Program Coordinator for the Maya Leaders Alliance, Pablo Mis, has also weighed in on the ongoing issue. Despite all efforts to notify relevant authorities of any incursions, it requires a collective endeavor to tackle the problem from within.
On the Phone: Pablo Mis, Program Coordinator, MLA
“We, for some time now have always reported our observations of incursions from the Guatemalans into Belize’s territory. This is a situation that has been ongoing in that we have reported to various authorities over time. There are instances where the authorities have followed up on these reports and have done what is necessary and that included measures that would correct the incursion. But I think that similar to any other areas along the border there is activity within the agency zone that sees a lot of Guatemalans either squatting or doing farming activities in these areas. First of all it is important to recognize that this is a national security issue. It is directly related to the territorial claim by Guatemala. It is a matter that is really beyond the scope or the grasp of the Maya villages concerned. It would require a concerted effort from all the different authorities in government with the support of our Maya communities to address these matters. That said, we have in many instances reported the incursions that are happening to the relevant authorities. In some cases we have had our leaders directly communicating with leaders of the neighboring communities on the Guatemalan side to, in good faith, respect the territories or the community land of our villages along the area there. I must highlight that directly along the villages there’s quite a level of vigilance ongoing by our communities. The level of incursions deeper into Belize’s territory is pretty much under control. It is in areas that are vacant that does not have communities, observing and taking responsibilities over those lands that we see much more heavy incursions such as in the Columbia Forest Reserve. And I think this is what we hear being reported within the Chiquibul Forest Reserve as well. I want to highlight clearly that the Maya communities have been defending the territories of Belize every day. They have reported, they’ve taken action where it is necessary; the Alcalde association has a policy that no persons who do not hold Belizean citizenship or nationality should be allowed to enter into the villages without following proper immigration laws. So everyday Maya communities have been defending those laws and I think that there are obviously issues that must be resolved, that require clarity in terms of calculated and measure interventions on the part of government to ensure that practical matters, practical daily violations such as people coming in to expand pastures from the Guatemalan side are dealt with. That for us is a real threat and we’d like to see more practical, measured actions from the part of our government in addressing this.”