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#490099 - 04/29/14 06:03 AM US Capital Sympathizer Removed As Alcalde
Marty Offline

Village Coup?

For months, we've been reporting on the controversy surrounding the activities of US Capital Energy - which wants to drill for oil inside the Sarstoon Temash National Park.

You might have thought that there was universal opposition to the company, but it's not so clear cut and right now there is a mighty struggle for control of the political landscape of the southern villages. Tonight we'll show you 2 Alcaldes and a chairman from the buffer communities who are in support of the oil company.

We'll get to that shortly, but first, opponents of the oil company have been on a take no prisoners campaign for the past week to eject those village leaders who got too chummy with US Capital. The first leader who became a target of that agenda was Valentin Makin, the first Alcalde of Conejo Village. According to a release from the village sent by SATIIM, The charge against him is that he "betrayed his community" when he signed a letter on behalf of the entire village saying that they granted "unequivocal free, prior and informed consent for US Capital Energy Belize Ltd to continue its work and drilling on Maya Customary Lands." We're told that the community invoked Maya Communal Law and forcibly removed him because he wasn't representing the best interest of the village. In his place, they elected Eufemio Makin, to replace him as the new First Alcalde and the new leader. Today 7News got an opportunity to speak with Valentin Makin, and he told us that the only letter he signed was for the company to upgrade their main road, which he didn't see as anything he wasn't supposed to do. He told us that he is in the process of seeking legal advice because he believes his removal from office was unlawful.

Valentin Makin - Challenging His Removal As First Alcalde
"I don't think that is wrong doing, unless I commit a crime I believe that will be correct, but what they are doing is illegal because they never told me that they were going to remove me. When I knew, they had already did it, so I don't think that they are correct. Just a while ago we met with the Prime Minister and he said that they did it illegally."

Daniel Ortiz
"The thrust of the allegation is that you didn't consult with your fellow villagers who you represent and as a result you presented a falsehood. You didn't present the opinion of the Conejo villagers when you signed that yes they agree to this road. How do you respond to that?"

Valentin Makin
"Well, as I know they elect me as an alcalde. I think that I have all authorities to sign a letter."

Joaquin Cucul - Resident, Conejo
"I want to make it clear to Mr. Alfonso Cal or Greg, this is what they like to do; any document goes on comes along they don't really give us the full information, they just want the alcalde to sign it in 1-2 minutes. That is not the way. We want further information and have consultations. I don't see why they would stop the alcalde from doing its own because they are doing their, so the alcalde has to do that. I don't think that is wrong what the alcalde has done because in our village we need the road. Our road is in bad condition. I think this is not correct."

Daniel Ortiz
"Are you fighting this removal from your office of alcalde?"

Valentin Makin
"I will fight it. I have found a lawyer to investigate how this matter is going and I have sent a letter to the Attorney General. I think they will investigate this problem."

Daniel Ortiz
"You've seen where a move has been made to remove Mr. Makin from his duly elected post as alcalde for Conejo. Are you afraid that you might be the next person they come after because of your strong support for US Capital?"

Pedro Ba - 1st Alcalde, Sunday Wood Village
"Well actually I am not afraid to say that nobody will remove me unless if I committed an offence or unless if I am doing wrong in my village. This is what the alcalde jurisdiction says: the death of an alcalde, if I dead right away, nobody can put another alcalde in my position when I die, until the Attorney General appointed another alcalde to take over my place when I die, then it's totally correct. I understand what they did to Mr. Makin is wrong."

7News has been receiving reports from multiple sources suggesting that this push to remove leaders sympathetic to US Capital is coming chiefly from Greg Ch'oc, the Executive Director of SATIIM. The premise is that he is supposedly trying to silence all those prominent members who don't side with him against US Capital.

Today, we spoke to him via telephone, and he was asked him about that allegation. Here's how he responded:

Daniel Ortiz
"There are some critics who are suggesting that he is part of a push to remove all leaders from the Mayan communities who are sympathetic to US Capital and that you as executive director of Satiim which speaks on behalf of the Mayan communities is the one who is initiating this coup. How do you respond to those who believe that this comes from you?"

Greg Ch'oc, Executive Director of SATIIM
"I had absolutely nothing to do with his removal. I wasn't even there. The community had a meeting, they deliberated, I was made to understand that the community requested the executive of the alcalde's association to be present to witness the process and I only became aware that he was remove when I got the word from the village that a decision was taken and I think the community reserve the right if anyone is undermining the unity of the community, if anyone is jeopardizing and betraying the interest of the community - the community has that right to remove that person."

"Absolutely no involvement whatsoever in removing anybody that has a different view than the majority of the community."

