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Jun 20, 2013

Illegal activities within the Chiquibul National Park

The Chiquibul National Park, located in the Cayo District, is more than four hundred square miles of rugged terrain and thick forests which is teeming with resources. Those resources are under protected status, but that hasn’t deterred illegal visitors from Guatemala who prey on our timber, xate and gold. With that much area to cover, safeguarding those resources is a monumental job which has been placed in the hands of the forest rangers from a non-governmental organization called Friends for Conservation and Development (FCD). With limited resources, the small non-governmental organization has taken on a job which, already difficult, has become increasingly dangerous. Just this past weekend two armed xateros were detained in the park by FCD rangers. FCD’s Executive Director, Rafael Manzanero spoke to us about the need for more awareness about the Chiquibul.


Mike Rudon, Reporting

The two xateros caught in the Chiquibul this weekend are symbolic of just a tiny fraction of the daily and illegal excursions within the area.. The Belizean rangers who patrol the park are faced with almost an impossible task, and a dangerous one since the illegal visitors are more often armed than not.


Rafael Manzanero

Rafael Manzanero, Executive Director, FCD

“The two individuals that were detained were actually from La Rejola and also from the area of Dolores. These guys were crossing just on the main road from Caracol because there’s the road like going up to the Caracol temples, so they are using one of the tracks from one side of the road to the next side, so that’s when they were apprehended. And this really happened in the late evening, well actually at night at 7:30 at night. Apparently they were going to extract the xate leaves, but interestingly enough they also had firearms and drugs with them. So that really is an indication to us of the people now walking more with firearms and so we are much more cautious now in terms of what’s going on in those areas.”


One of the men was armed with a point thirty eight caliber revolver, and Manzanero told us that he might have been prepared to use it. That is why the rangers had to receive training in weapon use for the difficult and potentially deadly job.


Rafael Manzanero

“The Belize Defense force has usually been able to give us some of the training to our rangers because we work together in the fields so we try to get some of the training also. Also a couple of our rangers have really been ex-military guys so they do have…in a real scenario we would want to screen people who have some of the background and experience in being able to handle a firearm so yes, I would say that they pretty much have at least some of the training.”



“The Chiquibul is the size of the Corozal district. Can you all handle the work? Do you have enough rangers? Do you have enough resources to deal with the job ahead of you?”


Rafael Manzanero

“Of course not! I think a lot of our strategies have really been to liaise and to coordinate efforts with the other regulatory forces and agencies in Belize, particularly the Belize Defence Force and the Police Department and of course we would all agree with the Forest Department there is also that need. But with the BDF and the Police its certainly is able to provide some resources on the ground. But given the magnitude of the issues which are really more spiraling – the milpa farms, the illegal logging. It is something that we are very much more certain that what we have on the ground certainly is not able really to provide that deterrence. So in a couple of words, we don’t have the manpower on the ground. We need more. The area is vast, as how you noted. The area is rugged, it’s highly inaccessible and so it really requires a lot of planning, coordination and inter-institutional support to be able to man these things. So that’s where we are presently even after six years, we have realized more about the needs and so I think we feel a lot more confident of what is needed in that zone.”


And even though they are assisted by the BDF, the FCD will need the manpower and resources of the Forest Department if they are to make a real difference in the Chiquibul.


Rafael Manzanero

“We are pretty much clear and I think forestry is also able to acknowledge that they need to be out there with us on the spot along with us. These are protected areas and so we are welcoming them always. It’s widely open there. I think the main objective of having the level of coordination and synchronicity of our actions…certainly it also means having Forestry aboard.”


The issues faced in the Chiquibul will be among the topics aired at a symposium planned for July by the Friends for Conservation and Development. Mike Rudon for News Five.

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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