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May 30, 2006

Toledo villagers will march in support of oil exploration

Story PictureThe case of the Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management versus the Government of Belize may have embarked on its journey through the justice system but tonight, the solidarity of the south against oil exploration appears to be cracking. This afternoon Beatriz Canelo, Chairperson of Crique Sarco Village and SATIIM board member, visited our studios to contend that SATIIM leader, Greg Cho?c, does not speak for the villages of Crique Sarco, Conejo, Sundaywood, Midway and Barranco. Canelo presented copies of petitions signed by herself, fellow chairpersons and a long list of villagers, affirming that they believe “the environmental impact would be minimal”. According to Canelo, the villagers support oil exploration because of the immediate and long term benefits to their communities.

Beatriz Canelo, Chairperson, Crique Sarco Village/SATIIM Board member
?We were surprised to hear that Mr. Greg Cho?c write letter saying that the five villages don?t want the oil company. We are surprised to hear that because we don?t know he write the letter. We feel bad about it because he should consult the people first then write letter, so we disagree with what we did. We don?t like what we did, because he is okay. Right now he?s fighting against the oil company because he knows what he want. He only want for himself and the people don?t like that. They don?t like what he?s doing. Who he for doing that? He?s not a leader of the village. He?s in Punta Gorda Town, he?s okay with this big house that he have but the five villages, and we need job. We need jobs in our villages so there is where we don?t like what he did.

?The idea is to bring down five villages together and show Mr. Greg that he?s creating a big lie and we want to ask him make he stop do this to our villages because he don?t have no right to do what he?s doing and we don?t like what he?s doing. Make he leave the five village in peace so that we will not be against him and he will not be against.?

According to Canelo, she and other villagers will stage a protest Wednesday at the SATIIM office in Punta Gorda in support of oil exploration in the Toledo district. SATIIM has filed for judicial review against a government permit issued to a US company to conduct seismic testing within the Sarstoon Temash National Park. Executive Director Greg Cho’c has maintained that the permit violates a 2003 co-management agreement signed between SATIIM and Belmopan. According to a spokesman for the oil company, U.S. Capital Energy, modern seismic techniques are non intrusive, requiring the cutting of very narrow trails through the protected area. The company says the initial seismic work will require the employment of around two hundred fifty villagers for four months. The park constitutes a little over one half of the oil company’s concession area.

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