2 Alcaldes + 1 Chairman Says SATIIM Is Not Their Lead Speaker

That opportunity to speak with Valentin Makin and the other Alcalde came after they had a sit-down meeting with the Prime Minister today at Old Belize. Those who attended reported to us that the meeting with the Prime Minister went well, and they had a productive discussion on many issues facing the communities of the south.

Another topic that they wished to earnestly discuss was that Greg Ch'oc has reportedly been misleading the public when he suggested that he represented Mayan Communities and their best interests. Here's how they explained why:

Joaquin Cucul - Resident, Conejo
"Since Satiim was organized about 19 years ago nothing has been done in the village of Conejo. The village of Conejo is separated right now, so will he stand up and say that he is fighting for the Maya people. He is not fighting for us the Maya people; he is fighting for his own self."

Dr. Joseph Palacio - Chairman, Barranco Village
"Satiim has taken on a fight and giving the impression that they are the voice of the Maya in Toledo when actually just to give you a little bit of information, Satiim was started some years ago to protect the Sarstoon/Temash National Park. Now there are 2 indigenous peoples that are supposed to involve in managing the park; the Maya as well as the Garifuna. Now it certainly is a fact that over the years more and more the Garifuna has been side track in the whole issue of the management of the park. More particularly within the past few weeks Satiim under Greg Ch'oc has been making statements without consulting the people in Barranco, so to a large extent we are saying that we have been left out which is a pity because if it wasn't for us the two peoples, Satiim wouldn't have started any at all."

Alejandro Tush - 2nd Alcalde, Sunday Wood Village
"They tell us that we want the communal land but we in the village in Sunday Wood, we don't support the communal land, we want the lease land."

Daniel Ortiz
"So, your fight in Sunday Wood is not for communal land, you want lease land for each individual?"

Alejandro Tush - 2nd Alcalde, Sunday Wood Village
"Yes, that's what the village wants because we don't want the communal land because we don't support that. That's why they reject our village."

Today, we spoke with Greg Ch'oc about that opposition to him being the voice of the Mayan Communities, and here's how he responded to his critics:

Greg Ch'oc, Executive Director of SATIIM
"I carry out my work base on the resolution of the community and our estimate of those who sign the resolution gives us a 75% majority support of the decision taken in those resolutions and I have consistently consulted with those communities. One of the reasons why no releases have been issued in response to the Prime Minister's position or the comment he made with respect to waiving US Capital permit is precisely because it is not Satiim that will issue the position, it is the community and I have said to the press who have called me that I can't issue a statement until the community have adequately arrive at a consensus among themselves before a decision and communication to the larger public is made."

Choq added that, quote, US capital is making the communities believe I am a powerful man … All I do is stand with the majority and follow Maya customary laws processes which unlike western systems allow for the community to retain power.

Village Leaders Well-Oiled?

And in our last piece of news from the Mayan Communities in the South, the Alcaldes who spoke with us today say that they are in support of US Capital Energy because the company has been helping their villages improve their standards of living.

They explained that the drilling in the South will also help to improve their lives with the access to jobs:

Daniel Ortiz
"Do you have any kind of ties to US Capital which would suggest that your opinion is not objective?"

Joaquin Cucul - Resident, Conejo
"I just want to clear - this is the situation: we are seeing development of this company started, so we are appreciating it, but since Satiim is there for such a long time and there are no developments, only separating the people. We don't like that anymore, so we need development and we need jobs. If Satiim would give us jobs for 19 years I don't think this would be a bigger problem. Mr. Ch'oc is delaying the Maya people of getting jobs."

Pedro Ba - 1st Alcalde, Sunday Wood Village
"We already see the benefit and the development from US Capital. In my village we already have a library and 16 computers with internet and the repairing of our bridge and our health post."

Dr. Joseph Palacio - Chairman, Barranco Village
"We are not neccessary in a position to say no to any development, particularly the one which has been in the district for quite some time, spent quite a bit of money and has followed the law as much as possible."

Daniel Ortiz
"Do you have any of ties to US Capital in any way that they can justify saying that your opinion is slanted?"

Dr. Joseph Palacio - Chairman, Barranco Village
"I certainly don't have any personal connections with US Capital at all. US Capital has assisted the village of Barranco in quite a few ways like for example in collecting our garbage for the past at least a year or two and there are other things that I can mention, but that the oil company does as a way of goodwill with people living in the buffer communities. This is the way how companies work with communities. I don't think it is an effort to deliberately bribe or to deliberately buy us the communities - it is an effort of saying we are going to be working with you - this is a goodwill gesture."

