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Apr 24, 2018

Barranco Loggers Take Case to Belmopan

It may be one of the most-recognized and well-known villages in Belize and particularly the Garifuna community. But the southern community of Barranco is fighting a tough battle to get in touch with the times, in the area of economic development. Barranco residents have been forced to look on as outsiders acquire licenses to log their precious forest resources, while they themselves are limited to the bare minimum to survive. Last week, five residents complained of being denied their applications to log in their own community, but today they obtained a meeting with authorities in the capital city, Belmopan. The results are mixed to say the least, but as Aaron Humes reports, there is a platform for progress.

 

Aaron Humes, Reporting

This group of protestors from the deep south village of Barranco, a Garifuna enclave in a mostly Maya district, roused the quiet of the Government complex in Belmopan this morning with song and drumming. But this was no celebration – they have deep and serious grievances with, in particular, the Ministry and Department of Forestry.

 

Beatrice Mariano, Vice-Chair, Barranco Village Council

“It is because of this situation that we decided enough is enough.”

 

Reporter

“You have reached the breaking point?”

 

Beatrice Mariano

Beatrice Mariano

“This is the breaking point, yes. Because it is now confirmed, yes, that the non-resident was given logging concession. None of these applicants received any, but this person, not from Barranco, and not requiring the recommendation of the Council, which is something they agreed with us, they didn’t need it to get the concession.”

 

Reporter

“Did the Forestry Department indicate why the local people are not being given the logging concessions?”

 

Beatrice Mariano

“No, they did not say why. They see where the applicants made their assessment, they have to pay for these assessments to be done, with the land, walking it, seeing if they are harvestable trees; they get those recommendations with them. And they have to pay for other guys to walk with them and tree-hunt.”

 

But in the case of Leslie Colon and Alfredo Rash, it is all in vain, as their chosen section has already been granted to one Mister Blanco of Boom Creek village. There is a silver lining as the other applications are to at least be considered. But citing an agreement made in November of 2017 during a meeting at the Machaca Forest Station outside Punta Gorda, village elder and concession seeker Fabian Cayetano says they want – and need – more.

 

Fabian Cayetano

Fabian Cayetano, Seeking Logging Concession

“The five applicants want the following things to happen. One, we want to know why our five applications were rejected, and not a word from the Ministry of Forestry and Fisheries to us with an explanation. Point two, we the five rejected Barranco logging concession applicants, request the approval of our logging concession applications, with the licenses for two logging seasons: October fifteenth, 2018, to June fifteenth, 2020. Point three: to apply to the Ministry of Forestry and Fisheries as an indigenous people, to manage the entire Barranco forest area, from the Moho River, to the northern banks of the Sarstoon River, to do re-forestation and sustainable logging and eco-tourism, to generate economy activity and jobs for our people.”

 

Once the country’s main cash cow, forestry remains a big money-spinner, especially in the South, if the rosewood affair of a few years ago is any indication. But the Barranco Village Council says that Blanco and other concession-holders will have to work with them to help build up the village, which has produced such major names as Andy Palacio and Paul Nabor.

 

Fabian Cayetano

“We are waiting for the issuing of the licenses to sit down, as part of our agreement, to sit down with them, to take the benefits already listed by the people of Barranco; namely, major repairs to the broken wharf we have; the major repairs on the roof of the community center; money contributions toward the cleaning of the bushy cemetery, in which the legendary Andy Palacio has been laid to rest; and contribution toward our St. Joseph R.C. School.”

 

Aaron Humes

“Would that also include where possible hiring residents of Barranco?”

 

Fabian Cayetano

“Definitely, providing jobs; definitely. We are interested in that area, but we are more interested and stress in the fact that we get our license concessions so that we can do the hiring and make available cheap lumber for our people to build low-cost houses, as a possible benefit.”

 

From Belmopan, Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

 

This afternoon, Chief Forest Officer Wilber Sabido confirmed that the meeting had been productive, but any formal agreement would await the approval of Minister Omar Figueroa, who was in Cabinet as of this afternoon. He said he would hold off on commenting until he has met with the Minister and relayed the official results back to the Barranco community as early as Wednesday.

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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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