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#505507 - 06/26/15 04:38 AM Inside The Arraignment of The Santa Cruz 13  
Joined: Oct 1999
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Last night, we showed you a small excerpt of the extraordinary day at the Magistrate's Court in Punta Gorda Town. 13 Mayas from Santa Cruz village were arraigned, accused of unlawfully detaining Rupert Myles on Saturday, June 20.

Tonight we have the full report on the day from PG - a day that won't soon be forgotten:

Daniel Ortiz reporting
About an hour before the scheduled arraignment, a number of Maya supporters began lining the verandah of the Punta Gorda Magistrate's Court.

Right next door, police officers from different units had gathered. The Punta Gorda formation was reinforced with out-of-town officers from the Special Patrol Unit, ADU, and Mobile Interdiction Team.

In the back of one of the vehicles, the police had riot shields and helmets ready. They were prepared to contain any disruptive behavior from the Mayas, but on this day, all the spectators were calmly waiting to see their people charged and bailed.

Everyone was ready - that is - everyone except the defendants. The predawn police raid on Santa Cruz left a number of them without shirts or footwear - and they could not appear before the judge like that.

Pablo Mes - Program Officer, MLA/TAA
"Essentially there was a morning raid of the community of around 4 this morning. Right now there are some delay with the arraignment because the deputy commanding officer of the Punta Gorda Police Station have ask us to find clothing for 4 of the prisoners who cannot come before the magistrate without the proper clothing. So we are in a stall right now trying to find clothing for those 4 gentlemen."

So, to speed things along 4 of the supporters who went to court opted to strip down and take off their shirts, just so that the accused could be properly attired for the court. The wardrobe donors waited the entire time without shirts.

Police were then finally ready to march them over to the Magistrate's court. At the lead was firebrand Mayan Leaders Alliance spokesperson Cristina Coc. She was wearing an orange cloth over her nose and mouth, and she had on an interesting T-Shirt. Both suggested that she was tipping her hat to Subcomandante Marcos of the Zapatistas, the Mayan resistance movement from Mexico. Other reports suggested that it was pure coincidence that Coc was wearing that shirt. The cloth over face was supposed to deal with germs, because she reportedly had a case of the flu.

But, while she was walking to the courtroom, the woman officer escorting her purposefully pulled down the cloth covering her face, an act to defy her defiance, as if to make sure the cameras caught her full profile.

All 12 defendants then waited at the entrance of the court until Magistrate Emmerson Banner was ready.

They then went in and exited after their charges were read to them. Their attorney told the press that the bail terms were tough to meet, but it could have been a worse if the Magistrate had been overly strict with the procedures.

Audrey Matura - Shepherd - Attorney for the Accused
"Bail was set at $8,000.00 initially. However, under the regulations of the instructions issued by the chief magistrate, if your bail is over $5,000, you must bring land paper. Now we are talking with people who are talking about communal land rights, so they don't have land papers. So, effectively you can't get bail. Now the magistrate, I made an application to him to ask him to use his discretion because he has the power to use his discretion and vary the term of bail - the amount. He can give either the $8,000 and split it into two surety which means that each person will be only signing to $4,000 each or he can reduce the bail to $5,000 or less so that you can access bail without getting land papers."

"I must say that initially he has indicate his style is that once he give bail - that's it. But I am glad that he heard our application and use his discretion, because as I pointed out to him under our constitution bail is a right. It is not a privilege. Your right to freedom is important. So no court system should give you some kind of bail or make some kind of provision that makes it beyond your reach."

As to the charges against her clients, Matura-Shepherd says that the laws treat an Alcalde of a Mayan Village like a local magistrate, who has such powers.

Audrey Matura - Shepherd - Attorney for the Accused
"What is unfair here, that people don't understand is that under our law, the inferior court's act, there is provision that every alcalde - every village that's run by an alcalde is a court system unto themselves. That alcalde sits as a magistrate. Ironically, in this matter the alcalde who head the proceedings that day has not been arrested and charged and they know why. But the chairman has been charged as well as the second alcalde has been charged. The truth is they have the right as they were having that morning a proceeding when this man interrupted and when this man stomped his hand on the desk and he threaten that if they didn't deal with his matter first, that he would get a firearm that was in his vehicle and he walked towards his vehicle. Why is it that the police don't want to investigate that?"

The question was put to the leaders, this issue of outsiders being allowed in Mayan communities. The people on the ground say that Mayan communities have been hostile to outsiders, especially those of creole origin, such much so that it has the appearance of racism. Before they could get to that, though, onlookers made it clear that they must answer to that issue. A few even tried to hijack the media's interview just to make sure.

Pablo Mes - Program Officer, MLA/TAA
"Our message again is, we are not broken. For over 500 years this has been done to us and today will not mark that day of breaking us. We will rise and we will be speaking together as a people and we will make the government know that this is not only against the Maya people, it is against all marginalize people in this world. Thank you."

"Pablo when I left you yesterday, you were about to begin a community meeting in Santa Cruz. What was the outcome of that meeting sir?"

