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Jul 2, 2015

Arrests of Maya Leaders Goes Before the O.A.S. Human Rights Commission

The arrest on June twenty third, 2015 of Maya Leaders Alliance spokesperson Cristina Coc and twelve other residents of Santa Cruz Village has become an international issue. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the O.A.S. has written to the government seeking information on the arrests on the grounds that the life and personal integrity of the Maya leaders are at risk for defending their land.  The letter, dated July first, 2015 is addressed to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. That, along with other pertinent issues, will be discussed this Friday at Golden Stream in Toledo, where the MLA is holding a press conference. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports. 


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Outspoken MLA representative Cristina Coc is speaking out for the first time since her arraignment, along with twelve others, in the Punta Gorda Magistrate’s Court a week ago.  Coc is scheduled to make a public statement on Friday in Golden Stream Village where a mass gathering will be held to address a run of issues, including the recent Santa Cruz incident involving Rupert Myles.  An update will also be provided on the status of the Maya Land Rights Decision handed down by the Caribbean Court of Justice on April twenty-second.  Ahead of that meeting is a letter from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights addressed to Minister of Foreign Affairs Wilfred Elrington.  The dispatch, delivered on Wednesday, requests detailed information from the Government of Belize regarding the whereabouts of the detainees, their treatment, as well as the conditions of their detention.


Via Skype: Professor James Anaya, Former UN Special Rapporteur

“The Inter-American Commission [on Human Rights] sent a letter to the government asking it to give information specifically about the Maya individuals who were arrested last week, the reasons for those arrests and what the government is doing to ensure the human rights of all in the general context within which those arrests took place.”


Isani Cayetano

“From looking and having read the letter there are certain questions that I would pose to you with regards to information contained therein;  specifically the fact that it is asking about the whereabouts of these individuals and the conditions of their detention.  Is this being looked at retrospectively, seeing as these men and, of course, Ms. Coc have all been arraigned and released on bail?”


Via Skype: Professor James Anaya

“The request for precautionary measures was made to the commission before the arrests were made, actually right around the time they were being made and so the commission is operating on the basis of information made available to it at that time.  And also the questions were fairly standard for the Inter-American Commission in this particular context where arrests have been made; it’s pretty standard when the commission wants to look at their situation to ask for specific information about their whereabouts, conditions of arrest and whether or not they’ll be released and so forth.  But we have informed the commission that the individuals were released upon arraignment and we informed about the charges that were levied against them.”


Isani Cayetano

“Can you share with us at this point your position or your opinion of all of what has taken place leading up to the incidents last week and what have transpired as a result of the arraignment of these individuals?  What’s your take on what has happened?”


Via Skype: Professor James Anaya

“Well, I think it’s too early to make an evaluation of everything that’s happened.  I think we’re all familiar with the specific facts around the arrests.  I would mention something about the larger context that has to do with the efforts of the Maya people to defend their land rights, an effort that’s been going on for some time, an effort that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, as well as the courts of Belize and most recently the Caribbean Court of Justice siding with the Maya people and affirming their rights over their traditional lands in accordance with their customary practices.”


Isani Cayetano

“Is it your opinion that the Prime Minister of Belize may have reacted prematurely with regards to comments he made upon learning of Mr. Myles’ arrest in Santa Cruz on Saturday of last week?”


James Anaya

Via Skype: Professor James Anaya

“Well, I’d like to give the prime minister the benefit of the doubt in this case.  It was a heated moment and he was referring to an incident that no one wanted to see happen.  I would hope that in more sober moments the prime minister and the government officials more generally would look at the obligations that the government has to protect the rights of the Maya people in accordance with the judgments of the lower courts in Belize, the Supreme Court of Belize, the Court of Appeal and most recently the order by the Caribbean Court of Justice which affirmed Maya Land Rights and specifically called upon the government to take the measures to secure and protect those rights and the government has accepted that.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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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8 Responses for “Arrests of Maya Leaders Goes Before the O.A.S. Human Rights Commission”

  1. Ali BaBarrow & his 40 say, screw the Mayans says:

    “Well, I’d like to give the prime minister the benefit of the doubt in this case. ”
    As a diplomat, what else can you say?
    Professor Anaya try living in Belize, you might think different.

    There is a high probability this whole mess was a deliberate act of omission by Barrow & his cabinet, to create an incident in Toledo. It does not take much imagination as to motive. Just step back and watch the train wreck. He never authorized the destruction of ruins, no paper trail or recording. Or is it like with Nohmul archeological site, when UDP buddies come in and bulldoze the ruins for landfill? How does one tear down a pyramid and get away with it?

