Tag Archives: Belize

Take Action–Belize: Our Life, Our Lands — Respect Maya Land Rights

 from Cultural Survival

Young boy holding onto a Cacao tree in Jordan Village, one of the communities within US Capital’s concession for oil drilling. © Tony Rath Photography / tonyrath.com

In southern Belize, Sarstoon Temash National Park holds within its 42,000 acres the most pristine rainforest in the country. Its primary forests have been attributed by National Geographic as remnants of the ancient Maya’s agroforestry systems, and today continue to be sustainably maintained by the Maya peoples of Southern Belize.

The Supreme Court of Belize ruled in 2007 and again in 2010 that the Maya who have ancestrally cared for these forests shall hold the legal titles to these lands. This court ruling, along with national and international laws, mandates that Indigenous Peoples must give their Free, Prior and Informed Consentbefore any development project that may affect them.  But that right has been trampled on again and again by the Texas-based oil company US Capital Energy, which received a concession from the Belize government to extract oil in Southern Belize beginning in 2001.

In further flagrant violation of the Maya land rights under national law, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and recommendations by the Inter American Human Rights Commission, the government has now granted the oil company permits to move to the second phase of exploratory drilling in the park and on Indigenous territories.  US Capital Energy has so far cut over 200 miles of seismic trails for oil exploration in the national park and on communities’ traditional lands, also causing forest fires destroying 400 acres, including the unique ecosystem of the sphagnum moss, the last of its kind in Central America.

The 21,000 Indigenous people in the region are fighting to defend their traditional lands, including the national treasure of the Sarstoon Temash National Park, against this short-sighted land grab.  As Gregory Ch’oc of the Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management explains, “The government is counting on our regional isolation, our poverty, and our relative lack of power to continue marginalizing and discriminating against us and violating our rights. Therefore, we are urgently calling allies of the earth’s biodiversity and Indigenous Peoples to take a stand with us and support our struggle.”

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Change, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Energy, Green Economy, Greenwashing, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, Oil, Rights, Resilience, and Restoration

“End the Secrecy!” – Belize Group SATIIM Demands Explanation for US Oil Company’s Return to National Protected Land

 *Government ignores local communities requests for information

*Defies historic Supreme Court ruling based on country’s constitution and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

 The Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management (SATIIM) calls all those who care about Belize’s biocultural diversity demand that the government explain what an oil company is doing on protected land.

On October 25 SATIIM learned that the American oil company, US Capital Energy had suddenly re-appeared on protected and Maya land — without prior notice or consent of the communities.

According to reports, the oil company has been operating for over a week inside the Sarstoon Temash National Park (STNP) in Southern Belize. While the park is officially co-managed with the surrounding Q’eqchi Mayan and Garifuna villages, the government never informed SATIIM that a permit had been issued. The company is wasting no time — a truck equipped for seismic drilling has already arrived along with a drill-ready tractor.  Trees were cut for two seismic lines in Sunday Wood village, with rumors of plans to cut more in the village of Crique Sarco.

This is merely the latest ‘surprise’ in a shameful history of secrecy that began one morning in 1997. Five Indigenous communities in Southern Belize woke up to learn that the government had declared their ancestral land a national park in 1994. Ever since, these communities have struggled to defend their land at every turn.

Notably, in 2006 they won a temporary injunction against seismic testing in this protected area, where an entirely new ecosystem was recently discovered. Another ruling from the Supreme Court confirmed Maya rights to land and resources and Belize’s obligation to conform to international standards of informed consent established when it signed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in 2007.

Nonetheless, the government has kept all dealings with US Capital Energy secret.  SATIIM asked for information in several letters to the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Chief Forest Officer. The government has ignored each one.

When SATIIM met with Indigenous leaders Monday 7 November, all villagers expressed outrage and growing concerns that the government and the company did not inform them about the seismic activities. SATIIM demands that the government respect: 1) the rule of law; 2) environmental justice; 3) economic equality; and 4) its obligations under UNDRIP and legal rulings by Belize’s highest courts.

Most of all, SATIIM demands the government end the secrecy around US Capital Energy’s new operations in Southern Belize.  SATIIM and the Indigenous communities have agreed to use any means necessary to bring the government and company in compliance with national and international law.

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Filed under Energy, Indigenous Peoples, Oil, Pollution