Pablo Mes - Program Officer, MLA/TAA
"Firstly, I am willing to respond to the questions one by one. I got confused with you question. Lastly I will say that we've always been a peaceful people. We've lived with everyone. We've shared with everyone and we've all said that we need to abide by the laws, by the rules of every sector of society. When our own community member's break laws wherever, we make sure that they understand that there is an obligation for us to own those wrongs and we expect this government to own those wrongs. We have been consistent. We have stood firm with marginalize communities in Belize, regardless of race and we will continue that struggle, that stance, not just for the Maya people, but for all marginalize and poorer in Belize."

Daniel Ortiz
"Do you concede that while that is the position at the helm of the Mayan communities, there may be those on the fringes who don't particularly perform the same declarations you have and this case the gentleman is alleging that the chairman was the one who showed racist attitudes towards his attempt to get a legitimate residency in Santa Cruz. Do you accept that that could happen?"

Pablo Mes - Program Officer, MLA/TAA
"I would say that the bottom-line in all of Belize, in all of the world - all over, the issue of racism exists. It exists."

Daniel Ortiz
"And the allegation is that it exists in this instance."

Pablo Mes - Program Officer, MLA/TAA
"Clearly you would see that the community wasn't acting together. They were acting on the principle of upholding customary law. That's very clear."

As you heard in our interview, there were PG residents of Creole and Garifuna decent who stood nearby to hear what the Maya leaders had to say about the arraignment and about the accusations of racism that Rupert Myles has made against the villagers of Santa Cruz. They refused to let the issue simply end with the answer from the representative of the Maya Leaders Alliance and the Toledo Alcalde Association. One of them, Linda Smith, granted an interview in which she asserts that what Rupert Myles experienced in Santa Cruz is what other persons of different ethnicities regularly experience when they try to live in other Mayan communities. Here's how she explained it:

Linda Smith, resident - PG Town
"Many things have happened. Teachers' houses have been burnt down because they don't want them in the villages. But these things are muzzled and we don't get a chance to talk. I am not a lawyer, but I am here to stand up for everybody else that is not Belizean, because Creole, Mestizo, East Indian - all of us have a right and if that is their position - if you want communal land and you want the first word on what is in your village, then you cannot go to other parts of the country and expect that we welcome you with open arms because we need land too. We cannot get land out here because Mayan people are out here. We cannot get land in the villages because Mayan people are there too. So, what is left for the rest of the country?"

"I don't think that we should focused this on government, because this is happening right here in town. This is happening right here in the villages. This young lady has a personal story that she talks about her husband being attacked because he is not black, he is not Mayan, but he is Hispanic. So I thing you should listen to her too because not only a black thing, it's a Mestizo, East Indian things. Its anything as long as you are not Mayan, you are violated when you go in the villages."

The woman and her husband say that they have reported the incident to police. The problem is that they cannot offer any proof that her husband was stabbed in a sort of race crime as compared to a random act of violence.

And in a statement issued this evening, The Toledo Alcalde's Association announced today that the Alcalde of Santa Cruz village was arrested and charged with unlawful imprisonment along with the 12 Mayans who were arrested the day before.

The Association makes it clear that they did not appreciate the pre-dawn police raid to round up the accused persons, some of them without shoes or shirts. They also allege that 3 of the 13, and the wife of one of the men were injured during that operation. The Association asserts also that police denied the injured woman her rights to make a complaint against the police for allegedly injuring her.

The Association also restated their position that Rupert Myles allegedly threatened them with a weapon. The statement also repeats that they only detained him as a last resort only after trying to reason with him for months after - they say - he built his house on the grounds of the Uxbenka Archaeological site, and during the course of its construction, he allegedly bulldozed and damaged a portion of the cultural monument.

The TAA's statement also implies that the only reason that the police swept in and started to take criminal action against them was because Prime Minister Dean Barrow publicly condemned the action taken against Myles as "outrageous" and "absolutely indefensible". We requested a comment from the ranking officers in the south and at PG police, but they told us that "orders from high up" was that the Police Press Officer, Raphael Martinez, would handle all inquiries into this arrest of the 13 Mayans. When we spoke with Martinez today he told us that he would be unable to comment.

Channel 7

#505737 - 07/08/15 04:59 AM Re: Inside The Arraignment of The Santa Cruz 13 [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
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UN Human Rights Scolds GOB Over Mayans

The dispute between the Government of Belize and the Mayas of the Toledo District over the arrest and criminal charging of the Santa Cruz 13 has hit the international stage, and the United Nations has taken a note of it.

Writing from Geneva, Switzerland today, The UN Expert, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz , who is the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, filed a report in which she outlines the events as she's been informed of them. In it, she sticks pretty closely to the script that's been presented by the Mayas, and declares, quote, "The Maya village of Santa Cruz holds customary rights to its village lands which the government must respect and protect, as affirmed by a 2007 decision of the Supreme Court of Belize...The current situation of conflict and mistrust cannot be allowed to persist." End Quote.

Shortly after UN Expert's public statement went out, the Toledo Alcaldes Association released a follow up statement. They note also that the Government of Belize was sent a letter by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an arm of the Organization of American States in which they inquired about the circumstances of the Santa Cruz incident as well.

