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May 2, 2018

Belmopan Squatters Moved on by City Council

For the past two weeks, we have been reporting extensively on the squatters’ situation in the Mount Pleasant Creek Reserve area of Belmopan. Well, today that situation came to a head when the squatters were moved off the land. City Council workers and police visited the site twice today. The workers dismantled the structures and a backhoe was used to demolish what couldn’t be disassembled. Now, this should have come as no surprise to the squatters, because as we have shown you, they were served with notices of eviction. They were also given two additional days to move off the property. The land in question is made up of about seventy acres that was put under reserve some ten years ago. The land serves as a green space for those residents who live in the Doyle’s Delight- Habet Housing areas, as well as a water catchment. So, the local government and residents are against habitation in the area. But squatters started farms and constructed homes all within the past several months but it wasn’t until two to three weeks ago that the authorities decided to take action.  Now, the squatters say they have nowhere to go. News Five’s Andrea Polanco has more from Belmopan:

 

Maria Aldana

“Tres meses la llevo para hacerlo y para deshacerlo un dia.”

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Three months to build it and a day to take it down – those are the words of a tearful Maria Aldana, as a backhoe belonging to the Belmopan City Council uproots this concrete foundation. For the past three months, Aldana’s daughter was building this foundation in the Mount Pleasant Creek Reserve area in Belmopan. She invested eight thousand five hundred dollars, but it was all destroyed within minutes.

 

Maria Aldana

Maria Aldana, Squatter [Translated]

“Sad. I never thought this would happen.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“It is difficult?”

 

Maria Aladana

“Yes. Difficult. God will give us justice because we are poor and this is costing us.  This was for my daughter.  She built this through syndicate that she is still paying.”

 

 

Maria Aldana and Theresa Chan have been squatting on this piece of land for some five months or so. Today, they must move their belongings because their houses will be dismantled.

 

Maria Aldana [Translated]

“Well, right now, I don’t know where we are going because we have nowhere to. That is why we haven’t vacated here because we don’t have any place to go.  We knew that this is part of the Creek reserve. But like I said, we are poor. We don’t have lots and we don’t have where to live and we can’t afford rent. So, when we saw a lot of people [squatting] it is just not fair that we are the only ones they are removing.”

 

Theresa Chan

Theresa Chan, Squatter

“What I have to do right now, I am going back to pay rent. I have to do it because I can’t live with my kids on the street. I need a shelter and they nuh come and tell we that they wah tek we out from right here and they wah give we a place where we could go. They nuh tell we that. They only tell we mek we go find the where we could go. They treat we like we dah nuh people. We dah people. They supposed to tell we that they wah give we place weh we fi move fi we house and they give we where we wah go. But they nuh do that. They only want mek we go vote fi them and we put them in office and they nuh support we again.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“So, they knew that you guys were building here and they didn’t do anything at the start?”

 

Theresa Chan

“No. They wait until the election pass and that’s why they start. They know deh win again and that is why start to do us this.”

 

The Belmopan City Council had given the families two weeks’ notice to vacate this piece of land and two days extension. City Engineer Wilfred Wade said that all the squatters have agreed to move and the council is helping to transport their belongings to wherever they relocate.

 

Wilfred Wade

Wilfred Wade, City Engineer, Belmopan City Council

“They came here illegally and squat on it, so the City Council has an obligation to move them. Whether we like it or not, after we dialogue with them. They do feel a kinda way because we are moving them and they feel that the City Council should understand be obligated to find other lands for them.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“How many families are in compliance – asking for some time to move? And are there any who have said they are not moving?”

 

Wilfred Wade

“No. They are all moving. There was some subtle form of resistance but since then they have seen that we are serious about it now complying now.”

 

The concrete base, however, had to be demolished because if left in place, it may encourage other squatters. This house, on the other hand, is being disassembled, so twenty-six-year-old Alex Martinez is still able to use his lumber. He has lived here for three months. He had always known it is illegal to settle here. He says that he’s been trying to obtain a piece of land for several years but decided to move here when he had no place to go.

 

Alex Martinez, Squatter

“Now they come and bruk my house, tear up my zinc. Only two zinc they broke because they tell me that they wah come and help me break down the house.”

 

Alex Martinez

Andrea Polanco

“Now where are you going to move to, Alex?”

 

Alex Martinez

“Well, I ker my family because they said if my family is here they would still come and bruk down the house. So, I ker my family to a friend so that maybe they stay right there for couple days.  We nuh got nowhere to go to live and build this house again.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“So, where were you living before?”

 

Alex Martinez

“I used to pay rent and now when I asked the person if I could rent again they said somebody done get it already.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“But, Alex, from what we understand and have been told, no one should be building on this land; it is a reserve – so what you are doing is illegal?”

 

Alex Martinez

“Yes. I know that. That is why we agree to move again because I know this is a green area.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“When you guys come and just build on a land like this – it doesn’t seem fair to others?”

 

Alex Martinez

“Yes. That is why we are saying we could pay the property tax and whatever but as long as we get the piece of land. We could pay because that is normal. Every country you go have to pay for your land and things like that.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“So, why don’t you guys follow the proper channels; go and apply for a piece for a land and all of that?”

 

Alex Martinez

“Yes. I have about eight years that I apply and apply. And in these last two months I gone and they say that they don’t have any forms to full out to get a land – not even the papers they don’t have. So, we can’t do nothing.”

 

The Belmopan Heights Community Group says this piece of land serves a very important purpose – and the squatters are compromising that.  And so they are not so sympathetic to the squatters’ cries of poverty – they say it is illegal regardless of nationality or immigration status.

 

Chris Berry

Chris Berry, 2nd Secretary, Belmopan Heights Community Group

“I am sure there are third generation Belizeans that are in need as well. So, it has nothing to do with culture. We need to make that clear. It has nothing to do with culture. It is just a matter that the land that they occupying is a reserve. It was set aside – some sixty-nine point something acres of land.   I live in this area for almost seventeen years. And we are the protectors of this area – the green area. The Mount Pleasant Creek also act as a catchment area. It is a flood prone area so for these people to live right along the creek is very dangerous.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“Mr. Berry, some might ask, was the group asleep – these squatters came in and planted and built homes and until now they are being removed?”

 

Chris Berry

“Reports were made over a year ago when I think there was just one or two and now we have eight. So, that is one of the reasons why we decided to take immediate action and we went to the City Council and asked them to do something about it because it is just growing and growing and getting bigger.”

 

Eighty percent of the structures should be removed by the end of the day. The City Council will return tomorrow to complete the removal. To prevent this from happening again, the council will employ park rangers to monitor the area. Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

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1 Response for “Belmopan Squatters Moved on by City Council”

  1. Stephen Sweasy says:

    Get immegration involve and see if they have papers, on the other hand yhey should have been charge and taken to court as ignorance of the law is no excuse. Just to show how those immegrants are slowely taken over Belize. If they were born Belizean I bet that the authorities would have them in court and just break down the structures with no warnings. Look like we are afraid of immegrants especially those from Guatemala.

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