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#490507 - 05/06/14 11:25 AM The faceoff at the Sarstoon/Temash
Marty Offline
“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.”

- pg. 7 editorial in Amandala of Sunday, May 4, 2014

“All your friends are false; all your enemies are real.”

- A Mexican proverb quoted on page 127 of From Beirut to Jerusalem, by Thomas Friedman, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1989

“’What surprised me most was how much the Indians believed the white man over and over again,’ Dee Brown told a newspaper reporter in the early 1970s. ‘Their trust in authority was amazing. They just never seemed to believe that anyone could lie.’”

- pg. xvii, FOREWORD by Hampton Sides to Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Dee Brown, Picador edition, 2007

Cheap, abundant petroleum is a primary foreign policy objective of the United States of America, the world’s superpower and the undisputed boss of the planet’s Western Hemisphere. The political leaders of the United States are elected by voters who want an ever improving standard of living. Cheap, abundant petroleum is a prerequisite for maintaining and improving America’s wealth and power.

When British Honduras became a self-governing colony in January of 1964, we Belizeans did not realize that at that point we were really entering the orbit of United States’ influence. Even if we had so realized, very few of us would have objected. The research of California-based Belizean Dr. Jerome Straughan has established that Belizeans had been travelling to the United States to work and live from the latter part of the nineteenth century, after the U.S. Civil War was won by the Union under Abraham Lincoln, a Union which had abolished slavery. Early in the twentieth century, especially during and after World War I (1914-1918), a great deal more movement from British Honduras to America took place, especially through the New Orleans port of entry.

And so it was that after Hurricane Hattie devastated Belize City and Stann Creek Town in late October of 1961, and the United States government of President John F. Kennedy made it so that those stricken Belizeans who had relatives in the U.S. could take refuge with their American relatives, there was a highly significant movement of Belizeans to America which has never been quantified. This movement “sealed the deal” where majority black Belizeans were concerned: we became Americanized.

The role of the various U.S. governments in supporting Guatemalan governments which oppressed and persecuted Guatemala’s majority indigenous population was little known in Belize, except perhaps in our remote western and southern border areas. In fact, by the time we urban Belizeans embraced America big time after Hurricane Hattie, civil war conditions existed in Guatemala wherein the Guatemalan army, fully supported by the American government and military, was carrying out brutal anti-insurgency campaigns in the Guatemalan countryside. The army’s targets and victims were mostly indigenous Guatemalans, who were accused of becoming or supporting communism.

In 2014, the most educated, skilled, sophisticated and wealthy sector of the Belizean population is constituted by those Belizeans who live and work in the United States. Those Belizeans in the diaspora have minimal involvement of a direct nature in Belizean electoral politics, and they have fewer socio-political rights in Belize than they would like, but they do contribute substantially (apart from financially) to the Belizean mood and perspective at home, especially in this age of modern telecommunications.

We are not going to blame diaspora Belizeans for the present state of affairs wherein some Belizean indigenous citizens are being victimized in southern Toledo where the Sarstoon and Temash rivers run. What we would say is that we at this newspaper, who conditionally support the rights of Belize’s indigenous people, cannot now appeal to Belizeans in the diaspora, as we have done in the past specifically where the Guatemalan claim is concerned, because we cannot expect diaspora Belizeans to support the Toledo Maya. Diaspora Belizeans are pro-American in their thinking, and they are Americanized in their outlook. They will see nothing wrong with a Belize government going overboard to facilitate oil drilling and riding roughshod over our indigenous people’s rights at the same time.

The issue in the Sarstoon/Temash is an emotional one for us at this newspaper, because we have seen similar things happen to indigenous people in North America itself, in the centuries before this one. When we saw the faces of the Kek’chi Maya demonstrating last Wednesday in an attempt to enter their own lands in the Sarstoon/Temash, we saw the faces of the Seminoles, the Cherokee, the Crow, the Sioux, the Navajo, the Apache, and all the Native American peoples who were thrust backwards violently and ground under by the wheels of European invasion/”progress.” We had hoped that such an inhumane era had passed, that such a scenario would not take place in twentieth-first century Belize. Indeed, hope springs eternal, but this ain’t looking nice.

Belize’s politics is controlled by attorneys, and after these several decades we have all seen how they operate. The lawyers are cynical and cold-blooded. They “believe” one thing when they are in office, and “believe” the exact opposite thing when they are in Opposition. Hence, today the ruling UDP support U.S. Capital Energy while they beat down the Maya. If the UDP were to lose power tomorrow, however, they would immediately begin to attack U.S. Capital Energy and glorify the Maya. Needless to say, vice versa holds true for the PUP.

Not all the indigenous people’s friends are false. Among the real friends of the Maya we humbly count ourselves at Kremandala. It is by their fruit that ye shall know them. Thus, it is written.


#490680 - 05/09/14 05:52 AM Re: The faceoff at the Sarstoon/Temash [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

SATIIM To GOB: “Corrupt, inept, despotic and discriminatory”

Last week Tuesday, the Administrator of National Parks and the Chief Forestry Officer officially waived the expiration date on the permit they granted to US Capital Energy to enter the Sarstoon Temash National Park to conduct oil exploration activities. It's been a week since that decision, but yesterday, SATIIM and the buffer communities of Midway, Conejo, Crique Sarco and Graham Creek, voiced their anger at the Government of Belize for that decision. They've interpreted it to mean that Government is ignoring their Mayan Customary Land Rights. And so they describe the waiver as quote, a "historical trademark of a corrupt, inept, despotic and discriminatory government."