One group of teachers who also publicly declared their support of the MLA and the TAA are the Congress of Maya Teachers, who say that their organization was formed in 2009. They note that the role of the Alcalde system in how the Rupert Myles situation played out is misunderstood by the rest of the public. They explain, quote, "When someone wishes to become a resident of a Maya village, the first step is to inform the village leaders and then thereafter a village meeting is convened to seek the approval of the community. In most cases, if not all, new residents are accepted into the village. This is a village rule, a practice and tradition used in all of the Maya villages over many, many years." End quote

For good measure, they add, "The CMT expresses its distaste to the comments made by many, but more so by the leaders of our nation that blasts the Maya people as violent, ignorant, and racist. We want to categorically state that such negative labeling and false accusation only serves to sink us into a deep level of mistrust and divide our people and country."

Channel 7

Maya tell CCJ that GOB should pay damages

Monica Coc Magnusson, attorney for the Toledo Maya, is going back to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) with a request for an order against the Government of Belize, claiming a series of declarations, pecuniary and moral damages as well as costs over allegations that the Government of Belize has failed to uphold its end of the bargain in relation to the April 2015 consent order entered by the CCJ.

It appears that the filing, announced at a press conference held on Friday in Golden Stream, Toledo, was partly triggered by the recent controversy over the attempted eviction of Rupert Myles, a Kriol Belizean who has a common-law wife with a child in Santa Cruz, Toledo.

The CCJ application by Coc Magnusson contends that, “The Government of Belize, through its agents, the police and armed forces, failed to respond at all to multiple requests from the village of Santa Cruz for assistance dealing with interference by a third party, Rupert Myles, with Santa Cruz’s use and occupation of its village lands.

“Mr. Myles had settled in Santa Cruz village lands without permission, in violation of customary law, and within a long-established buffer zone around the sacred archaeological site of the Uxbenka temple, in which housing and certain other activities are prohibited. Mr. Myles bulldozed a road to his house that permanently destroyed part of the temple structure.”

The CCJ filing by the Maya added that, “The Prime Minister of Belize immediately responded to Mr. Myles’s complaint about being restrained by Santa Cruz customary authorities and village members, by declaring that the village has no right to determine who lives in its village, nor to detain Mr. Myles. The alcalde, second alcalde, chairman, nine residents of Santa Cruz, and a spokesperson for the Maya Leaders Alliance, were arrested and face criminal charges relating to the detention of Mr. Myles.”

However, the Maya are also alleging violations in two other villages: San Isidiro and Golden Stream. They are seeking a CCJ declaration that the Government also breached its undertaking to the CCJ by facilitating the surveying of lands in San Isidro and by allowing logging in Golden Stream.

Denys Barrow, SC, who has represented the Government of Belize in the CCJ case, confirmed to Amandala that he has received the document prepared by Coc Magnusson, as well as a series of supporting affidavits prepared earlier this month.

Barrow told Amandala today that the Government will contend that the filing cannot be made to the CCJ in the manner that it has, since the CCJ is done hearing the Maya Land Rights appeal, and all that remains is for the court to enter a decision on whether damages demanded by the Toledo Maya ought to be paid by the Government of Belize.

“A lot of it needs to be countered by contrary statements of fact,” said Barrow, pointing to allegations by the Maya that Mike Espat, Toledo East area representative of the Opposition People’s United Party, is presiding over the surveying and possible allocation of lands to outsiders in San Isidiro Village.

“That statement is startling, since Mike is not in Government,” said Barrow.

As for the Rupert Myles incident, he said that, “Certainly they have their facts and their documents in terms of the assistance that they sought from police and [Belize Defence Force] in the past, but the question of whether they could have assisted or were the proper agencies to turn to really needs to be examined, and the question of whether they can exclude non-Maya from [entering] their villages (as distinct from membership of their communities), from village lands when invited by a villager, these are things which the CCJ’s order never spoke to, could not have spoken to because these are matters which need to be determined by legislation, which could identify rights, the extent of those rights and how those rights must be exercised,” Barrow said.

He added that, “The idea that Maya customary law practices within their villages and among their people can be applied to and imposed upon non-Maya persons and non-Maya in relation to let’s say forestry resources, these are things which the CCJ did not and could not address, [as] the issue did not arise for determination at that level.”

Barrow said that the Maya know how to go to court to protect their rights, and they could have gone for an injunction against Myles, the same way that the Government, which owns buffer lands adjacent to Harmonyville, went to court to get an injunction against BGYEA — Belize Grassroots Youth Empowerment Association.

“They need to understand that the national laws of Belize applies to them as much as anybody else,” said Barrow, saying that it is a question of how Maya rights and interests are reconciled with the national interest.

According to Barrow, the Government will object to the filing by the Maya, since if it is a question of the violation of the CCJ’s consent order of April 2015, they should have called for contempt proceedings against the Government of Belize – which, he said, has not been done.

In their current filing to the CCJ, the Maya communities are asking the CCJ to issue an order declaring, among other things, that it is “the exclusive right of Maya villages to determine who may enter, use and reside in their customary lands.”

They are also asking the court to declare that GOB has breached its undertaking to the CCJ “by discriminating against the village of Santa Cruz in its failure to take the measures necessary to secure Maya land rights.”

