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Apr 3, 2014

Squatters at Holy Emmanuel threatened by massive infrastructural works

Progress brings problems, and in a city which is undergoing massive infrastructural works, those problems are cropping up frequently. Today, it was Holy Emmanuel Street, the site of a significant development project. The intention is to build a bridge spanning the Haulover Creek and joining the George Price Highway to the Phillip Goldson Highway. To get supporting works done, like the boulevard leading to the bridge, the contractors have had to clear and fill many acres of swampland. The thing is that squatters have made their homes in those previously unnoticed and unwanted areas, some of them for years. And now they’ll have to leave. It’s an unpleasant state of affairs with no winners – just an awareness that the work needs to get done. Mike Rudon was on Holy Emmanuel Street this morning and has the story.

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Mike Rudon, Reporting

In this small squatter’s community on Holy Emmanuel Street in Lake Independence, there is much confusion, uncertainty and sadness today. There is no state-sanctioned electricity and no city-supplied water here, but this ramshackle array of wooden houses networked by London bridges is home for more than one hundred residents. Those homes are being threatened by development – the construction of a road and bridge linking the Western and Northern Highways.

 

Alirio Zavalo, Squatter

Alirio Zavalo

“I got like almost eight years living right here in this house, I came when the trees were tall, I come and chop it down and do a lot of work right here. See I plant some coconut trees and this and that but they already fill it in. You see that tree right there, almost buried; I don’t know what to do. Because why those people never take me out where they remove the people from the three hundred feet, why they let this house stand up? Because if they have to remove the people well they have to do it all together but they left my house right there.”

 

This area is part of a major development which will see the construction of a boulevard, a bridge, a bus terminal and a sporting facility. Some squatters were moved when the road was pushed through. Those who remained thought they were home free.

 

Jorge Velasquez

Jorge Velasquez, Squatter

“The last time when they come and they broke down the houses from this areas that is already filled. They said they want three hundred feet away from the street where they were more or less marking. That’s what happened, they moved the people form that side, there was a lot of houses already there, they break at least twenty house and they just come and do a invasion and break and stuff like that and then what happened they give us right up to his house and no problem. They come about three months ago they send survey about two months ago, The survey his land and now they filling more than they survey and they saying that everything is alright but it no look that way.”

 

They’re right to be concerned. Workers on the site told us that most, if not all of the homes will need to be razed to the ground to make room for planned work. Those workers say that residents were given notice, but residents say that never happened.

 

Karen Enriquez, Squatter

Karen Enriquez

“They never told nobody I have no paper and I am willing to move anytime they say Karen Enriquez you need to move from here, I am willing to move, I just will need a little bit of help but I am willing to move. And nobody has come here and say you guys need to move. It was from the road to this three hundred feet that end at that house right there.”

 

So with work held up by these squatters, what’s the next move? Nobody’s exactly sure. The squatters are waiting for Area Representative Mark King to come on the scene because he told them that those living in an area already surveyed would be safe. But the fact is that they know that they will need to move, sooner rather than later.

 

Alirio Zavalo

“We got a meeting last time with he by the U.D.P. headquarters and he told the people that the people that were in the government land , but there was a way pass or on a working side, he would take those people and relocate them. That’s what I’m waiting for but nothing happen yet, I see that nothing happen yet. I want to move yes. I want to move to a next spot but I want a piece of land.”

 

Jorge Velasquez

“The move is that they just like they have they right for there place. This is the government land, they just could relocate us, move us, they have enough space or more land weh people just come and they the sell lot of empty land but I don’t know if they will take all the land. I don’t know if the government will remove everybody forcibly or if they will relocate somebody or what they will do. We just need to know but yes we have to move but we a support to mek a movement.”

 

Alirio Zavalo

“I’m afraid because when I go to work, I don’t know if when I come back my house is going to be on the ground, I don’t know that. And I am afraid to leave my house alone because I don’t know what will happen when I come back. I really want that piece of land and I really want a piece of land where to live, I have three kids. Where shall we go if we noh have no house.”

 

It is a sad day for the more than one hundred residents. Despite the appearance of the area, the community represents years of backbreaking work by residents who desperately want a piece of the jewel, and are not afraid to work to get it.

 

Karen Enriquez

“We know that we do wrong, we come here to squat, we know that and we want to say to all of the Belizean sorry. We do something wrong but we need it, we need our houses, we don’t have the money to go and rent. That’s why we come to squat, we take the time, we cut down trees, big trees we cut, we chop, we put the post, we do all kind of work to come live back here because we don’t have the money to go and pay rent. We have a small jobs, I do housekeeping, sometimes I do housekeeping, I could do housekeeping once a week, twice a week and I have three kids that I need to maintain.”

 

We note that while there was tension at the site this morning, there were no hostilities. The workers there understand that they need to get the job done, but they also understand what it means to struggle to feed and shelter your family. Mike Rudon for News Five.

 

News Five tried to contact Lake Independence Area Representative Mark King today, but we were unsuccessful. All residents we met out there today also tried to reach King with no success. They say they will continue attempts to reach him, since he assured them that they would not have to move. 

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5 Responses for “Squatters at Holy Emmanuel threatened by massive infrastructural works”

  1. BELIZEAN PRIDE says:

    I bet King promise that before election. Beter luck asking him before elections again.

  2. Gary says:

    Why do we allow these squatters(mostly aliens) to illegally take up land space, then when they are told to move they demand to be relocated with a piece of land…..We have SO MANY TRUE BELIZEANS who don’t own or even have a piece of land because we don’t squat in our own country…..What bothers me with this is that they are always given their way when we TRUE BELIZEANS remains without land….This needs to be looked at and corrected

  3. CEO says:

    I am not sorry for them because from the time they started to squat on land that is not theirs they should have known this day was going to come.

    Doing the wrong thing for any amount of time does not make it right.

    I say the government is also to be blamed because they should have a better land distribution program in place that will not force people to get despondent and give up on the legal route for land ownership.

    The bridge is a good idea.

  4. Kayla Vasquez says:

    How are they going to be able to find Mark King, he doesn’t work. He is always at the Casino or at his home scratching his fat belly, drinking and smoking all day long. Go to his home at the corner of Independence Drive and Seashore Drive. From Divine Mercy church (before Brodies on the Northern HIghway) take a right and go all the way by the sea, then you will see a pink concrete mansion for which he should be paying $7,000.00 a month. But go as a group and protest there, he hides inside the house all day long

  5. Renee says:

    How #%^* facey-they see someone’s empty land and take it? go back where you came from

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