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Apr 18, 2018

Inside the Squatting Situation in Belmopan

On Tuesday night, we shared the story about the squatters who have brazenly settled in a reserved piece of land in Belmopan. They were given fourteen days to move out and some of the squatters told us that ain’t happening. They will move only if they are given a piece of land to relocate. So, what will it take to move these squatters? Well, residents and authorities are working hard to get them out in a peaceful manner. News Five’s Andrea Polanco was in Belmopan on Tuesday when authorities went back in to the Mount Pleasant Creek Reserve area.

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

The Mount Pleasant Creek area in Belmopan is valuable to its people.  This area serves as water catchment, green space and home to a number of wildlife and plants for the Capital City.  In 2008, pegs were planted to subdivide the area. But vigilant residents in the City were quick to put a stop to it. They called on local authorities to recognize the importance of this strip of land – and it was put under reserve – making it illegal to use the buffer zone. Fast forward ten years and this piece of land appear to be under the control of illegal settlers, many of whom are immigrants, some undocumented. There are several families – our estimates put the number between six to eight families – but those are only the ones we saw. As City Administrator Ralston Frazer explains they are discovering even more squatters as they go farther into the reserve and they have already encroached on fifty acres of land.

 

Ralston Frazer

Ralston Frazer, City Administrator, Belmopan

“I wish I could give you a definite number. But the number continues to grow as we dig deeper and deeper into these bushes, the number continues to grow. But what we had found on Thursday, I think it was, at least six families that had already been in place and there were at least four more preparatory works in place.   It is not just what we see here. We have discovered particularly this morning. A fair estimate would be around fifty acres that these people are encroaching upon. That is a lot of land and smack in the middle of Belmopan.”

 

Antonio Vasquez is from El Salvador. He has been in Belize for four years but he says his rent is too high in Las Flores, Belmopan. He pays three hundred and twenty-five dollars a month – so he claims that his friends told him there was land available here. He decided to start a ranch and was clearing land for the past two days until he was stopped on Tuesday.

 

Antonio Vasquez

Antonio Vasquez, Illegal Farmer [Translated]

“I have many children and what I can pay – if I do my little ranch, I can use that to buy their necessities and food and so on.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“And how many years have you been living here?”

 

Antonio Vasquez

“Four years I have been here, working on farms, orange orchards, just like that.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“You left El Salvador because life is hard there?”

 

Antonio Vasquez

“Yes. It is hard there. The violence is tough, too. That is how it is there, yes. Here it is better.”

 

But dealing with these squatters requires a multi-agency approach, as Frazer explains.

 

Ralston Frazer

“Actually, we are in process of that now and not only to immigration but all the other relevant agencies including human development. As you may have observed in these wooden structures that are already up, you see children around. I don’t know if they are from those particular dwellings but let’s assume that is the case and it brings in the element of giving attention from human development. It comes to us from an emotional perspective. It comes to us from a technical perspective. It comes to us from a legal perspective. It comes to us from a social perspective. Any angle that we may choose, it is in this basket. Again, I want to say though, all that being said, deal with it we must.”

 

Since given their fourteen days’ notice on Monday, the squatters now have eleven days to vacate the area. Those who have settled have indicated that they will only move if they are given another piece of land to live on – otherwise they do not have anywhere else to go.  But if left up to residents, these squatters must move out.

 

Louis Wade

Louis Wade, Member, Belmopan Heights Community Group

“They start off as shortcuts as they access one area of Belmopan into another. Then slowly over time these short cuts become wider and then they start to do just basic farming in those areas and before you know it, when they believe they have achieved some kind of firm footing on the area then they start to build very rapidly. They have wells, latrines, right behind a well developed area. This area is an area that we are proud of because the community works together and the city does take care of this particular area.   These people are not necessarily poor. These people are squatters. They are trying to access land.  So, it is not a poverty issue. We work with people who are poor, who are hungry, and who need shelter. We work with these people all the time. This is an issue of law breaking. Poverty exists but it is not an excuse for breaking the law.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

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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 “Inside the Squatting Situation in Belmopan”

  1. Name says:

    Give them more time to squatt somewhere else..smart move as×holes..deport them. They have no paper or right taking belizean land.

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