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Nov 15, 2019

Barrio El Juda – a Guatemalan Community Inching its Way in Belize

The encroachment into Belizean territory was as clear as daylight when we visited Barrio El Juda on the western border on Thursday. Guatemalan families have settled there and their community continues to grow on land that is owned by businessman Jorge Espat.  Espat is of the view that the longer it takes to move the Guatemalans from his land, the more challenging the situation becomes. In fact, on Thursday, when it got hearted, the tables turned on him and he was asked by the settlers to provide them with title to the land which has been for generations in his family. Today, we have more details on the situation in the west.

 

Hipolito Novelo, Reporting

It was life as usual on Thursday when we visited Barrio el Juda along the western border. Fenced residences connected to the grid and equipped with running water were indication that this small Guatemalan community has been properly established. Barrio el Juda community consists of about thirty Guatemalan families, who cut logwood and grow animals like chicken and pigs for their table. And their garbage is dumped in Belize.

The community forms part of Melchor the Mencos. But since the year 2000, residents of this growing community have erected permanent structures on Belizean land initially under the impression that it was Guatemalan territory.

That belief is based on this road. At this point the road represents the border between both countries but some yards further north, the road is blocked by this cement structure. The road continues into Belizean territory and it  continues north it veers further into Belize. And this is what the residents here do not believe.

 

Guatemalan Resident 1 [Translated]

“Your yard is way in there. You yard begins from way there because it has wires. From there to here there are no wires.”

 

In fact, they believe that there is an imaginary border between Belize and Guatemala.

 

Guatemalan Resident 2 [Translated]

“It is an imaginary line, supposedly.”

 

Guatemalan Resident 3 [Translated]

“Yes it is imaginary because there isn’t any line.”

 

Guatemalan Resident 2 [Translated]

“Between El Salvador and Mexico, there is a line which is about twenty-six meters wide. There are huge cement monuments. That is a line.”

 

Using Google map, the blue dot is us. The dotted line represents the border. You see clearing and you see houses well with in Belize. The O.A.S. has verified that the Guatemalans are in Belize. They have illegally settled in Belize, in a land owned by Belizean business man Jorge Espat, who says, that the property has been in his family for three generations. Some of the Guatemalans claim that they have papers for the land but failed to produce any document. This lady, however demands to see Espat’s title.

 

Guatemalan Resident 4 [Translated]

“Sir how are you? Do you have your papers?”

 

Jorge Espat, Landowner [Translated]

“Yes, Ma’am.”

 

Guatemalan Resident 4

“Because the Mayor told us to tell you that you need to present your papers. The governor came.” 

 

Jorge Espat

“Yes I know he came to visit.”

 

Guatemalan Resident 4

“There is where your line is.”

 

Espat has repeatedly informed the Guatemalans that they not only in Belize but on his property. Evicting them could turn out to be risky because as we saw on Thursday; these Guatemalans have no intention to move.

 

Jorge Espat

Jorge Espat

“It is very risky. Of course they will put up a fight and there again it is sad because as far as I see it we don’t have the assistance from the government.”

 

But the government, through a press release, has stated that the Ministry of National Security in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the O.A.S. has been actively taking steps to address the issue. Government says that actions have been taken to ensure the immediate discontinuation of illegal settlements in that area.

 

Jorge Espat

“I hope the government can intervene as quick as possible. They say, as you call can see through the press release, they are trying to do their part. And I understand it takes, through diplomacy, its own time and course. The longer we wait, the more incursions and at the end of the day more building erected, more people coming and so it is something we need to move quick. I am in the believe that perhaps that maybe a solution is to populate all the borderline. And then there we will have a better control. The house in question, there was a comment passed on and I told them that I can give them that piece of property for them to base the B.D.F. there. I had brought that up for them to the table and then there will be protection for our side as well. They said no because of the agreement with the O.A.S. of whatever erection of property and investments needs to come down.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Hipolito Novelo.


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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