Mayas protest in Belmopan over Rosewood moratorium


The Rosewood Saga Continues. Mayans from the villages of San Pedro Colombia, Dolores, Otoxcha, Indian Creek, Crique Sarco among others took to the streets in the City of Belmopan this morning. The group of approximately a hundred marched around the House of Representatives with placards in hand and shouting "bring back the rosewood" "we need the rosewood to eat and we need the rosewood to send our children to school". As you may be aware last week Friday the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development has announced a moratorium on the harvesting and exportation of rosewood. The moratorium was declared with immediate effect until further notice. This has not gone over well with Mayans in the south who have been harvesting and selling the hardwood as they are saying they still have thousands of cubic feet of the timber still in their possession. Plusnews was out on the Independence Hill and we spoke firstly with Ermelinda "Carol" Choc of San Pedro Colombia.

Ermelinda "Carol" Choc, Resident of San Pedro Colombia

We need to sell the Rosewood, we have already invested; the men who cut down the wood needs to be paid and the people who take the Rosewood out also need to get paid.

Journalist
Do you all also want to continue to cut the Rosewood?

Ermelinda Choc
Yes. Where I am come from, we are just the buyers; the cutters, doing this is their only form of income.

Journalist
However, you are aware that the Rosewood wonít last forever. Itís not an inexhaustible resource.

Ermelinda Choc
Exactly, but if we leave it there, someone else will come and get it again. Right now it is the people from the village who are working on it, but if we leave it there, outsiders will come and get it. We understand that everything doesnít last forever, but if we donít get it, someone else will definitely come and get it.


Journalist
Are you concerned that maybe if you continue like this, your children wonít be able to know what Rosewood is?

Ermelinda Choc
No, we worry about the future, but the Rosewood tree grows back. You cut it and within six months itís already growing.


Today's protest had participation from buyers, villagers, scouts and even Alcaldes. Santiago Acal is the 1st Alcalde for Indian Creek Village and according to Acal he goes out as a scout, finds the rosewood trees to be cut down and then process them into six to ten foot squares.

Journalist
Do you know that if you go into protected areas and private property Ė that is the criticism, that all the Rosewood in the regular forest are done and you all are now going into protected areas to cut.

Santiago Acal, Alcalde, Indian Creek
Actually, we have a forest management, because us Mayas protect our forests too. When I talk about management, I talk about the young trees that are under those canopies and we advise people to protect them, because we still need it in the future.

Journalist
How much of your income does the earnings from Rosewood represent?

Santiago Acal
Actually it is due to the buyers, they usually pay us four dollars per square foot.

Journalist
How much do they then sell it for?


Santiago Acal
I have no idea.

Journalist
How much is it for your family income, this Rosewood revenue.

Santiago Acal
Well actually it helps a lot because it helps me to assists my children going to high school and I have neighbors who are attending UB and so forth.

Journalist
Do you have Rosewood on the ground that you have cut already that needs to be brought out?

Santiago Acal
Yes we have numbers

Journalist
How much numbers?

Santiago Acal
Actually, in my village I have about close to eight to ten thousand feet.


We also spoke with Sylvestre Choc who is one of the major buyers of the raw material who then sells it to the exporters. Choc is also one of the organizers behind today protest and say that he has lots of investment lying on the ground.

Sylvestre Choc, Rosewood Buyer

Before the elections, I received a buyer, Mr. Kent, a Chinese man from the Free Zone. I really invested my money, even borrowing from the bank, because I had the farmers cutting Rosewood and we buy and sell. Mr. Rodwell Williams and I are buyers; we work for the same company. I went to the bank and borrowed forty-five thousand dollars and now I have the Rosewood and I cannot sell them. It is already stamped, but I canít sell it.

Journalist
How many feet do you have in your yard?

Sylvestre Choc
Forty-thousand feet.

Journalist
Now how much will you sell that for?

Sylvestre Choc
I would sell it for $4.50 per square foot.

Journalist
So what would you propose the solution to be?

Sylvestre Choc
My solution is to get rid of it and if they quit the Rosewood then it is better for me, because the people are too troubling to work with.


Beatice Bo of Crique Sarco says that rosewood is the only thing providing income for majority of the families within her village as the villagers they come together, cut the rosewood and after selling the income is split between the families.

Beatrice Bo, Resident of Crique Sarco
I am here to represent my people, because not all of us could have made it. Because of the condition of the road, buses can hardly reach back there. We work so hard and now we are suffering. We have to protest because we really need to sell our Rosewood.

Journalist
What would you all do without this Rosewood money?

Beatrice Bo
That is a good question, because if they are stopping us from fighting for our little money, then we need jobs.

Journalist
Is it their only income? Is it the only thing that puts food on the table?

Beatrice Bo
Right now yes.

lastly, Ermelinda says their cause is not politically driven and if the Ministry want a moratorium on rosewood then they need to provide jobs for the people of the south.

Ermelinda Choc
No it is not politics, the people out here cut Rosewood, they buy Rosewood, and sell Rosewood. This has nothing to do with politics. People just come and discriminate; in this world, there are haters. They love to discriminate. The minute you do something, you are selling drugs or doing something illegal. People try to make an honest living and they still discriminate you. This is not politic; these poor people left their houses 3 oíclock this morning, they didnít come for politics, no one is paying them. We have come to protest and we need our voices to be heard, that we need our Rosewood to be sold. We have Rosewood that needs to be sold and we need our money.

PlusTV