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#492218 - 06/13/14 06:57 AM Green Tropics issues eviction notice to farmers
Marty Offline

Green Tropics issues eviction notice to Valley of Peace farmers

There is tension tonight among the farming community of the Valley of Peace. As you know by now, the farmers lost their vegetables when the herbicide Roundup was used in aerial spraying. The company, Green Tropics, was fingered in the spraying but the company says it owns the land. On Wednesday, the farmers received an eviction notice and clearly they don’t want to leave the land that they have harvested for more than two decades. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Guillermo Maroquin, a resident of Valley of Peace, is one of a handful of farmers who have been tilling the soil near the outskirts of this predominantly Hispanic community for at least two decades.  For him and his family agriculture is the only livelihood they know.

Guillermo Maroquin, Farmer, Valley of Peace

“I used to work along with my father, when I feel I had some strength I came apart from my father and started to work my own area and then it’s just since I remember I am working there.”

Guillermo Maroquin

Of the three plantations that he now owns and manages, Maroquin is busy harvesting a variety of produce, including sweet peppers, from this twenty-five acre spread.  While the yield has been rather successful, given the obstacles that he has had to face over the past few months, the future of his occupation in this area is uncertain.

Guillermo Maroquin

“All of a sudden this company comes and says this land is ours and you have to come out and that’s, well we feel bad right because we have been working here for a lot of time.”

That company is Green Tropics Ltd.  The foreign concern is responsible for the recent destruction of vegetables on a huge swath of farmland used by members of the Valley of Peace Farmers Association.  On Monday, an eviction letter was issued to several farmers ordering them to abandon their respective acreages no later than July fifteenth.  The move comes on the heels of what should have been peaceful negotiations to resolve the issue.

Jose Alpuche

Jose Alpuche, C.E.O., Ministry of Agriculture

“It is a turn of event that is regrettable because we had, when we last had a discussion with all three parties they were to go out and negotiate amongst themselves.  Neither party has alerted us that they had reached an impasse and certainly none of them really informed us of this development.  I learnt of it late yesterday evening and, as I said, I haven’t had a chance to speak to them as yet.”

Maroquin, as president of the local association, says that his colleagues aren’t prepared to part with their lands.  After all, they have invested everything into making their business profitable.

Guillermo Maroquin

“They say that they are not coming out of the land.  They say that nobody said nothing from the beginning.  If the land had an owner I think we’d have the right for the owner to come and tell us, “you know what this land is for us, it’s for me and you can’t work here.”  At least that should have happened right but nobody came.  We felt the land had no owner, so how comes all of a sudden this company comes to the country, buys everything and then expects us to move from there and we have been working there a long, long time ago.”

From the look of things the matter will likely be resolved in court.

Jose Alpuche

“The issue of land tenure is one that usually ends up in court and it’s not related to this, it’s basically anyone because you have two parties that are claiming rights and usually it’s the court that would have to resolve that issue.”

Isani Cayetano

“You guys are moving on to get a lawyer involved in terms of representing you in court, should this matter go that far…”

Guillermo Maroquin

“Well I hope it doesn’t go this far but if it goes this way we’ll have to get a lawyer.”

For now, work continues on the leafy tract.  While the men are out in the field harvesting their crops, a toddler, seated on the lap of a parent, is being taught how to work the land, beginning with sharpening his own machete.  Guillermo is his medium, a second generation farmer in the agrarian community.

Guillermo Maroquin

“Every day I have to come, I have to check the soil if it’s dry.  I have to just spray or put in water, water the plants, spray if [there are] any bugs or anything and then I have to keep it clean, a lot of work.  I have to work whole day.”

Isani Cayetano

“And you feel as if though your livelihood is now being threatened by the fact that this company is asking you to get off the land, land that you have been working for over twenty years, as you said.”

Guillermo Maroquin

“Well it’s not fair.  It’s not fair because I have a whole life of work in this way from almost six o’clock in the morning to six o’clock in the evening just for one day the company just comes and says, “You know what, this is for me.”

The Ministry of Agriculture, for its part, is trying its best to arbitrate the matter.  The outcome however, is uncertain.

Jose Alpuche

“We will try to contact the parties to see whether there is room for further discussion and the ministry really stands ready to try and see if we could reach an amicable settlement.  The last that we had heard was that there were offers on the table and those offers were being seriously considered.  So, as I said, it came as a bit of a surprise last night that negotiations had, well had abruptly ended and reached to this level.”

Channel 5

#492275 - 06/14/14 06:04 AM Re: Green Tropics issues eviction notice to farmers [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Valle De Paz Farmers will not Move!

vlcsnap-2014-06-13-08h07m56s192VoPGreen tropics, also registered in Belize as Santander Sugar and Santander Farms wants the Farmers of Valle de Paz to evacuate the property by the end of the week.

To be more specific, by 3:00 p. m. on Sunday, June 15th, they sent an official letter to the members of the Association of Farmers of Valle De Paz in which they categorically stated that either they remove themselves from the land by the given time or “expect to hear from us through the courts.” 

