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Mar 20, 2012

Villagers Protest for Continued Rosewood pillaging

A freeze was put in place on the harvesting and exportation of rosewood last Friday within days of the resumption of office by the Dean Barrow administration. It was a first major policy statement coming from the new Minister of Forestry and Sustainable Development, Lisel Alamilla that immediately won praise from conservationists.  But there are two sides to the coin, because on the ground among Mayan communities in the south, rosewood is a way of life. The moratorium caught them off guard and today they headed to Belmopan. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

Isani Cayetano, reporting

A delegation of roughly a hundred and fifty villagers from the south, predominantly rosewood loggers from several Maya communities in Toledo, descended upon Independence Hill this morning, posters held high, while Cabinet met inside the Assembly Building.  The gathering is a successful busload of protestors who made the journey to the capital city to oppose the recently passed moratorium on rosewood harvesting.  Leading the charge is Remy Choc.

Remy Choc, Protestor

Remy Choc

“This process that took place this morning, we left our village early in the morning to be here because the people, especially the farmers, the cutters, my dad, investors, they have rosewood that they cut already and, you understand, it just come to a process that bam the rosewood [cutting] ceased.”

Since the approval of a suspension on logging activities last Friday there is serious contention over the fact that there was no advance notice given prior to the moratorium.

Oscar Requeña

Oscar Requeña, Area Representative, Toledo West

“The problem with it is that our people have not been prepared for it. A lot of our people—and most of them are farmers, they take their little money, they have invested it in buying chainsaws and cutting rosewood, they have all the planks there. We have other business people, we spoke to one particular business who said he has invested one hundred and fifty thousand dollars and it is all tied up there. Our position is that fine, no problem with the moratorium but I think they need to be reasonable and give time to people so that they can take out all the logs that they have already harvested.”

Remy’s father, Sylvester Choc, a resident of San Pedro, Columbia, is one of four major rosewood dealers operating in the district.  He remains in possession of almost forty thousand feet of lumber which he fears will languish on his compound in the weeks to come.

Remy Choc

“My dad went to the bank [and] get money to invest.  That money that he invested into the rosewood will stay right there and not only for my dad, I’m talking on behalf of my people.  Many of them get kerosene, gas, workmen and all of that [and now] they have losses.  So this is why we came this morning to Belmopan to protest to let our [prime] minister, Mr. Dean Barrow, have pity on the people open his heart.”

The decision to freeze all rosewood harvesting until a thorough assessment of its sustainability can be conducted has become a polemic issue.  On one hand environmentalists are breathing a sigh of relief and on the other stakeholders are up in arms over stock they won’t soon be able to sell.

Remy Choc

“Many people will say it’s politics.  We don’t come here for politics.  We came here, you know, mek at least our rosewood we invested, mek we sell it and you know. Give us a chance to sell out the amount that we have left to, you know, then we can gain back the little money that we invested.”

Mike Espat

The stance that elected area representative Mike Espat has taken is quite simple.

Mike Espat, Area Representative, Toledo East

“Our position is that no [there’s] no problem on the moratorium.  What they should do is clean up all the lumber that they have on the ground.  This is a concern because there is, I don’t know, I would say maybe half a million to a million dollars worth of rosewood that has already been cut [that’s] sitting on the ground and the longer they are exposed to the sun, they will start to deteriorate.”

In November 2011, the Ya’axche Conservation Trust, then headed by newly-appointed Minister of Forestry Lisel Alamilla, joined forces with Friends of Conservation in writing P.M. Barrow to address the pillaging of the precious wood.  Among their concerns was that the conventional practice of protecting rosewood through the use of a custom order had been dropped. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

Late this evening, there was a reaction from Cabinet. While it is endorsing the rosewood moratorium in the Toledo and Stann Creek Districts, the Cabinet release says “The Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries, and Sustainable Development will take into consideration those with valid licenses who may have already cut trees with a view to exporting the lumber.”

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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11 Responses for “Villagers Protest for Continued Rosewood pillaging”

  1. Chitown says:

    This was not being done the right way and the forest was being damaged. First the Brits did this to us and now we are doing it to our selves.

    This is a rich mans’ game the Mayan people are only the front. Who is really making the money is behind the scene.

    Good move Mr PM. Please come up with good rules that are sustainable.

  2. PGman says:

    remi and her family da big alligators down south. stop d rosewood business. da only dem the get rich….stop use the poor people for unu own advantage…i bet da sylvester choc pay the bus fo bring the people. …

  3. Worker Man says:

    u see what I mean when I say you can’t please every one. These wackos are just thinking about their own profiteering. They don’t care if Rosewood is depleted. They are behaving like Indians and Chinese who cause a lot of things in their country to be extinct.
    majority of Belizeans want the moratorium to stand!!!!! Period.

  4. Mr. C says:

    My fellow Belizeans… there is one thing that i need to address that always keep us bringing one another; especially us citizens of Belize, let us stop pointing fingers on others, stop blaming people, stop the gossip. let us blame ourselves on what we do. this issue on rosewood is a huge problem; however the only way we could address it is letting us work together. let us agree to stop disagree. blaming mista sylvestre as being an alligator won’t solve the problem. Hey you PGman why then you don’t take the risk in investing your money in the rosewood business??? Individual like you are hypocrites. let the man make his money… no one is stopping you in making your money if you are? your business is not others business and others business is not your business, hence mine your business and start doing your own business.

