..i hope you can take it when your house comes crashing down with you in it..KARMA is real!!

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