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Feb 22, 2013

Land grab on Placencia Peninsula

The Placencia Lagoon, a fifteen mile body of water west of the Caribbean Sea just behind the peninsula, has, for the past fifteen years, been the subject of protection by environmentalists lobbying for government to declare it as a reserve.  The lagoon, which is connected to three important rivers in South Stann Creek, is renowned for its biodiversity, a natural habitat for Morelet’s crocodiles, Jabiru storks, as well as the West Indian manatees.  Extensive development on both sides of the lagoon, however, is threatening the ecosystem.  While environmentalists, including Friends of Nature, are urging the Barrow Administration to list the lagoon as a protected area, the news tonight is that several acres of crown land within the designated reserve have been sold by the Ministry of Natural Resources to friends and relatives of Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar Vega.  A total of four parcels located on two islands within the lagoon, the largest being a fifteen acre plot belonging to Dominique Gomez, the girlfriend of Vega’s son, were distributed six days prior to the March 7th General Elections of last year.  Among those who also purchased prime real estate at rock bottom prices are Douglas Usher, reportedly a close friend of Andre Vega and Bertran Brown, an employee of the minister. Despite several attempts to have the land titles returned, the properties remain under private ownership, notwithstanding a cabinet directive.  News Five spoke by phone with Mary Toy, a Placencia resident who has been active in the conservation effort.   Via Phone: Mary Toy, Conservationist, Placencia “The background is that there’s been an effort to have the Placencia Lagoon put into some form of reserve status for over fifteen years.  It’s even listed on some maps as being in protective status but apparently back in the nineties when that occurred they got to a certain and then nothing ever happened to actually carry it to fruition.  Over the years the lagoon has been used for a lot of different reasons.  There’s a lot of development, a lot of dredging, a lot of effluence flowing into the lagoon from new developments both residential and tourism.  Shrimp farms have put a lot of effluent into the lagoon in the past and although they have substantially cleaned up their operations, people have been cutting mangrove down without permits.  The lagoon is an essential part of the ecosystem here, many of the fish and shellfish that we eat start their lives in the lagoon and they end up in the sea where they are caught and they feed people here and exported. So through the process of the consultations we’ll get community input and they will come up with a management plan and the lagoon will be designated.  We hope, obviously, and that will be up to cabinet ultimately as a protected area, either as a wildlife sanctuary under forests or a marine protected area under fisheries.”   Isani Cayetano “My understanding is that there are two islands within the lagoon that have been parceled off to four individuals.  Are you of this or can you elaborate on your knowledge of what’s currently taking place with that?”   Mary Toy “Yes, I understand that occurred.  We discovered that when we were doing our research because we have to, when we submitted our proposal to the Forestry and Fisheries [Departments] we had to provide a map. So we went to Lands, we got that information.  We approached some of our associates from government with the information that they had been parceled out and they agreed with us that these were really essential to the health of the lagoon and that probably should not have been done.  So what we understood was that those transactions were going to be, in some way, reversed.  I don’t know whether they would be reversed and people just wouldn’t have the land or whether they would get land in exchange for that land.  I don’t have those details but we were supposed to get some mechanism to get the land back.”   News Five attempted to speak with Minister Vega earlier today but he declined comment on the occasion of his birthday.

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6 Responses for “Land grab on Placencia Peninsula”

  1. Bear says:

    Belizeans, learn this and learn to like it: it doesn’t matter if all of Belize is destroyed, as long as the Megathief and his friends and family make a profit!

    If PM can’t undo this theft and fire Gapi, it shows who’s the real boss in GOB.

  2. Take back Belize says:

    The Vegas , Barrows and this current Government is laughing in our faces, how long do we intend to let this go on. Something must give , something must be done.

  3. Monica says:

    Belizean politician take office as paupers and leave as millioniares. It has got to stop. No one holds them accountable.

  4. Seletar says:

    People Power — up against the wall for all the crooked politicians.

  5. eYE IN THE sKY says:

    i DO NOT KNOW WHAT YOU PEOPLE ARE CRYING ABOUT.
    yOU JUST VOTED gAPI BACK INTO POWER AS THE DPM OF bELIZE.
    yOU THE PEOPLE OF bELIZE WANT HIM THERE !

  6. rebel says:

    Does anyone remember this:

    http://www.belizetimes.bz/2012/07/13/vega-land-orgy/

    Belize City, July 11, 2012

    We start with the most scandalous of them all – a land orgy involving the Vega family and close friends. When Deputy Prime Minister and Orange Walk North Area Representative Gaspar Vega got up to speak in today’s budget debate, we listened keenly as he rambled on about the goings-on at the Ministry of Lands. When the special family land grab was exposed by PUP Corozal South East Area Representative Hon. Florencio Marin Jr. land, Vega denied the accusation and said Hon. Marin had no basis for the allegation.

    Well, Senior “Quitar”, not only did Hon. Marin have the evidence, but we did too, and now Belize will also.

    There are no less than almost four dozen cases of land grab with the Vegas and cronies close to Gaspar Vega in the mix.

