Oil and logging activities are carried out in the district of Toledo by private companies without consultation of the Maya communities.
In an appeal issued on May 6, 2013, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expressed serious concerns regarding the human rights situation of the Maya indigenous communities in the District of Toledo, in south Belize.
According to the IACHR, the government of Belize have been giving away oil and logging concessions to multinational companies without consulting the communities prior to the extracting actions, which endangered the natural resources that are essential for the indigenous groups living there.
In 2004, the Maya indigenous communities of the District of Toledo filed the petition case No. 12.053 before the Commission. The petitioners claimed that the State of Belize had violated the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man “in respect of lands traditionally used and occupied by the Maya people, by granting logging and oil concessions in and otherwise failing to adequately protect those lands, failing to recognize and secure the territorial rights of the Maya people in those lands, and failing to afford the Maya people judicial protection of their rights and interests in the lands due to delays in court proceedings instituted by them.”
In response to that petition case, the IACHR issued a report which found, among other things, that “the State of Belize had violated the Maya communities’ rights to property by not recognizing their communal property right to their ancestral lands and territories” and recommended the government “to delimit, demarcate and title the territory through a free, informed, prior consultation, and to abstain, until then, from any act that might affect this territory.”
However, in all these years, the Belizean government never answered the numerous communications sent by the IACHR requesting information on the compliance of these recommendations and other previously submitted.
In 1998, the indigenous communities submitted a petition before the IACHR, which concluded that the State of Belize has violated relevant human rights by having permitted logging and oil development on Maya traditional lands. The entity urged the government to protect the collective rights of the Maya communities and to legally recognize and protect their communal property rights for their lands. The Commission demanded as well that the government consults the communities before taking any actions on their lands.
Two years earlier, the Belize Ministry of Natural Resources granted two logging concessions to multinational companies, which have logged more than 200,000 hectares (500,000 acres) of rainforest in the District of Toledo. The Mayan communities filed a claim before the Supreme Court of Belize, but the case remains unresolved until today.
The ongoing oil and logging concessions of multinational companies that occupy the traditional Maya lands have become an alarming issue as the government ignores the agreement signed with indigenous leaders in 2000. The document, called “Ten Points of Agreement”, recognizes Maya rights for their traditional lands and resources.
The Commission also insists that the consultation duty with the indigenous communities is a very important step that must be fulfilled by the government and in order to carry out any administrative or legislative actions an agreement must be obtained. Effective participation of indigenous peoples through their own institutions is also required before the implementation of any plans, since it guarantees their individual and collective survival.
Belize was the home of the oldest Maya settlements and an important trading center for the ancient civilization that spanned from Mexico to El Salvador between 1000 BC and 900 AD.
The numbers of Maya communities were always high in Belize, however in the nineteenth century they increased significantly, due to massive land expropriation in Guatemala that resulted in migration.
Of the originally 28 Maya communities that exist, three are located in Belize: Yucatec, Mopan, and Kekchi Maya. They are mostly subsistence farmers. —Latinamerica Press.