Thirdly, they are seeking a declaration from the CCJ that GOB has furthermore breached its undertaking to the CCJ “by acquiescing or tolerating the interference with Santa Cruz village’s use and occupation of its customary lands by a third party, Mr. Myles, in the face of multiple requests from Santa Cruz village leaders for assistance…” and that the Government also breached its undertaking to the CCJ by facilitating the surveying of lands in San Isidro and by allowing logging in Golden Stream.

The Maya are also requesting a CCJ order that the Government begins consultation with the chosen reps of the Maya within 30 days, and finally that the Government pay pecuniary damages to Santa Cruz, San Isidro and Golden Stream, as well as court costs in the matter.

Speaking in Golden Stream on Friday, Maya firebrand Cristina Coc, sister of Coc Magnusson, said: “To Belizeans who are not Maya, it may appear that we [are] trying to get something for ourselves, but consider it from another perspective: We are only insisting on what we already have and what we already use.”

Coc said that their case is based on one basic principle: “It is thou shall not steal: Thou shall not steal land from the poor farmer. This is what the Supreme Court said in the simplest of languages…”

She said that the powers that be are trying to set people against each other “…by suggesting that respecting the dignity of one group is a violation of another group—that recognizing the right of one group violates the rights of another; that recognizing the rights of land to one means that the rest of us cannot get land; that struggling for a secure land tenure is threatening the sovereignty of this nation, Belize – rather than seeing it for what it really is: a fight for self-determination, a fight for autonomy. We reject this; we reject the position of the state.”

In a statement delivered in Parliament on Friday, June 26, Prime Minister Dean Barrow said that the CCJ order, which the Maya claim that the Government has violated, “…did not supersede the Constitution and laws of this country; it did not transfer sovereignty over any part of government territory to any ethnic group; it did not create a state within a state; it did not set up a separate Maya nation in Belize and it did not give anyone the right to use force to vindicate any claim they might have to land. What the judgment did do is to recognize and accept that the Maya Belizeans have certain rights over certain land in the Toledo District, but the judgment also made clear that the precise nature of those rights must be defined and legislated by Government in partnership with the Maya and after consultation with all Belizeans.”

Prime Minister Barrow reaffirmed to journalists later that day that: “[Government has] conceded that they [the Maya] have rights, and those rights must be vindicated, and must be spelt out, must be defined with some precision…”

The Maya are now asking the CCJ “to declare that the collective property rights arising from Maya customary land tenure includes the right of the Maya villages to determine pursuant to customary law, who may enter, use and reside in customary lands.

“Secondly, to declare that the Government of Belize has breached …the consent order… [which] says that the Government must adopt affirmative measures to identify and protect the rights of the appellants arising from Maya customary tenure in conformity with the constitutional protection of property and non-discrimination in sections 3, 3B,16 and 17 of the Belize Constitution.”


#507900 - 09/30/15 05:00 AM Re: Inside The Arraignment of The Santa Cruz 13 [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
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Santa Cruz 13 Back To Court; Tension Mount At Uxbenka

You may remember the 13 Mayans from Santa Cruz, Toledo, now referred to as "the Santa Cruz 13" who were charged and arraigned for unlawfully imprisoning Creole Belizean Rupert Myles. They had handcuffed Myles with the intention of ejecting him from their village after he illegally built his house on the Uxbenka Mayan Natural Monument.

Today, those 13 Mayans went back to the Punta Gorda Magistrate's Court for their second adjournment since being arrested and charged. Since the prosecution needs time to build their case, they asked the sitting Magistrate to grant them more time. The Magistrate considered their request, and granted a further adjournment until October 27.

But, while this case makes its slow process to completion, the villagers of Santa Cruz are getting frustrated. The Director of Archaeology, Dr. John Morris told the press 3 months ago that criminal action was going to be taken against Myles for destroying a natural monument because a major portion was bulldozed to build him a road to his house. According to the Maya, nothing has been done by the state, and instead of taking steps to move Myles, he appears to be content with squatting, and he's even expanded the property on the monument that he is claiming for his personal use.

One of the spokespersons spoke with us via phone, and explained that if nothing is done, the Mayan villagers may risk arrest and criminal charges a second time to forcefully remove him. Here's how Pablo Mis from the Maya Leader Alliance explained it:

Pablo Mis, Project Coordinator, Maya Leaders Alliance
"There continues to be work on the site by Miles. He hasn't stop. NICH hasn't done as they have said. There aren't any action, they haven't contacted the village. The village is also deciding what to do next. They met this afternoon to look at that and they have since sent a letter to NICH as well."

Daniel Ortiz
"What's the next step for you all?"

Pablo Mis, Project Coordinator, Maya Leaders Alliance
"I don't think the village is just going to sit and just wait for NICH to act when they think they should act, because they haven't informed the village at all. The is considering to take whatever necessary measures they need to take in order for them to have Mr. Miles understand that like everybody else, he must abide by the village rules and even if NICH hasn't acted as yet, I think the village leaders is moving towards that collective decision."

Daniel Ortiz
"When you say collective decision, what do you mean sir to remove him by force?"

Pablo Mis, Project Coordinator, Maya Leaders Alliance
"I think that the village is exhausting all options and I don't think there is a lot of patience on the part of the villagers at this point. They are very frustrated and so they sent a letter to NICH and they hope they would hear back from NICH some definitive measures with a very quick turnaround in terms of time. Otherwise the village is really running out of patience."

