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Feb 7, 2012

Conejo wants fair negotiation with Oil Company

Twenty-three Conejo Villagers were fired by U.S. Capital Energy, the company that his hoping to strike oil in the southern most part of the country. The mass firings came soon after village leaders became aware that the oil company was illegally conducting groundwork pertaining to seismic testing on lands protected by a court judgment. U.S Capital Energy confirmed that seismic line number eight illegally passed through Conejo. Political activist Wil Maheia says he will meet with the former employees on Wednesday. News Five spoke to Maheia who says that the company has approached villagers but the Alcalde and people would only be willing to negotiate on their terms.

Wil Maheia, BUA/PNP Toledo East

“I expect to meet with some of them tomorrow. One of the reason I believe that the oil company—this is what I have been told by the villagers—came into the village wanting them to sign some agreement that would have them sign away their rights and when they protested then some of the workers were sent home. They were sent home with the intent that if they sign on then they will be rehired. And that signing on basically means giving the oil company the right in disregarding the court ruling that gave Conejo and Santa Theresa their land rights.”

Jose Sanchez

Wil Maheia

“I also understand that the oil company was installing computers somewhat trying to sweeten up the villagers.”

Wil Maheia

“Yeah I understand that they were trying to install computers, but I want to point out that there is no electricity in those villages. So I don’t know how those computers would work and this is a promise—I understand from the villagers—have been made several years ago.”

Jose Sanchez

“But how difficult is it to decide not to do those testing on that particular area while employment is also an issue? Is it a difficult thing or are the villagers divided?”

Wil Maheia

“Well when it come to money and especially in the poor rural communities—and this is something I hope that the general Belize public will take into consideration when making or passing their judgment –that even though that people are getting a small amount compared to the big amount, they will jump on that small amount because money is money and even though it is less than they could get, they would take the little that they can get. So it is easy to divide a village. I’ve seen villages in Toledo Jose that didn’t even had electricity and still do not have electricity. Some logging company came there and donated bulbs to the school in exchange that the loggers would get concession.”

Jose Sanchez

“Now in Conejo, you mentioned the company tried to get people to sign documents. Who would it be? The Alcalde, just common villagers; who would it be would make this agreement if it should so happen?”

Wil Maheia

“Well the Alcalde is basically the elected representative of the village so I believe the Alcalde was who they were talking with.”

Jose Sanchez

“And is there any position given by the Alcalde that they would want more or this just won’t happen—this seismic testing in the near area and will they pursue some legal recourse for to what has been done already?”

Wil Maheia

“Well I believe that the Alcaldes at this time si seeking legal advice do that they get their fair share of what they deserve.”

Jose Sanchez

“So you are not saying that they are totally against it, but they have to be consulted, they have to give permission, they have to be compensated?”

Wil Maheia

“I’ve met with the people and they are not against it fully; what they want is to be compensated fairly.”

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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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