In response, the attorneys for the Farmers of Valle de Paz, Barrow & Co. LLP stated that the Santander Group and their attorney Mikhail Arguelles & Associates is time barred from any civil proceedings.

The letter went as such As your client is well aware, our clients ( Farmers Association of Valle de Paz) have been farming the land in question for well in excess of thirty years. The limitation period prescribed by Section 12 of the Limitation Act for any action to recover land has accordingly expired regardless of whether the lands were privately or publicly held prior to acquisition by your client”.


#492350 - 06/17/14 04:36 AM Re: Green Tropics issues eviction notice to farmers [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Farmers Sue Green Tropics For Damage Crops

"I'll see you in court!" - That's basically what the Valley of Peace farmers had to say to Green Tropics today. The two sides were supposed to have a site visit mediated by the Ministry of Agriculture. But when the farmers representatives showed up - they told both the Ministry and the Green Tropics representatives that they rather all discussions be held with their attorneys. On Thursday, the Ministry had gotten both sides to agree to re-commence negotiations towards resolving three key points. But now it's left up to the lawyers, which most likely means a protracted back and forth in court.

And court is where we met Julius Espat, the PUP Area Rep. from Cayo South. He was there for another village matter and today he told us why he believes it is a "David vs. Goliath" battle:

Hon. Julius Espat - Area Rep. Cayo South
"I am fundamentally opposed by the comments made by government ministers and government representatives when it pertains to leaving it to court. You see for too long the impoverish people of Belize are not treated and fairly and I'll explain to you: You have a large conglomerate that have access to money, access to attorneys going to court against a farmer that doesn't understand the system - has no money to take an attorney to court and I believe that it is the representative responsibility - all of us, the 31 of us in the house to be there to protect our people. So, I am saying you cannot let them go to court when it's unfairly done, meaning when it's not equal. So what our role is and what I am doing and I believe what my role is an elective representative is to give the ammunition to the impoverish people - to the farmers so that they can become equal and then you take them to court or then you negotiate. You cannot negotiate on weakness, you have to negotiate on strength and that's all we are doing is giving them access to an attorney, giving them access to information, explaining the law to them and letting them understand that they are not there alone and after that if it has to go to the court then we are fine with that and even if it has to go to negotiations we are fine with that too but don't put me in a room with a sumo- wrestler that is 500 pounds of weight and I am only 50 pounds and tell me that it is fair."

The farmers are represented by Andrew Marshalleck and Green Tropics by Mikhail Arguelles.

As we've reported, there is an ongoing dispute because the 32 farmers of Valley of Peace say Green Tropics used pesticides that damaged their crops. The company says the farmers are illegally occupying the company's lands.

Channel 7

#496053 - 09/25/14 06:04 AM Re: Green Tropics issues eviction notice to farmers [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Valley Of Peace Farmers Reach Accommodation With Multinational

Six months ago, we first told you about the dispute in Valley of Peace village in the Cayo District after 31 small farmers went head to head with the multinational, Green Tropics Limited. The farmers complained that Green Tropics sprayed herbicides on their crops from a crop duster. They claimed that the company damaged over a hundred thousand dollars worth of their crops, which they wanted compensation for. Green Tropics countered that these farmers were squatting on the company's land, and so, the dispute had to be settled by the attorneys for both sides or it would end up in a drawn out legal battle. Well, the news tonight is after months of negotiation, both sides have arrived at settlement believed to mutually beneficial. This morning, we spoke with the attorney for the farmers, and he told us what that resolution is:

Andrew Marshalleck - Attorney for the Farmers

"There has been an agreement with both parties, they've both agreed to the terms and I think it works in the interest of both sides. In terms of exactly what it is from the farmers' side, they're releasing any claims they have based on any adversed position of lands belonging to Green Tropics other than a 160 acre parcel that's been identified. And they're also releasing any claims that they have arising out of the damaged crops. From the company's side, they're agreed to subdividing off a 160 acre plot, readying it for agriculture and transferring title to the farmers. It works for the farmers that they now have legal title to the land, defined space, know that their rights are and can continue their farming. And it works for the company in that the squatting issue has been resolved, the crop damage issue has been resolved and this is without any admission of liability on anybody's part and they regularise relationship with their neighbours, so it sets a positive framework for them to move forward."

Hon. Julius Espat - Area Rep, Cayo South

"This shows that when you want to do things amicably, it can happen for the benefit of both parties. We in Cayo South and in the Cayo District appreciate that Green Tropics is investing millions of dollars in our area. We are also appreciative that the farmers will get titles to land, they have never had that for 33 years. My hats off to Green Tropics for facilitating this. They could have acted in a different way and dragged it off in court and nobody would have only have enough money to able to have done that and we would have been in court for years and the poor farmers would have suffered. And I give my hats off to the farmers, who understood for the first time that they have power in unity."

According to Marshalleck, the 160 acres of land which will be handed over to the farmers will have an area of a buffer zone to ensure that crop dusting with herbicides does not affect them in the future. Another notable characteristic to this land allocation is that the Valley of Peace Farmers want the entire farming association to be legally bound so that no one person out of the group can sell off a parts of the land without approval of all the farmers.

Channel 7


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