As we've told you, the Buffer Communities who are against the company has filed a post-judgement injunction seeking to restrain the Government from waiving the expiration of US Capital's Drilling Permit which would have ended on Wednesday. That injunction hearing is still pending, but as we've shown you, Prime Minister Dean Barrow has confirmed that Government has waived the expiration, rolling it over with no fixed date of expiry.

As Ch'oc said, the Communities have not come to a consensus about how they will challenge this decision. It also remains to be seen if that injunction hearing will be able to reverse that wavier of the expiration.

Channel 7

#490178 - 04/30/14 02:36 PM Re: US Capital Sympathizer Removed As Alcalde [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Patience, Belizeans, patience…

Editorial, Amandala

What might North America have been like if none of the ten Euro-Atlantic nations had ever been established? If the original Indian nations – the First Nations in Canadian parlance – had avoided the devastating epidemics of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and continued to develop on their own terms, what might they have been like today?

Actually, it seems we’re about to find out.

In the far north a very old nation is reemerging after centuries in the cold. Across the northern third of the continent, aboriginal people have been reclaiming sovereignty over traditional territories from northern Alaska to Greenland and nearly everywhere in between. In this sprawling region of dense boreal forests, Arctic tundra, and treeless, glaciated islands, many native peoples never signed away the rights to their land, which they still occupy and, to a surprising degree, continue to live off using the techniques of their forefathers. They’ve won key legal decisions in Canada and Greenland that give them considerable leverage over what happens in their territories, forcing energy, mining, and timber companies to come to them, hat in hand, for permission to move forward on resource extraction projects. In 1999 Canada’s Inuit – they don’t want to be called “Eskimos” – won their own Canadian territory, Nunavut, which is larger than Alaska.

- pg. 319, AMERICAN NATIONS, by Colin Woodard, Penguin Books, 2012

When you read the history of the Europeans after they entered/invaded the “New World” in 1492 and how they behaved or misbehaved in the centuries thereafter, the theme of greed is a dominant one. The Europeans wanted gold and silver and precious stones, and after that, using force, they grabbed enormous tracts of land to grow cash crops like sugar cane and cotton.

Eventually, they built civilizations in the Western Hemisphere which became dependent on more fossil fuel than the territories which they controlled absolutely, the United States and Canada, could provide. So in the first part of the twentieth century, the New World Europeans used all their military and financial power to bring Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich Middle East countries into line, so to speak. They had to have the Saudi and Middle East oil, because their Western economies and lifestyle demanded excessive amounts of energy.

From the time the first contact took place between the European Columbus and the indigenous people of the Caribbean islands, there was a conflict in philosophical perspective. The Europeans wanted wealth, they wanted it quickly, and they did not care what the consequences were for mother earth. The indigenous people, wherever they lived in the Western Hemisphere, had an approach to life which emphasized the sustainability of their food production and dwelling construction, and an abiding respect for the blessed bounty of the earth which had given them life, for generations and generations and generations. There was a patience in the indigenous people, and there was wisdom.

Through slavery, colonialism and military domination, the Europeans conquered and ruled the New World, and their wealth and power reached the point where, working along with Europeans from the Old World, they developed nuclear power, and with it, the actual ability to destroy the planet which had given all of us life. That was the first part of the twentieth century.

In the second half of the twentieth century, the wise men and women of the ruling Europeans began to discover that they had polluted planet earth, they had defiled the earth to such an extent that their fish and bird and animal life were being poisoned, and they realized that we human beings, in consequence, were destroying ourselves.

After that the wise men and women of the ruling Europeans, their brilliant scientists, found that the excessive consumption of fossil fuels in order to sustain their luxurious lifestyles had caused the planet to heat up in a way it had never done since the beginning of human life. It was difficult for the ruling Europeans to slow down the triumphant journey to untold wealth which they had begun in 1492, much less stop and reverse it. It was very difficult, and so the rulers of mankind push forward inexorably to increased heating of the planet, with consequences which endanger our very human existence, even as nuclear power had first endangered human existence seven decades ago.

The Europeans had always criticized indigenous peoples, from the first contact, as being backward and primitive and slow, and they used these criticisms as excuses to subjugate, mutilate, and exploit us. The Europeans were moving crazy fast, you see, while we were moving in harmony with the cycles of the planet – the rising of the sun and the movement of the tides and the wonders of the planet and animal life around us.