  5. busha says:

    The government should confiscate the rosewood that was pilfered illegally and use it to remodel that shamefull House of Reps., Like the brits did with the mahogany…

  6. Gibnut29 says:

    I have no problem with the Moratorium. It should be supervised, BUT they should be allowed to export what they already have cut and they should have been given a heads up. There are ways we can conserve and feed our people at the same time. Pulling the rug from under them whether they are rich or not is just wrong. Any business person failing or successful would have complained and protested if this had happened to them.

  7. Earl Grey says:


  8. jah son says:

    Rose wood it is ever since the vegas made it international. Will agree that a moratorium needs to be put in place but the approach was hasty and unprofessional by the govt. I must also give the devil its due share and must say Minister Lisel is well verse in terrestrial, hence the reason for a quick moratorium on the said rose wood. Now we must also look at the fisheries sector that she is also a major part of. I must say that she is like a baby opossum when it comes to the fisheries sector because she knows little about what is actually happening right now down south in our marine reserves. To begin with our miniature fisheries office in p.g is ill equipped. So ill equipped that they own a 23 footer vessel powered by a 100 hp engine that does not even belong to the fisheries dept. So ill equipped that her former organization ‘Ya’xche’ is borrowing their 100 hp yamaha engine to perform. I could continue to list all the lack of resources but will halt to do so because i want to make positive recommendations. First of all the fisheries office needs to relocate from where it is to the current customs building that was built under the PUP to save the dept from paying a monthly rent. Secondly, staff members need to be paid appropriately for the skills and experiences they have for an efficient and effective working group. thirdly, a sea worthy vessel for God’s sake – its the fisheries dept we are talking about..they need a seaworthy vessel. Fourthly if i may say, a durable vehicle to launch and recover vessels after patrols and other duties. It is so embarrassing for a dept to be hiring taxis to launch and recover govt property. this list could go on and on but i believe these are just a few IMPORTANT items that need to be mention for a fully effective operational fisheries dept. There are other factors about licenses, poaching, seasons, sizes, and enforcement flaws ona whole that needs to be address and also a major marine protected area namely the sapodilla cayes marine reserve that needs major focus due to its tri – boundary location. Please lets not be misguided y one issue affecting us and lets be open minded to all factors… One good scenario – ‘ some fisheries officer were conducting routine patrol and they approached a vessel. upon docking up beside the vessel, a fisher folk instantly mentioned that there was a green vessel south bound diving under size products.’ what that individual was attempting to do was create a diversion for his vessel to be search…..moral of the story – sleep with your own eyes and take step at a time because u havent met that vessel as yet so do your job and search what is infront of u…its your mandate as a fisheries officer….u get the drift cabinet members????

  9. JahKid says:

    I am a mayan and we have always stood up to protect our forest, except where we do our farming. Now some of us mayans or ketchi no longer want to live the nice humble life we were once living. Remy is fighting a self interest fight. They are investers on a illegal logging campaign and wants to blame the Gov. I believe that concession should be given to the real poor mayans and not these greedy mayans that no longer live in the humble lifestyle we once lived. My parents moved from the tradition of farming because we saw that one day because some of the intellectual mayans and the lifestyle they want to live amonst the humble ones would one day bring shame. They want to live a rich life and the traditionalist are to remain in the life style. How can that happen if you rich mayan boast your richness boldfaced infront of the humble mayans. We have never before wanted to move from our traditions, but now we see the greedy ones have moved and benefitting and we want too. Under the PUP and I can.t recall who said it, but said that the people of Punta Gorda especially the mayans are poor. It caused an uproar from some of the communities saying that PG indians are not poor, but were rich because that is the traditional way of life. Now the greedy ones are starving, how about the ones that want to remain in the humble traditions. I am not sorry for the greedy mayans, but I am sorry for the humble mayans.

  10. Pg man says:

    @mr. c i dont know if you are aware of the situation down south… first being a hypocrite is not only pointing fingers .. the worst thing a hypocrite can do is to use people to their own advantage.. by chancing the people, next by lying… because if a poor man go da bank and he has no assets the bank nuh have nothing to give them okay…so nuh come tell me that the farmers have loans to go pay…. then the next thing this man d use the people because he d pay them a mere $3.00 a foot for their rosewood and when he sells he d collect whopping $12.00 a foot, remember the farmer go hunt for the tree, falls it, then has to physically back it to the nearest road and this man just sit down home with no sweat on his forehead and just collect… thats a hypocrite…. a hypocrite will always defend a hypocrite…. so i wouldn’t argue with you cause you might be doing the same as he does.. come on main…. start to be real…

  11. RedBwai says:

    Now this is kinda ironic….wasnt it the same so called “Mayan people” who are leading the fight against the wreckless pillaging of Belize’s precious rose wood??? the same ones who got on the national media, the news, the talk shows, the newspapers…Now these ones are protesting against the Moratorium??? hmmm….who is fighting for who and for what now??…They made it sound as if it were the Guates coming into Belize and raping our forests…now we see who is really the ones profitting from this pillaging of our country’s natural resource. Which brings me to question the workings of the forest department…is this deforestation an a rapid scale being regulated??? are these people mandated to replant rosewood seedlings after they have cleared a entire area of mature rose wood trees??? At the rate they are going, it wouldnt surprise me if they are cutting the small young trees too…
    Something drastic has to be done an done fast…otherwise there wont be any rose wood trees left for our future generations…an yea look what the Brits did with our Mahogany…that should serve a lesson learnt from history…i suggest they halt all cutting of rose wood…no one seems to be trying to ensure that these trees are being protected until there are none left….then what???…this is not a sustainable form of business…not at the price of loosing all our precious rosewood trees to greedy business men..

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