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Dec 21, 2011

42 Guatemalans living in Chiquibul

The Chiquibul forest has turned out to be a lucrative source of income for Guatemalans, who, for over a decade have been carrying on illegal activities. Earlier this week we reported on the logging, xate harvesting and the poaching of the Scarlet Macaw. Tonight, we focus on the settlements established within Belizean territory by Guatemalan farmers. Although the work of Friends of Conservation and Development has highlighted the threat to the Chiquibul, for years, nothing has really been done. News Five’s Andrea Polanco concludes her series tonight on the Chiquibul.

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

The environmental impact of raids on the Chiquibul have repercussions on our natural resources, but the most critical issue relates to the territorial integrity and security of our country. The incursions started at a slow pace, but to date, the Guatemalans have formed settlements on Belizean soil.

Rigoberto Gutierrez & Family

In 2009, Guatemalan Rigoberto Gutierrez, was found armed inside the Chiquibul. Gutierrez and his family have since established their settlement in the Chiquibul National Park, which is some one hundred meters inside Belize. This July 2009 air reconnaissance image only shows his home. By 2010 Gutierrez had used a bulldozer to construct this pond, which is some two hundred meters inside Belize.

Rafael Manzanero, Executive Director, FCD

“Well, Mr. Gutierrez, we understand he has been living for more than fifteen years inside the Chiquibul National Park. He has been detained before for the possession of firearms and at the time he was brought out to the police station in San Ignacio. We were informed that he was charged but to our surprise he was released, we are not certain under what kind of conditions or why he was released. But that would be really for the police to indicate. However, our observations have showed that yes, he is still in the area.”

Rafael Manzanero

Andrea Polanco

“Do you know if he is acting as an illegal logger or a Xatero?”

Rafael Manzanero

“Well, in one of the operations conducted he was found with a chainsaw and in fact the first time when he was found with the firearm, he also had in his possession a chainsaw; so we would want to believe then that he is one of the loggers involved in the activities taking place in this area.”

But Gutierrez is only one of some forty plus Guatemalans that have established camps illegally inside Belize. Meet Elias Ramirez, who is squatting with his entire family a hundred meters inside Belize, albeit close to the border.

Elias Ramirez & Family

He as has twelve children, his wife, parents and other extended family members living in this area. Ramirez’s home also serves as a church, where the squatters hold service at least once a month.

Rafael Manzanero

“There are some people who have been living inside the Caracol Area and the Chiquibul National Park. Our estimates are that it would be about forty-three individuals living inside Belize, particularly the Adjacency Zone, as considered by Guatemala.”

The Guatemalan families are raising animals, like these cows and are also planting and harvesting crops inside Belize. These corn fields are planted in the Adjacency Zone and extend from Guatemala up to half kilometer inside Belize.

Rafael Manzanero

“The Caracol Area which is basically where we are right now, from the Western Border, we are around six to seven kilometers or so away from that Western Border. So if we can look at that landscape if we can look closer to the western border, what we can see is clearings, those clearings are a demonstration of the expansion of the agricultural frontier At this particular moment, right now we are in the month of November, what it really means is that the people, the farmers around the western border would already be harvesting their crops, which would be corn, beans and pumpkin seeds, are the main food items that they would be planting along that main area.”

An assessment of the area shows that in 1987, the Guatemalans had cleared one hundred and thirteen hectares of land, and twenty years later, in 2007 the figure was up to four thousand four hundred and sixty two hectares. By 2011, they deforested cleared four thousand nine hundred and thirty one hectares:

Rafael Manzanero

“The milpa farming is something that we have been following up since we took up co-management responsibilities in the Chiquibul Forest. And what we are seeing is than an average of some two hundred and something acres, some three hundred acre would be occupied or deforested, deforested is basically the word because it really means that the forest cover has already been removed as a result of slash and burn. So the people would come, cut the trees, they would burn it and then they would plant.”

Fidelio Montes Sr.

Tour Operator, Fidelio Montes, has been conducting tours at the Caracol Archaeological Site for almost seventeen years. But the activities have left this senior tour operator shaken:

Fidelio Montes Sr., Discovery Expeditions

“It’s a pretty scary feeling for us as tour guides, cultural guides, representing Belize our beloved country to see that these illegal activities are happening within our boundary and apparently nothing much is being done about it. We have discussions with our armed forces out here; we can listen to these people chopping in the distance, a week ago, I heard the guys using a chainsaw behind the royal residence. I think this is very scary, if someone should get hurt, the industry could collapse, and people like myself, this is what we benefit from, this is our livelihood.”

Andrea Polanco

“Mr. Montes, discuss with us, this incident where your son was involved?”

Fidelio Montes Sr.