Through the centuries following contact, there have been many of us of New World origin who have abandoned our ancestors’ way of life and have embraced the civilizations of the ruling Europeans. This seemed like the logical, progressive thing to do, but today, there is a reason why the ruling Europeans are pouring out of their concrete jungles into the pristine environments of places like Belize, even when they can only afford to do so for a few days on a cruise ship. The scientists of the ruling Europeans have now understood, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that there is a need to preserve the flora and fauna and habitats outside of their developed world. At last, the ruling Europeans have begun to understand that there was a wisdom in the indigenous peoples all this while, and that wisdom had counseled patience, that wisdom had counseled respect for earth.

It is at this precise time that the ruling Europeans have begun to get the sense, as we say, that more and more of us Belizeans have become frenzied off the prospect of oil finds in our sovereign state. Our schools have not taught Belizeans what happens in poor countries which abandon their way of life to chase the oil dream. It is too late to show Belizeans the human carnage of Indonesia and Nigeria and Iraq. All our people are seeing now, if we are to judge from the statements of our duly elected politicians, is the pot of black gold at the end of the Belizean rainbow. It is for this reason that the government and people of Belize have decided that SATIIM must be sacrificed to U.S. Capital Energy.

At this newspaper, we do not agree. Our position is that we cannot eat oil, and we cannot drink oil. Our position is that unless our people are empowered through education and skills training, it is only the politicians, the lawyers, and their cronies who will benefit from oil finds here.

Non-Maya ethnic groups in Toledo have turned against SATIIM, and the oil company has even bought out some of the Kek’chi Maya themselves. Belize has gone oil mad, and SATIIM will be the sacrifice. We cannot save SATIIM, but we can support SATIIM. And, that is what this newspaper will continue to do. If only you could see and understand all that is to be seen and all that is to be understood, gentle friends.

Patience, Belizeans, patience …


#490197 - 05/01/14 06:09 AM Re: US Capital Sympathizer Removed As Alcalde [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

US Capital granted extension to drill in the Sarstoon-Temash

A delegation of elders from several villages comprising the buffer communities of the Sarstoon-Temash National Park is set to conduct an assessment of oil drilling activities taking place within the protected area on Thursday.  The visit, we understand, is being organized by the Maya Leaders Alliance.  While an expedition into the area where U.S. Capital is carrying out exploratory work has been planned, it is business as usual for the oil company.  On April fourth, country representative Alistair King applied to the Forest Department for an extension of the license granted to U.S. Capital for operations inside the national park.  That application came on the heels of a ruling handed down by Justice Michelle Arana a day earlier in which she reaffirmed Maya communal land rights.  Justice Arana pronounced that the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous community should have been sought before the issuance of the permit but US Capital Energy is of the view that the Justice stopped short of quashing the license.  That concession was to have expired today; however, the Government of Belize has opted to waive the deadline until the conclusion of a consultation exercise with the relevant communities.  On Tuesday, that agreement was formalized through a letter signed by the Administrator for National Parks, Hannah St. Luce-Martinez and Chief Forest Officer, Wilber Sabido.  The letter states, “in the exercise of the discretion given to me by law I consider it appropriate to defer deciding on the application for an extension until I am informed as to the outcome of the consultation.  However, in the further exercise of discretion I am satisfied that it would be contrary to the spirit and the literal terms of the recent decision of the Honorable Madame Justice Arana for me to stop the operations for which the permit was granted.  I note that Her Ladyship specifically refused to stop operations.  In the circumstances I consider it best to waive the expiration date stated in the permit…” We will have more on this developing story in Friday’s newscast.

Channel 5

#490291 - 05/03/14 06:01 AM Re: US Capital Sympathizer Removed As Alcalde [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Alcaldes meeting in Punta Gorda

Alcaldes meeting in Punta Gorda town

The Maya communities in the Toledo district that are near to the drilling site for US Capital energy are intent on keeping the pressure on the oil company to suspend operations until prior and informed consent is obtained.

On Thursday, bus loads of people showed up at the site inside the Sarstoon Temash National Park; but they were met with resistance, including a group of police officers.

Today, Alcaldes from 38 Maya communities met at the Social Security Board conference room in Punta Gorda town for what can only be described as a strategy session.

At the heart of the discussion by organizers of the meeting were perceived moves by US Capital Energy to persuade Maya leaders to come out in support of the drilling activities.

The meeting today was chaired by the president of Alcaldes Association Alfonso Cal who encouraged the Alcaldes to keep the fight going saying “we might lose the battle; but the war is yet to be determined.”

At today’s meeting it was reiterated that this so-called “war” is now between the Maya people and the government of Belize/US Capital Energy.

The two-hour long meeting ended with a call to the Alcaldes to stay focused.

Another visit to the drill sight is anticipated, although no date for that visit has yet been determined.