    There is the parcel 260 in the Colonia San Diego Phase II area of San Pedro Town acquired by Ignacio Vega who is the brother of the Deputy Prime Minister. The land document was issued in February 2012, just two weeks before the March 7 elections. The land documents show that the DPM’s family was sold the land for a cheap price of only $1,500.

    There are also the 10 acres of land in the Mountain Pine Ridge Area for the same Ignacio Vega. The land documents show that the land transaction also occurred before the recent elections.

    There is more for Ignacio Vega, much more. Including 119.74 acres of land in the Carmelita Registration Section of the Orange Walk District which was purchased for a rock bottom price of $11,674.65 and sold on February 24 2012; a 26.38 acre parcel of land also in Carmelita Orange Walk; Parcel number 04319 in an undisclosed area of the Orange Walk District which was bought for only $300; 13.58 acres in the Indian Hill area in Orange Walk purchased for only $2,206.75; parcel number 04308 in another unidentified area of Orange Walk sold to Ignacio Vega for only $800; parcel #01507 located in the Progresso Area of Corozal District sold for only $800; 43.58 acres of land in San Estevan Village acquired for an unknown price but the documents showing transfer to Ignacio Vega; in addition to another 25 acres in Carmelita Village.

    It doesn’t end there for Ignacio Vega, who since June 1, 2012 holds possession of 9.9 acres of land in the Block 17 of the Mountain Pine Ridge area, along with another 9.95 in Block 41 of the same area. For comfort, Vega has also purchased parcel number 09475 in the San Pedro Town for only $2,000.

    And then we move on to the other Vegas, a group of elite Belizeans who seem to have access to all the land in Belize.

    Diana Rosado is the daughter of the Deputy Prime Minister. Could that be why and how she obtained 10.621 acres of land in the San Miguel Subdivision of Mountain Pine Ridge for a scandalous price of $975? The DPM’s daughter also purchased parcel 01042 of the Mount Pleasant area for $2,500 along with parcel 01816 in the Consejo Road area of Corozal for a sweet price of $1,940.

    Next is Karen Vega of a Santa Lucia Street address in Orange Walk, who obtained parcel 04319 in the Orange Walk District for only $300. Once more, she gained possession of a land identified as Lot number 3 in Caye Caulker village and 13.58 acres of land in the Indian Hill area of Orange Walk which was bought for only $2,206.75.

    Then it’s on to Omir Vega, who purchased 4 acres of land (Plan Number E12738) in the Burdon Canal Nature Reserve of the Belize District. According to the land documents, the price of the land was originally $3,245.45 but this Vega got a discount and bought it for only $1,947.24. It was a similar low price, of $1,000, which this Vega also got a land, identified as parcel number 00486, in the Mount Pleasant area of the Cayo District.

    Eduardo Vega is next in line with a series of land possession including parcel 1 in San Jose Succotz Village, Cayo District; 24.766 in the Southeast area of Benque Viejo del Carmen; parcel number 01230 in the San Ignacio North area which was purchased for only $1,000; and 11 acres of land in the Mountain Pine Ridge Area.

    Ronnie Vega obtained 2 parcels of land, one a 9 acre plot in the north side of the San Miguel Road in the Stann Creek District and the other in San Jose Succotz Village in the Cayo District. The document do not show payment of purchase price or lease cost.

    The documents also Alma Vega obtaining 55.15 acres of land along the sea coast of the Gales Point Manatee Area but no sign of cost; in addition to paying only $1,000 for parcel 01230 in the San Ignacio North area.

    And from the Vega close family, the land sharing moves to the relatives which includes the Hernandez cousins.

    The documents show Imer Hernandez holding three parcels of land: 25 acres along the Mollejon Road in Cayo, 4 acres in the Burdon Canal Nature Reserve in the Belize District and parcel number 01565 in Benque Viejo del Carmen. All the transactions started in 2012.

    Cousin Omar Hernandez of San Estevan Village’s ‘grabbings’ are more bountiful. It includes 6.92 acres of land in the Mountain Pine Ridge Area; parcels number 01088, 01093 and 01094 in San Estevan; 11 acres of land purchased for $1,547 in the Indian Hill area of Orange Walk; parcel number 01879 in the San Lazaro Housing Site in Orange Walk Town bought for only $1,000; and 35.2 acres of land in the Indian Hill area acquired for only $3,782.

    Sharon Hernandez got 4.5 acres of land in the Burdon Canal Nature Reserve in the Belize District

    We wish we say it ends there, but we’d be leaving out the close cronies. Derrick Gillett, a meat seller in Orange Walk whose recent most fame involved selling fish and expensive meat to the KHMH, has obtained 48.69 acres of land along the Northern Highway along with parcel number 04303 in Orange Walk Town.

    Lindsay Jeffery, who is close to the hearts, was not left out. Jeffrey has taken hold of 10 acres of land in the Mountain Pine Ridge Area; along with parcel number 3 and 4 in the San Jose Succotz Village.

    The list is long, we know, but we believe the transgressions of this UDP ring of family and cronies, which likely don’t end here, must be exposed. While the BELIZE TIMES has obtained these documents, we understand more exists that could reveal an endless scandal at the Ministry of Lands.

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