Daniel Ortiz
"Will they risk being arrested by the police again, should they decide to take action against Miles by themselves?"

Pablo Mis, Project Coordinator, Maya Leaders Alliance
"Obviously is that is what this government should which to do then that is the decision of the government to take. But obviously the villagers have been pointing all of the situation on the ground and they have simply been lack of attention, lack of interest to really address the concerns of the villagers."

This evening, we spoke with Myles via phone, and he told us that after receiving a letter and a visit from Dr. Morris, he isn't going anywhere. He says that he has communicated that plainly to Morris, and he has told him that he is not moving his house, but neither will he resist if they choose to do so. Myles also criticized us for - according to him - giving only one side to the story. He claims that his exact location is not on the site, which is what everyone else is saying. He also claims that there is another villager, who is Maya, who is also living on the site. He thinks that this is unfair to have a Mayan break this rule, while everyone is coming down on him.

We'll keep following this story as it develops.

Channel 7

#509248 - 11/18/15 05:03 AM Re: Inside The Arraignment of The Santa Cruz 13 [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
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Up Close At Uxbenka

By now, you're probably family with the Santa Cruz 13, which is a group of Maya villagers and one of their leading spokespersons who remains criminally charged with the unlawful imprisonment of Rupert Myles. Back in June, they handcuffed and tried to evict him from the village because they say that he unlawfully settled and destroyed a part of the UxBenka Archaeological Site.

He continues to accuse Santa Cruz villagers of being racist against him because he's creole. And so while we were in the south yesterday, we finally got an opportunity to explore Uxbenka for ourselves.

Daniel Ortiz reports:

Daniel Ortiz reporting
This is Rupert Myles House, it sits atop what looks to be an ordinary hill. He and his family have been living on this structure for some months now, ever since he and his common-law wife decided to move back to her home village.

Romaldo Cal - Rupert Myles' Father-in-law
"They have left this place for one year and five months and Rupert Myles came and spoke to me and he says that he wants to stay with my daughter and that is life. They have left this place for one year and five months and nobody claim this place."

So, Myles took it upon himself to take over this hill and settle there with his common-law wife. Little did he know that it would become the catalyst for a huge disagreement with the Maya Villagers who live in Santa Cruz.

They say that he's sitting on top of a mound that is part of the grounds of Uxbenka, and that he needed to leave. The Department of Archaeology has made the very same assessment, and they've issued him with eviction notices and notices of intended prosecution for damage to a natural monument.

As has been reported, he refused to move, they tried to use force to evict him, and he reported them to police, which led to the Santa Cruz 13 having to fight a criminal case.

So then, why is he so convinced that he is in the right, and that he shouldn't have to move?

Well, because Uxbenka has not been formally demarcated by the Archaeology Department, there are no exact boundaries to the natural monument's compound. He claims he found nothing on top of this hill which tells him that it has no archeological worth, plus the distrust between himself and the Mayan villagers, and the misunderstanding deepens.

What Myles believes is that there is a clear difference between his mound, and what is recognized as the epicenter of the Uxbenka temple.

This road, measuring a few hundred yards, separates the 2 hills. He's sure that the ancestral wisdom of the Mayas who've lived there for years, and the assessment of the Department of Archeology is wrong.

Rupert Myles - Challenging The Leaders of Santa Cruz
"They say I live on Uxbenka and then all the radio station says that Myles lives and damage Uxbenka. Now if you watch where Uxbenka is from where I live, you see it's a distance. They are trying to push me out. I don't think that is right, because the constitution of this country says anywhere you choose to live and that is where I choose to live."

The problem is compounded by the assertions from Myles that he was racially discriminated against.

Rupert Myles
"I am the only black man in the village and when I went to the chairman, and that is what he told me. He says if you look around in the village you will see only Indian people and he says that I am a Garifuna and we don't want that mix-up here."

That belief is cemented in Myles mind because according to him, there is another Mayan villager who lives on a hill right across from his hill, yet according to Myles, no one is bothering him.

Rupert Myles
"As you are driving in, you see where the posts when the Uxbenka sign is. You drive in on the left hand side, they demarcate behind the sign like 100 foot behind the sign and went towards the sign. So somebody still lives right up there. You could see a thatch house up there. That man lives there. From my house, you walk down towards the drive way is and walk like you are going to Uxbenka a little bit and then you will see bush covering it. That's why people say that only I lives there."

So, what about this damage that the Department Archaeology says he inflicted to the mound he's living on? Well, he says he didn't do it.

Rupert Myles
"People are accusing me of damaging Uxbenka. You see the drive that is there - its CISCO that did that. If you look at Uxbenka, they (CISCO) fixed the road and made a parking lot. It's there that they leave their machines. So when I came home, they already did that. I didn't ask anyone to do it. If you watch the other places, they always do a little drive way for people. So I didn't do any kind of damages. If you look around the yard, you will see no kind of digging or anything. If you watch my house, I have it on angle iron. The addition I put on is on angle iron. I didn't do any kind of digging."

