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#483985 - 01/25/14 03:47 AM Guatemalans Stealing Logs, Gold from Chiquibul
Marty Offline

And The Irrelevance Of The “Road Map”

Earlier on in the news we told you about the new initiative signed by the ministers of foreign affairs of Belize and Guatemala. It's called the Road Map and Plan Of Action" and lays the groundwork for a new series of more meaningful confidence building measures. Sounds all nice and stuff, but on the ground in Chiquibul you can throw out the road map - because Guatemalans are illegally logging right on the road side! Two weeks ago the Friends for Conservation AND Development which co manages the park saw tress felled right a few feet from the Caracol road in the heart of the Caracol Archaeological Park., It's outrageous, outlaw behavior and we discussed it with FCD's Rafael Manzanero today:..

Rafael Manzanero
"The Guatemalans cutting down the Mahogany and Cedar right along the road which is use as access to the Caracol Archaeological Reserve. The most aspect of the concern is because it is very close. In fact the trees that were cut less than 2 weeks ago they actually were dropped right over the highway; over the road. We are actually talking about no more than 1.5 miles from the Caracol center."

Jules Vasquez
"Hearing it - it requires such gall, it's such blatant outlaw behavior right now in the heart of what we should exert control and authority of - the archaeological park."

Rafael Manzanero
"That's correct and what we have done really is to inform and I would assume that NICH would be able to meet and discuss on what they would need to do. Certainly being so close to the reserve, it basically means that the rangers there, the park warden would be required to do more monitoring and surveillance around that zone."

We'll have more on this story next week.

Channel 7

#483999 - 01/25/14 04:43 AM Re: Guatemalans Stealing Logs, Gold from Chiquibul [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline


“Guatemalan gold panners are more determined than ever to extract the rich resources of [Chiquibul/Maya Mountain] at all cost…”

Friends for Conservation and Development (FCD), the NGO which co-manages the Chiquibul National Park, estimates that at the moment, 100-150 Guatemalans, some of them armed, are engaged in illegal gold panning in the highlands of the Chiquibul/Maya Mountain area—and they continue to elude Belize security teams, thus posing a national security threat to the country.

“The threat of gold panning is high and so are the losses to our national patrimony. These areas are the true birth place of the Chiquibul River. Sedimentation, garbage and fecal contaminants are now found in areas where humans had never been operating before,” said Rafael Manzanero, FCD’s Executive Director.

Earlier this month, Manzanero went on patrol in the highlands of the Chiquibul/Maya Mountains (CMM) together with Joint Forces Unit personnel based at Ceibo Chico Conservation Post, and what they found was alarming.

“The environmental damage is high and we estimate that today this is the most critical issue to address in the Chiquibul Forest alongside the illegal logging,” Manzanero said. “However, unlike illegal logging, the gold panning activity is more difficult to address due to the remoteness and dangers associated in capturing the panners.”

FCD also notes that one vial with apparent gold residues was found on one camp, and several machetes and shovels found were disposed of on location and could not be brought due to the distance from camp.

No arrests were made, since it appears the gold panners have also planned schemes to elude Belizean authorities: “On three occasions contact was made with Guatemalan gold panners, but they made good their escape…. They whistle to alert those operating in the gullies and are astute in putting obstructions, such as branches and twigs that make noise as one approaches the area,” Manzanero points out.

Mining Inspector Michelle Alvarez told Amandala today that illegal gold panning is a huge concern, with reports by FCD of increased activities inside the Chiquibul.

Last July, the FCD featured a symposium, Alarming Threats to Biodiversity, Peace and National Stability, in an effort to highlight the urgent need for action in the Chiquibul. However, it is clear that since that event, no effective measure has been put in place to curb those threats. More than that, it is evident, based on FCD’s most recent report,that the threats have since multiplied.

Manzanero told Amandala that gold panners are moving further inland and more south, into more complex terrain, which has made it more difficult to contain, and all indications are that unless serious intervention is made, the problem will continue to worsen.

“Even our Guatemalan counterparts say we need to bolster our efforts, and if we don’t do it, it will be a bigger problem because the [gold panners] are becoming more determined,” Manzanero said.

He also notes that Guatemalans are coming from beyond the Petén to search for gold in Belize, and they travel from as far as Izabal and Alta Vera Paz, signaling that a multiplier effect is imminent unless the Government of Belize gets a firm grip of things.

He said that the problem is no longer just an environmental issue – but should be seen as a national territorial and security issue.

According to an official source, there is one company, Boiton Minerals Ltd., a locally owned company partnering with a foreign company – Erin Ventures, which has legal permission to prospect for gold inside the Chiquibul Forest Reserve. Manzanero said that Belizean authorities have not been able to maintain the spirit of proactivity required to tackle the Chiquibul problem.

