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Joined: Oct 1999
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Marty Offline OP
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Caye Caulker Squatters Being Shoved off Land

It seems that no matter how much talk or how much gadgetry is put in place to ensure land reform, there is still a long, long way to go before there is fair distribution of land to those who most need it. Today we catalogue a case where the need for land in one of the country's premier tourist destinations, Caye Caulker, has a couple of islanders at the point of almost complete desperation. Alfonso Noble traveled to La Isla Carinosa to find out about the story of Sean Sutherland and Roy Flowers who paid for land which they just can't get title to; it's a dubious private deal, but one that is now a pressing public responsibility.

Alfonso Noble Reporting,
This receipt dated March 25 1998 is the only thing that Sean Latchman has to show to prove that he has a claim to a piece of land in the back street area of Caye Caulker. It so happens however that the man he paid the money to sold him the land without first being the rightful owner.

Sean Latchman,
"The deal is that he would be selling me the land and I would be giving him half of the money and when the title passed, I would give him the other half of the money. In the process of time we got to find out that this man doesn't have any kind of documents for this land."

Roy Flowers,
"I paid this man so much to squat on the land with an understanding that he would fix up the papers and the documents and thing and then we would go in and just survey the place and separate it."

The man they had the arrangement with is Douglas Jimenez. Today we visited Jimenez, he lives at the front of the pieces of land which he sold to Latchman and Roy Flowers. At first he would not speak to us claiming that he was ill. However he eventually came out and spoke to us.

Douglas Jimenez,
"We got agreements to divide the properly."

Alfonso Noble,
Do you have ownership to the land for you to be selling it?

Douglas Jimenez,
"Just a lease paper."

Alfonso Noble,
You have lease to this whole land here?

Douglas Jimenez,

Alfonso Noble,
So under what authority are you subdividing and selling?

Douglas Jimenez,
"Like I am helping this gentleman. He needed a piece of land but I told them when I got the papers I would give them."

Alfonso Noble,
That has been ten years and fourteen years and no paper for anybody.

Douglas Jimenez,
"No right now no papers."

Alfonso Noble,
But you don't own the land.

Douglas Jimenez,
"No I don't own it."

Alfonso Noble,
So you're selling something you don't own.

Douglas Jimenez,

Alfonso Noble,
Will these men ever get the title to their land?

Douglas Jimenez,
"Yeah, sure they will have it. Soon as I can make the money to buy the property, I'll by it and I'll split it for them."

Jimenez has baited them with this promise for many years. Flowers says he's been hearing it for 15 years, and Latchman has been hearing it for 10 years. Seeing that they will get nowhere with Jimenez, Latchman says that in 2002 he applied for his land.

Sean Latchman,
"So we decided to apply for the land from the government and get it through the government�in 2002. We've been applying so many times for this place and they just ignore me. So in 2005 we applied again for the place and that is when they probably took us kind of serious and they pushed the file and gave us a file number. Monday my wife went to Belmopan to check, to pay some taxes, but at the same time she went to check on this and this is what they gave her. They gave here this same letter and the letter says, 'I am directed to inform you that the application to lease the abovementioned parcel of land has not received approval as land is not available to let. I feel like I am getting sick. I feel like a vein burst in my head. It is our stability these people are playing with. If they take this land from us where we will we go? Under a coconut tree to go and live on the island?"

Roy Flowers,
"I didn't get a letter from anyone. For the fifteen years I have lived here, no one has showed up in my face and tell me this is private land but when he get that kind of letter, I feel like a victim too because ever night we go to bed like we can't rest because this is our place. We spent time in this and worked this land and for those kinds of things to come into our face, I don't think we deserve this because like I said, fourteen years of living in this place here and we haven't gotten any rights to our land, those things hurt you right. It is like we can't plan our future."

And the men say this is no way to be living. After all they say that they=ve invested too much to simply just leave it all behind.

Roy Flowers,
"I've lived on this land for fifteen years, I've lived on this land fifteen years and like the same deal I have with that guy. When I came here, this place was nothing. You had nobody who wanted to live here. You had to be real desperate to live in here and now this is a piece of land now. I have rights to this, I am a Belizean. I born and grow in this country."

Sean Latchman,
"I am a Belizean citizen and the law state that if I am a citizen of this country, I am entitled to live any part of this country and nobody can stop as long as I am not bothering anyone."

Alfonso Noble,
How much work have you put into your land?

Sean Latchman,
"Well I have put a lot of work in there, me and my wife - ten years of work. This place was swamp, a big hole, only swamp and mud but the face of the land changed, the land looks different now and people get to see that and people the red their eye for it and they want it. We want our title for our place so that we can feel secure, we and our families. We need some answers and we need some justice, we need the higher peoples to come and look into those kind of situations here."

Roy Flowers,
"We need to let our voices be heard because we need our documents. For fifteen years we have lived here. My children grew up here, my grandkids are growing up here now, you understand. This is the place where I rest and nobody can't just come in here and just get me off of this just like that. It is not only us going through this you know, it is a lot of people going through this same type of thing on this island, you understand."

Maybe all too well and it seems that no matter how many times situations like these arise, there are no easy or immediate solutions to them - the best these unwitting squatters can hope for is that there is a solution.

The men say they will be looking at their legal options to see if they can have the situation cleared in the courts

Joined: Apr 2006
Posts: 520
Selling stuff you don't own "ain't Real CRICKET" is it? Of course it isn't clear to us foreigners wheather the land is public (government controlled), homesteadable or privately held by some invisable entity who has permitted this activity to persist for so many years. Smells like a bait bucket.

I'll be happy to discuss my avatar with anyone who knows what it is.
Joined: Jan 2004
Posts: 513
It's a concept that's not easily understood by outsiders that are not in it, but a Beliean can legally have rights to property without "owning" it outright. True, the land cannot be sold untit titled, but he can still pretty much "own" it without that title.

Thanks and cheers,
Wendy Auxillou

Wendy Auxillou
Auxillou Beach Suites
Caye Caulker, Belize
Joined: Jun 2001
Posts: 1,448
Tell that to all the belizeans who the GOB threw off their land and bulldozed their houses last year on the western highway. It all depends on who wants the land.

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