Since this entire situation caught fire in the press, Myles says that his reputation has taken an unfair hit.

Rupert Myles
"They made me look like I broke up an old Maya ruin and this and that. People stop call me Rupert Myles and start to call be "Benka." The guys at work call me Mr. Maya."

Channel 7

#509980 - 12/17/15 04:52 AM Re: Inside The Arraignment of The Santa Cruz 13 [Re: Marty]  
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Charges Reduced For Santa Cruz 13; Is The GOB Case Crumbling?

6 months ago, on June 24, it made headline news when Cristina Coc, and 12 villagers of Santa Cruz, collectively known as the Santa Cruz 13, were arrested and charged for unlawful imprisonment. That’s after they handcuffed and tried to kick Creole Belizean Rupert Myles out of the village.

He reported them to police, and investigators took swift action against the Santa Cruz 13, marching them before the Punta Gorda Magistrates Court. Well today, after a flurry of adjournments, the 13 Mayan defendants reported to court only to find out that the prosecution withdrew the charge of unlawful imprisonment.

It’s an important vindication for the Maya who maintained that they did not break any law when they detained Myles for allegedly damaging their Uxbenka Mayan monument. We had publicly speculated that the criminal case was losing strength, and today’s outcome is being interpreted by the defendants as a step toward complete vindication. Cristina Coc, one of the accused, told us how the Santa Cruz 13 is preparing to beat the prosecution at the next adjournment:

Cristina Coc - One of the Santa Cruz 13

"As you're fully aware we've been going back and forth to court for some time now, it's been almost 6 months since June 20th when the said incident happened; that we've been brought to court on charges of illegal imprisonment and then a new charge was added after our second court hearing, that of common assault. Today we learnt this is the first time we've been given this closure first of all on the matter and we learnt that from the prosecutor that the charge of illegal imprisonment has been withdrawn."

Daniel Ortiz

"It must be good news for you all that this unlawful imprisonment charge has been withdrawn."

Cristina Coc - One of the Santa Cruz 13

"We've always known we've always maintained that we were never guilty of that charge and in fact we were very confused of that charge because as far as we know, we've never heard of such a charge before; no one was illegally imprisoned. The Alcalde's have their jurisdiction under the magistrate's jurisdiction as well where in their communities they have the jurisdiction to arrest and fine where they feel that a breach of the law has taken place. We never felt that charge would have stood and as we thought, it has now been withdrawn. Yes, we are indeed very pleased that as we had long thought, this charge would not hold."

"Our lives has been put on hold for the most part, for a crime that we are being accused of that quite honestly, we're quite innocent of but we will let the court decide that because; as is the case with everything in this community and within our communities, we are subject to the law as we are going to abide by the law and we're going to let the courts decide the innocence of our people and our community as a whole."

The case goes back to court on February 17 when all 13 Mayans will face a full trial for common assault. 4 of the 13 will also have to answer to the additional charge of aggravated assault. Today, when their accuser, Rupert Myles, exited court, we asked him for comment on the fact that 13 Maya who detained him will no longer face trial for that charge. He declined saying that he is leaving it in the hands of the police who made the decision from a more informed position that he is.

When we asked the PG Police commander about the withdrawal, he told us that it was the result of memorandum sent to them from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution. He did not provide any details as to what the memo said.

So, while the Santa Cruz 13 inches closer to an acquittal, Myles is still living on the hill that he villagers assert is a part of the Uxbenka Site. Today, Cristina Coc told us that us that they interpret the delay by the state in ejecting him off the mound as unfair treatment under the law:

Cristina Coc - One of the Santa Cruz 13

"You know it is amazing how the force of law can come down on people on the one hand and on the other hand, an incident like that can be completely dismissed and completely prolonged . Rupert Myles is still as far as my knowledge goes is still living on the mound on our Mayan Temple. He still continues to develop it, he continues to plant, he continues to chop; he continues to do everything that he set out to do to begin with. And there has been absolutely no action on the part of the Institute of Archaeology or NICH and we have been through our attorneys, been trying to get in touch with the Institute of Archaeology to ask and to get information on what steps have been taken. We have not had any response, whether verbally or in writing, we have been writing them for some time now. So as far as we know, no concrete action has been taken, he is still there. The community is still quite agitated by that, quite honestly, we believe that an injustice has been served to the community by prosecuting them for protecting what is rightfully their heritage and at the same time, no action has been taken against the person who is violating."

But, no matter what the Department of Archaeology and the Maya have to say, Rupert Myles, the man at the centre of the controversy, is not budging. He told us today that he remains convinced that this is still a racial issue. He told us that he is fighting not only for his rights as a Belizean, but those of his Maya wife, and children who he suspects will be treated differently due to the dual ethnicity of their parents.

Here’s how he explained it:

Rupert Myles - Complaint against Santa Cruz 13

"I'm not at Santa Cruz to live because I want to go to Santa Cruz to go live on hill top. I am at Santa Cruz the live because I know that the way how they people the go fight for communal land, if they do what they do to me right, what about 10 years from now if they get communal land? They no just a tie up somebody and aggravate, they will kill you and dash you out."