“Yes, about two years ago, he came to Caracol one day like we always do and one day from going out here he was stopped by a few armed men. Junior told me, Daddy, one day someone will get hurt, because I see a lot of activities, people walking around with dogs, guns, machetes, and they don’t look like our people and so sure enough it happened and Junior decided that he was going to break through this checkpoint that was set up on the road. And perhaps, it was because of his astuteness that the event did not go to worst.”

At the rate at which milpas are being established and the growing number of Guatemalans settling on Belizean soil, FCD projects that by 2015, five thousand seven hundred and thirty four hectares will be cleared out. And with a steady increase, by 2035 nine thousand seven hundred and forty nine of Belize’s land would be under Guatemalan milpas. 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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10 Responses for “42 Guatemalans living in Chiquibul”

  1. Lucas says:

    It is sad but so very sad. The very govt., PUP and UDP, who have sworned to protect our country are the very ones who with their apathy, carelessness and do nothing attitude are giving us away to the Guatemalans. The truth is that our GOBs are afraid to even ruffle Guatemala as not to incur their anger. Nothing that we say will change either PUP or UDP govt. attitude in this matter of such national importance. I am convinced that our soldiers report such developments at the border but it is just brushed aside by Belmopan. It is heart-breaking, discouraging and very lamentable. I wish I was dead rather than hearing such disgraceful news. Any way, LONG LIVE THE UDP. LONG LIVE MR. BARROW. LONG LIVE THE PUP. LONG LIVE SAID MUSA. because according to the attitude of past and present administrations, BELIZE CAN VERY WELL GO TO HELL.

  2. Storm says:

    If BDF lacks the will or manpower to protect our sacred Jewel, then the government should deputize the people who live in the area, and let them patrol the Chiquibul and other vulnerable border areas.


  3. Earl Grey says:

    GIVE THEM some tea and creole bread with Happy Cow……… OR THE BOOT?

  4. Stephen says:

    This need to be stop ASAP and those people need to be deported, if it was Belizean on Guatemala soil they would have been shot but we are loving people so just get the immigration involve and get them out.

  5. craziness says:

    Those guats thing they own Belize. If Guatemala was so much of a nice country, there would be no need for them to be illegally living on our soil. Barrow doesn’t care, just like the rest of the politicians. They’ve sucked the country’s finances dry. They have enough money to pick up and leave if the need arises. It’s the average Belizean who will have to deal with all of the social and environmental problems that will arise as a result of these illegal settlers. The Belizean politicians are the least patriotic people in Belize. They are only loyal to their pockets and bank accounts. But, hate to say this, but Belizeans are just dumb as well. They allow the politicians to buy them over for a simple vote. Wake up Belize!

  6. ilovemycountrybelize says:

    the gov. esp. pm barrow they are a waste of time. they only look after what they can personally benefit from. (btl, bel, wasa) things that can get them quick cash under the radar. they dont look at things that affects the poorer class people in our country. like the previos blogger said they can pickup and leave any day and have enuff to survive in other countries……
    but mr pm remember what happend to the Libyan leader he had all the money but could not spend none of it – he ran but did not get far…….thats usually the end for corrupt leaders.
    through out this christmas season think about what u really want for our country of Belize. do u want it to be like the middle east? i will leave u with that

  7. Orlando says:

    I have chosen to not even read the above story; it’s disgusting. My question to goverment (UDP and PUP) and especially the Minister & CEO or immigration is WHEN WILL WE STOP ISSUING RESIDENCIES AND CITIZENSHIPS TO FOREIGNERS ESPECIALLY GUATEMALANS? Don’t we already have a lack of land, other resources, and employment for the 312 thousand Belizeans? Close to every election, both the UDP and the PUP bring in so many central americans, chinese, and so on into Belize; 99% are not investors but people seeking access to land and jobs. WAKE UP BELIZEANS; We can’t go to Guatemala or Mexico and setup shop so easy.

  8. belizeanpride says:

    have been applying for a piece of the jewel just to set a house on it can’t after many attempts through legal papers haven’t had the luck yet but this guats come and squat on our jewel and the gov. present and past hasn’t done nothing about it. yet if i do the same bet police, and soldiers will come and try move me for squating on any land piece in the jewel but guat come right through and are living, working inside a reserve area, DAMN!!!!!! this really suuucks.
    I hate to read this issue but we need to make our voices heard for the leaders to do something about this urgently.

  9. ProudBelizean says:

    Im sure that Belizeans would have preferred that the 1.24million issued to the “poor and needy this xmas time” by government (in reality, used to keep their UDP supporters happy and not giving a damn about the really neady Belizeans) be used to empower the OAS, FCD and our BDF so that they be more effective at the border points. The OAS is needy of funds to continue its operations.

    So could the millions paid out to Lois Young and Dennys Barrow to represent the Government in the BTL case. Mind you, we still need to pay the original BTL owners.

  10. mustard says:

    and our GOB just sits and does nothing, nothing, nothing nothing, any other country would of declared war, but, not Belize, our gob are cowards and fools, they just for the money.

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