HomeLatest NewsToledo Alcaldes Challenge AG’s Replacement of Village Leaders  

Toledo Alcaldes Challenge AG’s Replacement of Village Leaders  

Toledo Alcaldes Challenge AG’s Replacement of Village Leaders  

The Toledo Alcaldes Association  is dissatisfied with the Attorney General’s decision to remove and replace the alcalde and deputy alcalde in Indian Creek Village in January. Represented by Senior Counsel Godfrey Smith and Leslie Mendez, the T.A.A. has filed an application seeking permission for judicial review and an injunction to prevent the government-appointed alcaldes from performing their duties until the trial concludes.  Meanwhile, the Government of Belize, represented by Senior Counsel Marshalleck, argues that the Inferior Court Act establishes an Alcalde Jurisdiction Court led by government-appointed alcaldes. However, there is no legal recognition for the traditional alcalde system in these villages, although legislation does acknowledge the authority of village councils. This situation has led to a longstanding debate over which authority is supreme in Maya villages. The attorney general followed the village council’s recommendations in the latest appointments, which has not satisfied the T.A.A. News Five’s Paul Lopes reports.


Paul Lopez, Reporting

The Toledo Alcaldes Association is taking the Government of Belize to court. In January, the Attorney General removed and appointed an alcalde and deputy alcalde in Indian Creek Village, Toledo District. The T.A.A. filed for permission to bring judicial review proceedings following GOB’s decision. The association asked the court to order that newly appointed alcaldes not proceed with any of their functions until the matter is heard. According to the T.A.A., the decision by the government is a violation of their customary rules and constitutional rights. Christina Coc is the spokesperson for the association.


Christina Coc

                                 Christina Coc

Christina Coc, Spokesperson for Toledo Alcaldes Association

“As the rest of Belize knows, in Toledo all forty-one communities practice a system of traditional governance which has two alcaldes in each village. This is an important system of governance for us. It has sustained our communities since time immemorial and so we think it is really important to protect and safeguard what has really kept our communities.”



Senior Counsel Andrew Marshalleck is representing the government. It is no secret that the village councils and alcaldes are not always seeing eye to eye in the forty-one communities within the Toledo district. It has been a long-standing issue, but the constitution does not recognise the traditional alcalde system.


Andrew Marshalleck

                                Andrew Marshalleck

Andrew Marshalleck, Senior Counsel, Attorney for Government 

And the issue for the government is whose recommendations do I heed when I am making appointment, whether it is the duly elected village council or whether it is votes from village meetings which is their customary practice.”





Paul Lopez

How is that the government can intervene in customary practices such as the alcalde system


Andrew Marshalleck

“The Inferior Court Act provides for the government to appoint to preside over the alcalde jurisdiction court, which is a court equivalent of a magistrate’s court. It is the same way it intervenes to appoint your magistrates, who preside over you. It is an exercise of the sovereign rights to govern this territory.”



The T.A.A. contends that the government cannot appoint alcaldes to the jurisdiction court without recommendations made during village meetings, which is its customary decision-making process. Much like it is with the case of customary land rights, TAA argues that while it may not be recognised by law it is their right to exclusively determine who will fill these positions. Senior Counsel Godfrey Smith is representing the TAA in this matter.


Godfrey Smith

                               Godfrey Smith

Godfrey Smith, Senior Counsel, Attorney for Toledo Alcaldes Association

“And, our response to that is and will be developed that in the same way back when the maya first advocated for customary land tenure, it was not recognized in the laws of Belize, so too we are saying that the right of their village to exclusively determine who will be alcaldes and the right to remove them vest in the village, not by virtue of any written law of the land but by virtue of constitutional interpretation utilizing international treaty obligations and international customary law.”




Because currently you don’t have an alcalde’s law, once all of that is sorted this is the way you want to go to have the government enact such a law?”



Godfrey Smith

“Well we are not concerned, I cannot speak for the government. We are concerned with the state of Belize and the court recognizing and protecting the rights of indigenous people to a variety of things. That will evolve overtime clearly. The government has a right to legislate what they want providing it doesn’t infringe, erode or subvert the rights of indigenous people.”



Marshalleck refers to the challenge as an attack on sovereignty. He explained that the outcome of this case may have varying implications.


Andrew Marshalleck Senior Counsel, Attorney for G.O.B. 

“What it is in an assertion of customary rights and a right to what they call internal self-governance. It is going to impact all of us. The state of Belize is all of us and what it is saying is that when we elect representatives and give them the authority to make laws, they will have restrictions in what they can do in these villages.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Paul Lopez.

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