Patrick Jones

#490294 - 05/03/14 06:10 AM Re: US Capital Sympathizer Removed As Alcalde [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Mayans From Buffer Community Got To Us Capital Drillpad For A Showdown

The exploration permit for US Capital Energy was supposed to have expired yesterday, May first. But, it didn't; the Administrator of National Parks and the Chief Forestry Officer simply rolled it over, waiving the expiration date, which allowed the company to keep operations going.

But the Mayan communities in the buffer zone rejected that decision; they say it is illegitimate because it defies the judgment handed down by Justice Michelle Arana. And so the Mayans say that they'll monitor the drill site inside the Sarstoon Temash National themselves. Sounds a lot simpler than it is - since that would be considered a trespass by the private oil company. But trepass is just what they did yesterday. Our colleagues from KREM News were there - and Daniel Ortiz put together this story.

Daniel Ortis reporting
Yesterday morning at around 10:00, about a hundred or so residents of the Mayan Buffer Communities made their way to US Capital Energy's A1 Drill Site, which is about 10 meters inside the Sarstoon Temash National Park.

7 miles before reaching the site, the group encountered resistance from Police and US Capital Energy's representatives.

Their wanted to go into US Capital's compound unhindered, since, according to them, the oil company should no longer be there. They asked no permission from the company to accommodate them, but the Mayans believed they needed none from anyone.

Pablo Mes - Maya Leader
"The community members is that they want to join the alcaldes and the chairman that's here as we explained the purpose is to go and see what's happening out there - this is Maya lands and we want to be able to enter."

Dr. Michael Tewes - Health Safety Environmental Manager, US Capital Energy
"Mr. Mes, let me try and make it simpler for the people right. This is a big crowd of people, we can't deal with all of this, we can't deal with the security of this crowd. But if at any time any alcalde wants to bring his people to come here please man, get in touch with us at the office."

Pablo Mes - Maya Leader
"We did that. We inform the company that we were going to be here."

Dr. Michael Tewes
"No sir. Someone drop a letter in my secretary office and left, nobody talk to nobody. We might not even have spoken to anybody. We might not even have known of this."

Pablo Mes - Maya Leader
"We informed the Forest Department."

Dr. Michael Tewes
"Where us the Forest Department?"

Pablo Mes - Maya Leader
"Let me put this out, we did not ask the Forest Department asking for permission to be here. The 2010 judgment and the 2013 court of appeal decision also said that this is Maya land. So it's a matter of courtesy that we inform the Forest Department and now we are being very courteous in also asking the company."

Dr. Michael Tewes
"Let me tell you something that is not for me to decide. That's why the government has its people here to decide the law. I am not a lawyer, I don't decide the law. I follow the instructions that are given to us."

That back and forth continued on for about 15 minutes. It wasn't until the police told the crowd that they weren't being physically restrained from entering, that they jumped over the rope and barged into the area.

Once inside, the leaders declared that they intend to police the drill site for themselves every single day.

Pablo Mes - Maya Leader
"Today we come to set foot on this land and we want to say that every day from here on we will be watching what's going to happen on these lands; these lands that belongs to the Maya people. We know the forest, we know the river ways, we know every creek, every dry swamp - we will be watching this land because we will defend it for our people."

"We came here this morning not to fight. We came with no machetes, we came with no gun, we didn't come to cause any crime. But if it is a crime to walk on our own lands; if it is a crime to walk freely on our own land then let them take us where they want to take us."

Alfonso Cal - President, Toledo Alcalde Association
"If I go to another country - just walk in, you think they will let me go like that - no. Absolutely they will arrest me. So we are not afraid, we are walking in our own land and this is the struggle that we will do for our 39 communities. We are doing to strengthen ourselves together so that we move together."

Greg Ch'oc - Executive Director, SATIIM
"You cannot be saying you are acting in good faith when you are allowing the company to do what they want. It reminds of what successive government leaders have said: you come with us like a gun in front of you - that's exactly what the government is doing. They want to consult but yet allow US Capital to continue with the activity. That's not good faith - that could never be good faith. A rational person will never conclude to be good faith."

Cristina Coc - Spokesperson, Maya Leaders Alliance
"And out testimony for this morning is to say that we are standing on our land as Maya people. This is our land. We do not need a court to tell us. We do not need the politicians to accept or to agree with us - this is our land. We were born here, we were raised here, we eat off this land, we will die on this land and if it is at the hands of US Capital, we will do so."

Of important note is that after their initial reluctance to allow the Mayans into the Drilling area, Dr. Michael Tewes, the Company's Health Safety and Environmental Manager, allowed the bus carrying the Mayans to travel all the way to the drill site.

The condition was that they could enter the area, but they couldn't leave the bus when they arrived at the actual drilling area.

Channel 7


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