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Apr 24, 2014

Land grab in Orange Walk Town has an uncle and nephew at odds

Imagine working on a piece of land for almost forty years – backbreaking labour to clear and keep clean. You plant every fruit and vegetable you can get your hands on, because this is the legacy you want to leave for your family. And then one day you find out that your piece of land – the land you have worked for almost four decades…the land to which you hold a valid lease…has been taken away and given to a relative. It seems incredible that something like that should happen, or could happen, but it does with some frequency. Orange Walk resident Jose Novelo has just been told that his farmland is not his anymore. Without any warning, it has been taken from him and has been put in somebody else’s name. Mike Rudon was in Orange Walk and has the following story.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

The story of what happened to fifty-four acres of land held under lease by Jose Novelo isn’t complicated. Here’s his official lease document for the land located in Indian Church in southern Orange Walk. He’s been working on the large parcel for nearly forty years, and got his lease certificate in 2000.

 

Jose Novelo, Farm Taken Away

Jose Novelo

“This land I have it thirty-six to thirty-eight years…working the land. It has a lot of fruits, coconuts, mangos, lime, cocoa…everything that you can plant on a piece of land, I have it on the land.”

 

With so much time and money invested, Novelo felt that his hold on the property was secure…more so because he had been making regular payments to the Lands Department. But then he heard the rumours that somebody else wanted his piece of land, and the Land Department stopped accepting his payments.

 

Jose Novelo

“I went to the Land Department and its true. They tell me that they’re applying for the land.”

 

Reporter

“And how are your payments on the land?”

 

Jose Novelo

“Well…I went to pay and they never want to receive no money again.”

 

Reporter

“But from you got the lease, you’ve been paying regular?”

 

Jose Novelo

“To 2008…from I get the lease I’ve been paying, to 2008.”

 

Reporter

“And then 2008 you went in with your money and they told you they wouldn’t take the money?”

 

Jose Novelo

“They said they won’t take money right now…I don’t know why. Then somebody came to tell me that my own brother and his son were applying for the land. When they mi have the thing at Belmopan, at Plus, when the lawyers were there I went there and I saw Mr. Anthony Sylvestre and we told him everything and he told me that nobody can take the land because I have been working that for many, many years.”

 

But they could…and did. On Wednesday Novelo found out that his piece of land isn’t his any longer. It now belongs to his nephew, Evaristo Novelo. He wasn’t told officially that his land was taken away, and received no correspondence from the Lands Department. He heard the news from his wife, who heard it from a family member.

 

Jose Novelo

“I just found out last night, because last night I come from work bout eight-thirty and my next family Mr. Diodi Novelo told my gial. As I reach my gial tell me – I have bad news about the land. And this morning I went to the office and investigate what’s going on.”

 

Reporter

“And you found out that your own piece of land is in somebody else’s name now?”

 

Jose Novelo

“The piece of land that I hold is in the name of Evaristo Novelo.”

 

Jose Novelo found out on Wednesday, but if you look closely at this land rent statement issued to Evaristo Novelo, you’ll notice that he has had control of the land since April 2010. It’s a blow to Jose Novelo, who has had his land wrenched away from him without warning, and for no good reason.

 

Jose Novelo

“Well I wish that I don’t lose the land because that’s, like how the Spanish seh ‘con mi sudor’ – with my sweat I worked that piece of land. I don’t think that’s legal, but they shouldn’t do those things.”

 

Jose Novelo has refused to give up his parcel of land without a fight, and is seeking legal advice. Mike Rudon for News Five.

 

This afternoon News Five managed to contact Commissioner of Lands Wilbert Vallejos, who was out of office. He promised to examine the matter carefully and provide some clarification on Friday.

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2 Responses for “Land grab in Orange Walk Town has an uncle and nephew at odds”

  1. oscar965 says:

    This same situation happened to a friend of mine in Belmopan. Exact same situation. These people pay little money to the people at the lands department and these changes happen without the knowledge of the true owners. Shame Shame Shame….

  2. Anomyous says:

    How old is Jose Novelo? If he was/is over 65 there may be some elder financial abuse issues that need review.

    And, it wouldn’t hurt to see if anyone on the new lease, etc. is connected to “fudiciaries.”

    Just say’n.

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