Last night we told you about the travel advisory against Belize that the Guatemalan Congress approved. It warns Guatemalan citizens not to travel to Belize because their human rights are likely to be violated by the BDF. Well, minus the BDF nonsense, the Friends For Conservation and Development who co-manage the Chiquibul National Park probably wish that information would get to those communities adjoining the Chiquibul, Guatemalan villages like La Rejoya and Monte Los Olivos.
That's because residents of those villages keep pushing over into Belize to illegally extract resources from the Chiquibul Forest. And according to the FCD, right now it's worse than ever with the gold panning. Guatemalan gold panners have dug these trenches to get to the gold. In the past, they would pan gold from the streams, but now they dig trenches, take out the stones, and then crush those stones to get out the gold which may be embedded within the stones. They can get 250 Quetzales or 74 Belize dollars for a gram of gold - which might not seem like much but for Guatemalan peasants, it's a windfall.
But that desperate gold search is denuding the forest. Areas next to the streams have been stripped of all vegetation, and the huge trenches are left along with plastic bottles in what should be a pristine protected area. And it's happening 9 kilometers, almost 5 miles inside Belize at an elevation 900 meters above sea level - at the headwaters of the chiquibul.
The FCD warns that heavy patrols and strict enforcement of environmental laws will be required to contain this problem.
Oh, and as for the travel advisory, of course, it's just talk because - this morning - just like any other school day - hundreds of Guatemalan students came across the border from Melchor to attend school in the Cayo district.