"Most of my kids are from a Maya family and they consider me as a black man right. My mom is East Indian and my family is Chi. I no stand up that well, a black man want to come in and do this. Next thing, if you check the constitution of this country, say that you could live where ever you choose to right and at the moment, I chose to live right there at Santa Cruz. And I don't consider myself that I do any damage or damage to anybody, you understand. Because I just the try do my life, same with them and what I would wish for the people in this country and they Maya people, they own land paper. I have, I know what the value of it and if I have to stand up against a group of Maya people like that for prove to the rest of the country and to the rest of this country. Because if we could accept them out there to work amongst we and we can't go live amongst them, they can come out and live amongst us and when we try go live amongst them, they do them things they. No correct, what will happen years from now or 5 years from now and next year from now to our kids? When the chairman tell me like this, he the tell me that no girl in the village have right. When the girl find somebody from any other village, they have to come out right and I told him that day, that I will contest that and that's what I'm doing. Nobody have to make their kids come out of no village because they find and I tell him that I will come live in your village and I don't do that to offend and not to create problem with nobody else but I'm contesting that."

He today showed us documents as proof that he is the owner of numerous parcels of land in different parts of the country. He told us that he is not fighting for land in Santa Cruz. He claims that he is making a stand merely on the principle of the cultural injustices that he perceives is happening.

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#511784 - 02/20/16 05:03 PM Re: Inside The Arraignment of The Santa Cruz 13 [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 52,664
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline
Laws in the works for marijuana decriminalizationDPP to prosecute Santa Cruz villagers

The case of the Santa Cruz villagers who are being prosecuted on allegations that they had assaulted Rupert Myles, of Bella Vista, was called up today before Magistrate Emerson Banner, but the case, which began last year, has still not gotten off the ground.

Latest reports to our newspaper are that the matter, which was being prosecuted by police, will now be prosecuted by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Cheryl-Lynn Vidal.
The case of the Santa Cruz villagers is historic, and it is the first time, at least in the recollection of the DPP, that her office is dealing with a case of this magnitude, having 15 persons accused.

Vidal explained to us why she is the one prosecuting the case. “The first is that the Commissioner [of Police], I am told, gave a directive that the matter was to be heard on indictment. I have never heard of a case of common assault going before a jury,” the DPP said.

She added that the reason the Commissioner made the recommendation may have been that he perceived some difficulty with such a case going before a magistrate, and so insisted on it going before the Supreme Court.

“I said that I will not engage the Supreme Court, which already is backlogged with murder cases to the 100s, to try a common assault case before a jury,” she added, insisting that it should be tried summarily in the Supreme Court.

“In the second place, it appeared from what had been said immediately after the incident that it is being suggested that the alcalde system operates to authorize this kind of conduct, and obviously, if it is that there is going to be a case to determine the parameters of the alcalde under the system set up by law, then it is a matter that should be dealt with at a higher level,” Vidal added.

Amandala is informed that the case was previously in the hands of a sergeant who serves as prosecutor for the Police Department. Vidal could not appear in court yesterday, since she was reportedly tied up with a matter in the Court of Appeal. She was represented by Lucio Shal of the Office of the DPP, who asked the court to adjourn the matter. Magistrate Banner agreed and set the matter for March 30.

The case of the villagers of Santa Cruz emerged last year after they attempted to evict Myles from the Uxbenka sacred Maya site. They had called for police to assist them with the eviction, but the police did not respond. The villagers, who claimed that Myles had threatened them with violence, ended up arresting Myles, tying him up and ordering him off the property; however, after the confrontation unfolded, police finally arrived on the scene.

Santa Cruz is one of two villagers which blazed the trail in seeking formal recognition of their indigenous land rights in the courts of Belize. In 2007, then Chief Justice, Dr. Abdulai Conteh, affirmed collective and individual rights in the lands and resources that they have used and occupied according to Maya customary practices, and added that these rights constitute property; and that the Maya villages of Santa Cruz and Conejo hold collective title to the lands their members have traditionally used and occupied.

In the case in question, Myles had alleged that he was told that he could not live in the village because of his race. Myles, a Creole who has a common-law wife in the Maya village, had claimed that the village chairman, Aram Canti, had previously told him that he does not want to see him walking around in the village, because he is a “Kerobee,” a derogatory name for Garifuna people, and they don’t want that “mix-up” in the village—an allegation that Canti has flatly denied, claiming that Myles was told he cannot live in the village because of land shortage.

Myles refused to leave the village when they tried to evict him, and the dispute led to a stand-off between Myles and the Santa Cruz villagers.

“These people were just picked up (by police) out of the (their homes in the) village in the wee hours of the morning, and brought (to court) without footwear,” Audrey Matura-Shepherd, attorney for the accused persons, told us.

The attorney, who told us that “not one hair on Miles got hurt,” said that that the prosecution has to present its evidence before the court. She said that two of the persons had been charged with aggravated assault and the others with common assault. She told us that no one hurt Myles.

Pablo Mis, spokesperson for the Maya Leaders Alliance and the Toledo Alcaldes Association, which is supporting the Santa Cruz villagers in the matter, said that the Maya were ready to proceed with the case on Wednesday.

He said that, “The criminal charges had been brought forward by the State against the Santa Cruz [villagers] for defending their right—and particularly on the alcalde for exercising his authority as magistrate.”