He notes that, “Guatemalan gold panners are more determined than ever to extract the rich resources of the CMM at all costs.”

Manzanero said that the gold panners are now located 6 hours away from the Ceibo Chico Conservation Post (more than 5 kilometers away from the conservation post), and are operating approximately some 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) away from the western border.

He added that, “The gold panners who are known to come from many areas of Guatemala, are apparently seeking to find better sources of gold on the highlands and are now practicing a different type of gold prospecting by opening trenches that can go as deep as 10-12 feet. These trenches are found nearby the streams.”

Manzanero again stresses the environmental risk these illegal operations now pose to Belize’s waterways which flow from the Chiquibul.

Unsightly refuse is also left behind by the gold panners. Manzanero notes that, “Garbage is prolific in the entire area with plastic bags, bottles, cans, old clothes, batteries, gloves and plastic pans used for panning the gold.”

Meanwhile, there continue to be concerns over unabated illegal logging by Guatemalans, and FCD notes that they are becoming more brazen in their operations.

In a joint security operation held just before the gold panning exercise, FCD rangers based at Tapir Camp reported that the Belize Defence Force escort had come across trees fallen on the Caracol Road. They found 14 timber trees cut, and some were merely 1.5 miles away from the main Caracol quarters.

FCD notes that since the Joint Forces have concentrated their effort in south Chiquibul, in an effort to combat illegal gold panning, additional patrols are required to operate in north Chiquibul, including the Caracol Complex and particularly to do night surveillance.

“From all observations, the loggers are determined individuals and feel rather safe to conduct their illicit activities so close to Caracol quarters. Their boldness to cut down the trees and let them drop on the highway should be of concern to all authorities, since loggers are not even concerned [about] concealing their illicit activities,” Manzanero notes.

He stresses that, “With appropriate planning and tactical interventions, as well as with [National Institute of Culture and History – NICH] personnel support, these illegal loggers can be detained and prosecuted.”


#484072 - 01/26/14 03:23 AM Re: Guatemalans Stealing Logs, Gold from Chiquibul [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

The gold panning activities cause severe alteration to the small streams in the area. It seems that sections of the streams are zoned off in large blocks representing different groups/factions of gold panners. The expedition surveyed an area of non-stop panning 'blocks' for almost 2hours. Entire streams are dammed off, river banks are deforested and large areas are excavated. — at Ceibo Chico, Chiquibul National Park

Ceibo Chico is located in the deep Chiquibul forest. The area is considered pristine and untouched with only a few members of the military force ever reaching this far into the area. Beautiful streams, amazing waterfalls, unbelizeable panoramas and intriguing biodiversity is what you'll encounter.

Enforcement personnel are based at the Conservation Post (see map) that is accessible through a 10hr trip through barely passable roads. Personnel spend weeks at a time at the Conservation Post and spend hours hiking through intense jungle terrain. The area is extremely remote and dangerous. Much respect for the fit and passionate personnel that spend their lives patrolling these remote areas.

The expedition came across several sites where they encountered Guatemalans illegally panning for gold. At the sound of the military personnel they ran into the jungle leaving everything behind (panning tools, camping tools, gold vials, food, and lots of garbage). They seem to be very familiar with our legal system and their best defense is to leave everything behind and come back another day to continue. Terrain and number of soldiers are the biggest disadvantage to our enforcement team.

This is a close-up of the Chiquibul area showing the area surveyed by the expedition. Note the Conservation Post located just around the boundary of the Chiquibul Forest Reserve and the Chiquibul National Park. The gold panning area is located a 6 hour hike south of the conservation post. This area is many kilometers away from the Guatemalan border.

Capital Newspost

#484275 - 01/28/14 04:05 AM Re: Guatemalans Stealing Logs, Gold from Chiquibul [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Move over xaté; gold panning by Guatemalans is new illegal activity in the Chiquibul

The Chiquibul Forest Reserve has seen increased national exposure following a symposium which drew attention to the park, its benefits and challenges. One of the biggest challenges in recent years has been incursions by Guatemalans, who cross the border to take advantage of the natural wealth within the boundaries of the Chiquibul. While the traditional booty is timber and xaté, the new prize is gold. According to Executive Director of the Friends for Conservation and Development, panning for gold is lucrative and less labor intensive than logging and harvesting xaté. It’s a practice that the FCD has been monitoring for the past year and a half, and it shows no signs of abating. This morning the FCD dropped by our studios to send a wake-up call, because the monitoring and protection of the forest reserve has gotten much more difficult to maintain.

