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Jun 25, 2015

Landowner Emilio Zabaneh on Purchasing Parcel on Communal Land

The situation of communal land rights is in the forefront of the news this week, and it’s brought with it a peripheral, but very serious issue. Here it is in a very small nutshell. In 2010, the Supreme Court granted communal land right to Mayans in thirty-three communities. But in 2012, and 2013, Government went ahead and issued title to two large parcels of land in Medina Bank to Tecla Pop. Pop sold those two parcels of land to Emilio and Mary Elizabeth Zabaneh in 2013, for about ten times what she paid for each parcel. The transfer went through, and now Emilio and Mary Elizabeth Zabaneh have government authorized title to two parcels of land in Medina Bank. And that’s where it gets strange. The land in question is communal land. So Zabaneh’s titles are apparently worth about as much as the paper they’re issued on. Today we spoke to a very frustrated Emilio Zabaneh via phone.


Voice of: Emilio Zabaneh, Landowner

“We purchased land just like anybody purchases land. That was a Belizean title that was on the market, and I bought the land because I wanted the land. Medina Bank is a beautiful place. I’ve known it since I was a boy and I like the views of the Maya Mountains there and I bought it because I had intentions to work with the people of Medina Bank to develop some sort of a tourist destination and that’s the reason I bought the land.  I have a title that was transferred to me that I bought from one Tecla Pop.”


Emilio Zabaneh


“So she had title for that piece of land, or those parcels of land?”


Voice of: Emilio Zabaneh

“Of course! I did my due diligence and the land was free and clear title. I was interested in the land and I bought the land. The land was registered to me and the land is still registered to me. And I cannot occupy the land because respectfully the Medina Bank community says that that is their communal land. I am not here to make no gripes with anybody. I am part Mayan myself. I wanted to work with the people of Medina Bank but respectfully, the communal land thing needs to be addressed. I don’t know if the government will address this and say that the land will be a couple miles around a village. I don’t know how that will work, but I am a Belizean and I believe there are many Mayans that want a Belizean land title to their property as well. So this thing has to be worked out. I don’t know what will happen. I can’t occupy my land. That’s as far as I know, and you know what, government needs to come and talk to me about the land that I bought.”


This is just a small part of a much bigger wholesale land-grab story in Toledo West, and somewhere in the middle is U.D.P. Toledo West Standard Bearer Juan Coy, allegedly very closely connected to Tecla Pop. Last week we brought you a story in which a Mayan woman from San Pedro, Columbia discovered that land which had been in her family since 1952 was sold by Juan Coy to a UK resident, completely without her knowledge. This is a story into which we’ll certainly keep digging. 

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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