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Jul 5, 2022

Private Land Owners Concerned About Maya Land Rights in Toledo

The issue of Maya land rights remains a subject of concern for many in the Toledo District where private landowners and entities believe that their rights are being infringed upon as a result of the Maya land rights judgment that was handed down in 2015. They have complained to government that their constitutional rights are being eroded and are growing increasingly worried about their investments and future plans. There is also a perception that some alcaldes, village councils and other Maya leaders have become emboldened in how they choose to address the issue with private land owners. Earlier today, News Five spoke with Dolores Balderamos-Garcia, Minister of Indigenous People’s Affairs, following a statement on land issues in Toledo District.


On the phone: Dolores Balderamos-Garcia

On the phone: Dolores Balderamos-Garcia, Minister of Indigenous People’s Affairs

“A couple weeks ago, a group of private land owners, both individuals and entities, approached the prime minister and he did give them an audience and there were many concerns about the extent of their rights of ownership, etc.  Now, we’re looking at sets of possibly competing interests when we look at the Maya land rights case in the south because the Government of Belize, as we all know, has recognized Maya customary land tenure due to the 2015 ruling of our highest court.  And so, in many instances, before we get the legislative and administrative framework in place, in many instances we may have competing interests.  For example, we are quite aware that in Indian Creek and to some extent Golden Stream and a few other places there are differences which government will have to try to address and facilitate maybe perhaps mediation, etc.  And so, we felt it, you know, the prime minister asked us to deal with the issue [and] our ministry has reached out to some of the private landowners.  For example, I can share with you that we are in the process of working with U.S Capital Energy for their seismic testing, to once again revisit the FPIC protocol to make sure that what U.S. Capital does is in keeping with international standards, according to the FPIC that we filed in court.  And, you know, that the government, once we’ve filed that protocol, we must abide by it, it’s not just words on paper.  So we’re doing our very best.  Our CEO, Ms. Santos, has met with the principals of U.S. Capital.  We intend to fully cooperate to have that company do their best to comply and, of course, with the oversight of our ministry.  Now I did digress a little there to talk about U.S Capital, but coming back to the issue at hand, government does find it necessary to assure and to reassure private landowners that their rights cannot and should not be eroded because of the ruling of the court.  Their will have to, as I have always said, there will have to be a balancing act and where necessary we will define boundaries and where necessary we will try to mediate the various rights.  Now what we have said in the release is that it is quite within the rights of Maya people to respectfully request that government and other private entities refrain from further land acquisition, further leases and titles, etc… until we can put the legislative framework in place.  So their well within their right to expect that there will be respect and consultation, according to the FPIC, no doubt.”


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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