Rafael Manzanero, Executive Director, FCD

Rafael Manzanero

“Gold panning activity has been recorded over the last year and a half. At the time, we had thought that intervention could have been at conservation posts which was really the beginning then of the Ceibo Chico Conservation Post. I would say that that practically was able to help, was able to prevent much more the escalation of illegal gold panning in that zone. However, now, the gold panners have been able to move more further into other areas where it is much harder to monitor and be able to conduct the arrests and detain people. So we have seen now more a bigger problem now in terms of gold panning. Certainly it is more lucrative than the xaté extraction. In the beginning we could see the leaves that would be taken out and of course gold even in the market—internationally and locally—it would seem to be increasing in price. So think that it is lucrative and from what we have seen in the Chiquibul there, there is a good notion that there would be these gold deposits so people are coming in much more. It means that we need to have a different kind of tactical enforcement program. It means that we really need to just go in and stay there for multiple days in the zone and be able to conduct the particular activities of enforcement. I don’t think we will be able to install a conservation post there. The idea is really to put in people on the ground, to be able to put in rangers and the regulatory agencies and be able to arrest and address the situation. The other one of course is legislation. I think that from time to time we have noted that; how much would people be charged for an environmental offence. In gold mining, even our own authorities are not really clear, it seems to me, on how to put in those charges and to be effective in how to do that. So we have a lot of homework to do also in that part. The other section which is very important is the synchronization of those agencies. We are only an N.G.O. with a small amount of people. The only way on how really to put in a good effort is by combining forces.”

When he refers to combining forces, Manzanero is speaking directly to the Forest Department, the Department of the Environment, the Mining Unit and the Immigration Department. 

Channel 5

#484438 - 01/29/14 03:08 AM Re: Guatemalans Stealing Logs, Gold from Chiquibul [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

FCD: Caracol Incursion Is Serious

On Friday night's new we also spoke to Rafael Manzanero about the felling of trees right near to the Caracol road. It's a most disturbing incursion because that is the heart of the archaeological park - and the trees were some of the largest in the area - mostly because prior to this no Guatemalan poacher would have dared go so close to a clear sign of Belize's civil authority. But two weeks ago, they did. The spot is only four miles from the Guatemala border in northern Chiquibul and tonight Rafael Manzanero discusses the seriousness of this incursion in greater detail.

Rafael Manzanero, Executive Director - FCD
"We are looking at over a dozen of trees that were cut in a period of less than 3 weeks. The most aspect of the concern is because it is very close. In fact the trees that were cut less that 2 weeks ago they actually were dropped right over the highway; over the road. We are actually talking about no more than 1.5 miles from the Caracol center."

Jules Vasquez
"Is this one of the most outrageous, in terms of the location - It is right on the side of the road - they don't care."

Rafael Manzanero
"That's correct; I think it's able to show the high level of determination that people would have to go after these trees. But also I think the most frightening scenario is that they certainly know the networks, they certainly know the tourists that are passing through there; they know the time and everything. We would probably agree that it is something that we have to look at it in terms of the visitation security for that zone."

Jules Vasquez
"Will you all realign your patrols?"

Rafael Manzanero
"The problem like in south Chiquibul, I had already elevated it to the highest stake that we had in terms of the losses. I had asked and request the mobilization of the personnel from north to south. If illegal extraction of timber is already absurd and then the illegal gold panning in my scale of environmental damage is even more. Here we are basically trying to maneuver with all of these in the air - which one is the top priority?"

The Ceibo Chico gold panning area is in southern Chiquibul where most of the security forces have to remain deployed due to widespread poaching. And now this event happened in northern Chiquibul which means forces will have to be re-deployed - thus increasing the threat in the south.

Channel 7

#484739 - 01/31/14 08:38 AM Re: Guatemalans Stealing Logs, Gold from Chiquibul [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Guatemalan incursion is a major threat to Belize’s pristine forests
Illegal incursions by Guatemalans into Belize’s pristine forests continue unabated and create a great challenge to conservation efforts, especially in the Chiquibul National Park. In fact there has been a shift from the illegal extraction of Xate palm leaves and logging to a more lucrative business, the illegal panning for gold. Not only are the incursions illegal, but their activities are posing a major threat to the degradation of the ecosystem.

In late 2010, Ceibo Chico Outpost in the southern portion of the Chiquibul National Park was set up to help tackle illegal logging and first evidence of illegal gold panning. But since then, the Guatemalans have been moving further into the country as far as 14 kilometers into Belize’s Chiquibul National Park. It’s a major challenge, and according to Rafael Manzanero, the Executive Director ofthe Friends for Conservation and Development (FCD), it is making conservation efforts more difficult. “People have become aware that there may be some gold deposits in the southern part of the Chiquibul Area. As a result, there has been a spiral of movement into the zone. We started going into the area in 2010 and at the time we already had a lot of people illegally operating in that area. At the time it was concentrated in Ceibo Chico area and they operated in groups. Now we are finding these groups have disbursed and they are going in small groups into the highland, which makes it even more difficult to contain and patrol,” explained Manzanero who runs the non-governmental organization (NGO).


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