    As for this clown Myles, him bulldozing into a known archeological site that had active excavations, plowing a road through so he could drive his car to his new house on top of archeological platform. Come on how stupid is that? In some ways not as bad as Nohmul because Myles did not haul off the stone to sell it. But Myles threatening the locals with a gun does put it in a special category that could have been fatal. Why is it the police could not be bothered to investigate over nine months, but more than happy & eager to come guns drawn in the middle of the night waking up women and children? Perhaps told what to do and what not to do from higher ups in Belmopan?

    Read the letter & the maps that were sent to GOB in May by the University of New Mexico archeologist outlining the whole mess & the insanity of GOB’s inaction. It notes that the locals tried to get help from GOB back in 2014 and got nothing.

    It is hard to imagine NICH/Archeology would have done nothing after getting a letter like this. UNLESS they were told to do nothing, cabinet is handling it in silence and by inaction.

    Anybody in Belize knows that archeological antiquities are the property of the Government of Belize. The recent lawsuit Barrow lost regarding the Mayans does not change that. The ruins were created by the ancestors of the Mayans, AND the GOB has a moral and legal responsibility to protect and respect these sites for national and international cultural heritage. The fact that GOB was properly notified and did nothing, is a felony crime. And if this was something hatched by cabinet members, they should be in prison and the PM investigated, removed and imprisoned if an accomplice through inaction.

    To politically use the situation as a way to screw with locals, is not much different than what is happening today in Syria and Iraq archeological sites.

    @rastafari, your post a week ago. I am not a Mayan and you are not a Rasta. I was a personal friend of Andy Palacio, and I know he would not put up with this disrespect. He was more a man than these idiots running, and dragging down this country. He would be saddened to see how badly Belize is destroying its culture and the goodwill amongst its people. If you are not standing against this, then you are part of the problem for doing nothing.

  2. Just another gringo in Belize says:

    This is a total farce from GOB.
    The Mayans have well documented the circumstances with the ruin and damage to the ruin.
    The Mayan leaders were perfectly within their rights for restraining someone who has threatened to use a firearm against them, and is out of control.
    Barrow you are out of line, and besides the Mayans, the International community of expats, is against you on this one, along with local Belizeans.
    Stupid moves like this and your careless disregard for people’s rights, will take some damage on you come election time.
    Unless of course you want to spend another 20 million of our money from Petrocaribe to try and buy votes.
    People please see this tyrant for what he is. Also the fact that all the Petrocaribe money is a loan that WE the people have to pay off, while Barrow flys away to his house in LA. Leaving us with the bill.
    We are backing the Mayans fully on this issue.

  3. Disappointed at GOB says:

    If there is one thing I am glad for is the fact that people like Cristina, Pablo and the other alcaldes that will not let GOB or anyone to push them to the cliff and get away with it. Keep speaking on behalf of the Mayan people Cristina et al. I am not Maya and I fully support your cause.

  4. Peace says:

    The Mayans have been discriminating against the people from Punta Gorda Town for years. They can come and live in the Town but no one can go and live in their Villages. Ms. Coc herself have been living in town for years and knows this.

    Why don’t someone ask them — why have they not allowed outsiders to live in their Villages? Is it fair for them to live anywhere in this country but for them not to allow no one to live in their villages??

    That is the question that should be put to them!!!!

  5. Peace says:

    There have been several events from history of them burning the houses of Black persons who have been residing in their villages. So if your not from Punta Gorda Town you would not know of these incidents.

    Yet we the people of Punta Gorda Town, Cattle Landing, Forest Home, Elridgeville, Jacinto Ville and the other non-Mayan villages have accepted them and allowed them to live in peace with us.

    Now to see that this is the way they are behaving is out of this world— honestly — they are thinking about themselves – and only themselves.

    We have educated them, accepted them to live with us — and they still have not accepted us!!

    Talking about their rights — we all have rights as Belizean — please let them know this!!!!!!!

  6. Modesto Chiac says:

    Thank you for making it clear. Yes GOB get its revenues from the archeological site and the NEVER asked any patrimony for their ancestors work. They own it and they should be given just that now. Even the business uses Mayan symbols, emblems and names fixed on their business are not their and must begin to pay property right to mayas. That is the next step the Mayas need to fight for AND yet we the same people mocking and jeering at the mayan brothers whom they benefit from. Think about it Cristina Coc.

  7. MNHG says:

    Someone should write a book ” BELIZE, THE MOST CORRUPTED COUNTRY IN THE WORLD”

  8. rasmanindio says:

    Lets get something straight. When the Mopan or the Q’eqchi come to town they no come and squat on land anywhere in PG, cattle landing, forest home, etc. They either buy it outright with cold hard cash at market value or they the politicians give them land anywhere the politicians feels like. I no hear PG people of other races damming Mike Espat or Eden <Martinez. No blame the people. You wa go to the villages then likewise take your hard cold cash and pace market value for the land which belong to the village if they want to sell cas like every property owner they reserve the right to not sell.

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