He said that there have been 5 or 6 adjournments since the matter arose last June.

“The lives of 15 families, wives and children of 15 family members are put on hold and we do not feel that the consistent adjournment by the state is justifiable, and it is in a sense causing much unneeded stress upon the families,” Mis said,

He told us, “At this last hearing, which was held yesterday, we were informed that the DPP will be taking on the case… The prosecutor that was present indicated that he was not prepared or not in a position to hear out the case and asked for an adjournment.”

Mis told us that Myles is still using the site at Uxbenka and “absolutely nothing has happened,” in terms of sorting out his occupation of Uxbenka.

“We have not heard back from [the National Institute of Culture and History/Institute of Archaeology]. They had promised to keep us informed. The last I heard from [Dr. John Morris] was for charges to be brought forward. To date, we have not heard anything from them,” Mis said.

Dr. John Morris, director of the Institute of Archaeology, told Amandala, when we contacted him today, that they have been in negotiations with Myles, urging him to remove his home from the site. According to Morris, he had conferred with the DPP, and had been advised that an attempt should be made to settle the matter out of court.

Morris told us that Myles now lives in Bella Vista, where he said he has met with him to discuss the matter. He broke his foot in a recent traffic accident and is home recovering, he said.

Morris told us that, “if [Myles] voluntarily removes himself, then it does not need to end up in court.”

Morris told us that if Myles does not remove his home within three months, they would remove the home themselves – which, he said, they have the jurisdiction to do.

Morris noted that there is another person encroaching on Uxbenka – a Maya family, who, he said, have also been asked to vacate the site.

We asked Morris whether Myles would at least be required to pay for restoration of the site. He told us that after Myles’s home is removed, conservation work would need to be done on the Maya mound upon which it had been built, and Myles may be required to bear some of those costs, since the mound had been bulldozed.

According to Morris, it was Myles’s father-in-law, a Maya of Santa Cruz, who had initially begun building at the Uxbenka site. When Myles began expanding the dwelling, he had been advised against doing so.

Morris said that there are other cases where Belizeans have built on mounds, and that they have, likewise, worked with them to relocate without court action having been taken against them. He said that there were two such cases in northern Belize.

Morris said that in the case of Santa Cruz, they’ve had four cases where they have had to ask the villagers to move, and they did so after about a year of negotiations.


#515620 - 06/28/16 05:04 AM Re: Inside The Arraignment of The Santa Cruz 13 [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 52,664
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline

Santa Cruz 13 Get Free!

Exactly a year ago, we showed you when the Punta Gorda Police Department hauled 13 Mayans from San Cruz into the Magistrate's Court on charges of unlawful detention. That's because they tied up and detained Creole Belizean Rupert Myles because they say that he built his house on the sacred Ux Benka Maya Site.

Well today, after months of attending court adjournments on the criminal charge, the Santa Cruz 13, now Santa Cruz 11 turned up for their adjournment. To their surprise, This morning the Director of Public Prosecutions discontinued the charges against all remaining 11 defendants setting them free. It's a welcomed end for the case, and in a press release today, the Maya Leaders Alliance said that they congratulate the Director of Public Prosecutions for acknowledging, quote, "the 13 accused who, along with their families, suffered in-calculable hardships as a result of their arrest and prosecution." End Quote.

Today, we spoke by phone to Cristina Coc, who resumed her role as spokes Persons for the MLA following her acquittal as one of the Santa Cruz 13. Here's what she told us via telephone this evening about the outcome of the case:

Christina Coc, One of the Santa Cruz 13, acquitted
"It's been a year that the charges were brought against the Mayan leaders, myself included and today over a year later, the DPP discontinued the case on the grounds that it was not in the interest of justice."

Daniel Ortiz
"Did she explained to the court what exactly was her thinking in how justice would be miscarriage?"

Christina Coc, One of the Santa Cruz 13, acquitted
"No she did not, despite the request of both our counsels. She did not feel she said she needed to explain that given that the case is now discontinued, she had no reason to provide that explanation."

"Of course we are relieved. This is wonderful news for us and not just for us, but for all of Belize. The Santa Cruz 13 and in fact the greater Maya community have always held that there was no case to answer to. Because the charges that were brought against us; common assault, aggravated assault, was not a crime that we were ever guilty of. So I am glad that the state has come to this reasonable conclusion and have realized that they have no case against us. So we are very happy that they came to the same conclusion as the Maya people. Of course we came to that conclusion a year ago."

As you heard, Coc said that they tried to clarify with DPP Vidal why she decided to withdraw the charges, and that she reportedly did not want to reveal her reasons. This evening, we spoke to her via telephone and she told us, quote, "I did that, which it was my duty to do… any questions that anyone may have about the matter, I think they should direct them at Mr. Myles." End quote.

As you're aware, Rupert Myles was the complainant in this case, and so, the inference we draw from the outcome is that Myles may have indicated that he wanted no further court action.

The Maya Leaders Alliance adds, Quote, "This was always a case about the constitutional rights of poor people in Belize and whether or not officials would respect the rule of law. Today's decision is a victory for everyone who finds themselves on the right side of the law, but the wrong end of an access to justice problem." End Quote

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