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Jan 10, 2019

Narco-Cattle Ranching: A Possibility in Belize

There is another worrisome report. A document published by Friends for Conservation and Development in March of 2017 speaks about an increase in cattle ranching along the western border. The report, based on aerial observations and ground assessments, shows the alarming development that if not contained will pose a serious trend in the transformation of the forest. The threat is very serious, according to FCD Executive Director, Rafael Manzanero, who says that these cattle ranchers are organizing themselves and collaborating with drug cartels. It’s known as “narco cattle ranching’ and it is being detected along the western border in both Belize and Guatemala. By way of forest fires, drug traffickers are destroying forests and protected areas through narcocattle ranching which is a key driver of deforestation in Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve. The drug traffickers would then use the cleared land to conduct drug transshipments. With drug planes landing in the country at an alarming rate, Manzanero believes that the drug cartels would soon turn their eyes on the Chiquibul Forest.

 

Rafael Manzanero

Rafael Manzanero, Executive Director, Friends for Conservation and Development

“Since we started to operate in the Chiquibul eleven years ago with our partners in Guatemalan, Balam and other institutions, we learned from those early days that we have to be very careful with this other kind of activity. Last two years, in 2017, the big forest fires that happened in Guatemalan, there were over sixty clandestine airstrips that were discovered after the fire. So if you asked us what could happen in the forest of the Chiquibul, if left alone, then certainly that can always be a probability because these are big chunks of lands that are far away, inaccessible. So it is something that in advance time, we said that we do not want to deal with those elements. We need to control them. We need contain the. Also, cattle ranchers are more elite and more organized and they will confront and that is the issue. So how do we are able to deal with that is that we need to address it from the beginning days and not leave it until we won’t be able to really deal with the problem. Even though it is an ongoing one, even though it might be seen as this is not seen as a major problem but this is what we know what is going to be happening then. Even milpa farming is evolving into cattle ranching and that is one of the key problems that might come out more.”


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