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Apr 17, 2018

In Capital, Squatters Told to Clear Out

There’s a growing squatters settlement on a reserved land in Belmopan and authorities want them to vacate the area within fourteen days. The squatters, all believed to be immigrants, have since cleared several acres of land where they have built houses and commenced farming. The problem is that the squatting is illegal – but this one is compounded by the fact that the buffer zone within which the squatters have settled surrounds a reserve – so it is illegal to use the land. The area also serves a water catchment for the Belmopan Community.  Residents are concerned and are helping the authorities to remove the squatters. It is left to be seen if the squatters will move by end of the month – but what we do know is that this is a very live issue. News Five’s Andrea Polanco shares more in the following report.


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

As many as eight families have illegally settled near the Mount Pleasant Creek Reserve in Belmopan. The squatters are now living and farming on a piece of land that falls within the designated area of a creek where development is prohibited. There are up to eight structures – and several others under construction – for which blocks of land were cleared out in the buffer zone. And today even more of this reserve land is being cleared out for farming. But despite the developments taking place, on Monday the squatters were notified that they must vacate within fourteen days. It is a matter for urgent attention – and last week Minister John Saldivar and other Belmopan officials conducted a site visit. Now the Belmopan City Council is actively working to remove the squatters peacefully.


Ralston Frazer

Ralston Frazer, City Administrator, Belmopan

“I don’t think we caught it too late. We are gonna have to be very careful on how we handle it at this point, but nonetheless handle it. Those that have just started their process of construction that is not too difficult to deal with; what will be more challenging will be those whom have already settled. But as I said, and I want to reiterate, at all cost, we intend to follow this through to the end. This is not a designated area by any of the responsible authorities, including City Hall, especially City Hall, and did not give any permission to settle in this area.”


The families, from what we have gathered, are all immigrants, several undocumented. So, how did they get access to this land? They told us that they did this on their own. Some say they saw their friends settling here, so they decided to do the same. The family that lives here in this wooden housesays they took out a three thousand dollar loan to invest in this parcel of land.They’ve built a house, an outdoor toilet and are constructing a well. They say they have no other place to go, so they will not move unless they are relocated to a different area. This man is Antonio Vasquez. He came to this area because he says his friends were all getting land so he decided to help himself to a piece of the pie. He started to clear the land to start a farm. But today he was told that it is illegal to do so – so he picked up his tools and left.


Antonio Vasquez

Antonio Vasquez, Illegal Farmer [Translated]

“I wanted to start my ranch because as you know the rent is very high. I am paying three hundred and twenty five dollars and that is why I came for my little piece there. It is not my property – I just wanted it to live on. I came here because friends and people around were telling me that they were doing houses here and that is how I found out. Now the guys are telling me it is prohibited – so I said ok, I am leaving.”


But how did squatters settle here under the nose of the City Council? Didn’t anyone hear when these lands were being cleared out? Didn’t they hear the construction of the dwellings?


Ralston Frazer

“This is what it is; we can sit around and continue to discuss why we didn’t. We can also continue to discuss what we will. And to me, those are of no effect to us right now.”


Andrea Polanco

“But you will admit that had you taken action, maybe one month ago, three months ago, whenever these people had started, we wouldn’t be having this issue right now?”


Ralston Frazer

“Well, had I gotten married at nineteen as opposed to twenty-four; had I had children…”


Andrea Polanco

“Very different thing – apples and oranges we are talking about here?”


Ralston Frazer

“No. No. No. You asked me a question – let me answer the question on the basis of principle. Had we done this – do we do this – if we do this – I mean all that should we have and all that may have some validity. And I am not evading that. The answer to that could be yes with some explanation of which I am not going to justify because I was not always in this seat.”


Andrea Polanco

“We’ve received reports that the Council was notified – the only thing is that the Council didn’t want to take action because it was around election time?”


Ralston Frazer

“Oh! Is that so? Okay.”


Andrea Polanco

“Is there any truth to that?”


Ralston Frazer

“I am sorry.  I am not able to tell you if there is truth to that or not.”


This piece of land is important to the City. It was put under reserve about ten years ago. Belmopan Resident Louis Wade says people in the surrounding neighborhood are actively working with the authorities to help expel the squatters because as he explains, the use of this parcel of land has ramifications for residents in the immediate area.


Louis Wade

Louis Wade, Member, Belmopan Heights Community Group

“Our area doesn’t have designated green spaces, parks, playgrounds; and the agreement with the developers was to leave this strip because it has environmental value; value for flooding. Two creeks merge which forms the Mount Pleasant Creek which takes out the majority of water out of this area.  We are very grateful for the fast way that the council and area representative have moved to tell the squatters that they will not be allowed in this buffer zone. We have to ensure, however, that the talk and immediate action gets followed through. Squatters are very resilient. They bring their families from wherever they live whenever activities start to take place to gain sympathy. They stop for a while and go back. Last year, I took Mayor Khalid to the largest squatter and they told him he needed to move but one year later he is still there and his patch of land is six times what it was at that point in time. So, these people they are intent on taking the land and putting all of us at risk.”


Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

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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2 Responses for “In Capital, Squatters Told to Clear Out”

  1. Name says:

    Same on the belizean goverment again, the story that is always been told and said, belize is being sold out and taken over one squatter at a time while the poor belizeans live in pig house in the city and fight for land..Belizean are fool and the goverment is taking advantage of this, it makes sence to sell belize to Guatemala and let them make a better change.

  2. Resident says:

    I am a resident of this area and reported the issue almost 2 years ago, to the city, to foresty. Nothing was done. This is just a small piece of what is being cleared. Behind the piccini area, acres are being cleared and burnt.

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