Strong words, and the communities added that the waiver of the permit is an attempt to circumvent past rulings of the court, including the last one from Justice Michelle Arana delivered on April 3.

Greg Ch'oc, the Executive Director of SATIIM, wrote to the Prime Minister last week Thursday, asking him to reconsider the waiver. He called it an act bad faith in negotiating with the Buffer Zone Communities. Ch'oc wrote that Government has expressed their intentions to comply with the orders of the court in trying to consult with the communities to get consent. He notes, however, that it is impossible for the consultation to be truly effective while allowing the company to operate as it has been doing, which, in his view, flies in the face of the judgement from Justice Arana.

Ch'oc ends his letter by strongly urging Prime Minister Dean Barrow to reconsider the waiver and the government interpretation of the judgement from Justice Arana, which he describes as grossly inaccurate.

So, while SATIIM and those communities are condemning the Government and US Capital, the fact of the matter is that there are villages in the Buffer Zone who are sympathetic to the oil company. The economics of that decision seems to be very simple; poverty is widespread, opportunities are few and US Capital is giving them employment.

In the Village of Barranco however, apart from economics, there are also a cultural and historical components at play which three villagers explained to us:

Villager - Barranco
"When they come we have jobs for at least 6 months and they would lay us off and then Satiim as a representative of the buffer zone around here - we are not getting anything from Satiim. I support Gregory Ch'oc with the fighting for the Maya people. One thing that I didn't like about him not mentioning Barranco in his... he talks about indigenous, but all of us in this area are indigenous."

Villager - Barranco
"The only time that we see Gregory Ch'oc around is when US Capital is looking to do something. If US Capital says that they will move out, Gregory Ch'oc and Satiim would get out of the place."

Villager - Sunday Wood
"They say that Sunday Wood is with them, but Sunday Wood is not with them. They are using the name. We are not negotiating with Satiim. We are negotiating with the government and US Capital."

Sunday Wood Village and their First Alcalde, Pedro Ba, have openly declared their support of US Capital Energy for the assistance they've received in improving their village.

Channel 7

#491159 - 05/21/14 06:14 AM Re: The faceoff at the Sarstoon/Temash [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

SATIIM Says It Will Abide With Court Process Only So Long

Three weeks ago - US Capital Energy rolled over into a new phase of their oil exploration activities in the Sarstoon Temash National Park. That's when the government-sanctioned waiver of the expiration date on their license came into effect. Since then, leaders of the Mayan villages buffering the national park have been consulting with their communities and trying to arrive at a consensus position. It has been complicated because to a large extent, US Capital Energy has used economic influence to create allies in these communities where opportunities are scarce. And US Capital has been steadily backed up by the Government of Belize - which has thrown its support behind the oil company at the political, policy and personnel level.

So where does the balance of power rest now - after US Capital has sniped off key support in buffer communities like Sundaywood? That's what today's press conference outside of Punta Gorda town was supposed to answer. It was held this afternoon - and 7news was there. Greg Ch'oc outlined the consensus position of the communities:...

Greg Ch'oc, Executive Director, SATIIM
"We therefore declare: we this day reassert our inherent right to self-determination as indigenous people under international law. We will not stop nor be deterred from achieving this objective. We demand an immediate halt to the violation of our internationality and nationally recognize right including the plan destruction of our livelihood which we condemn as a form of cultural genocide. We call on the government of Belize to respect the laws of this country and orders of its court by immediately recognizing, respecting and protecting the ancestral customary rights of our people to their lands, territories and natural resources."

"In cases where our lands have been expropriated, the government of Belize must rapidly returned these lands to us along with full and just compensation. We categorically reject the government of Belize oil development agenda which will lead to the expulsion of our people from our rightfully held land and territories and condemn us to further discrimination exclusion and impoverishment."

Eamon Courtenay, Attorney for SATIIM
"Up until today there has been no consultation by the government of Belize with my clients in compliance with the order of the supreme court. The government has embarked upon a charade of having supposed consultations with other parties who are not parties to the claim. We call on the government to obey the rule of law and the order of the Supreme Court."

"We have filed an application for a post judgment injunction which is to be heard on the 16th June."

And while we wait until June 16th. For that hearing, how long will the Mayan communities wait if US Capital and the Government continue to proceed in what they believe is a lawless fashion? Ch'oc says they are doing their best to be patient:..

Greg Ch'oc, Executive Director, SATIIM
"The time is drawing near when I believe that the community have and are becoming impatient, want to ensure that we live in a society where the rule of law prevails and they have demonstrated their commitment to uphold the rule of law. But it cannot be a one sided process. We as indigenous people as Belizean understand and know what our rights are and I know that the time is fast drawing near when we will stand to defend those rights because it means that either we have a community of Mayas in the future or we have a population decimated by the polices of government of Belize."

"We could block US Capital and their people from going in, but I think that we want to give the new injunction application that we have applied. I think that we have are being restrained among ourselves decided that we should refrain from engaging physically from confronting US Capital to give the process a chance and I want to make it clear here to the government of Belize and especially to the Prime Minister of this country that if he believes that the Maya community is going to waiver, is going to be frustrated, he needs to understand the legacy of resistance is in our blood, it has been there for the last 500 years and as long as we are alive we will continue with our sustained effort and when we reach that point where we believe the court is no longer able to protect our interest or the government refuse to protect interest then it is the community that will make a determine decision on what appropriate action they will take."

Ch'oc says that at this time, there is nothing occurring on the drill site that would warrant them to go in.

Channel 7


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