Lionel "Chocolate" Heredia Left Shaky

As we reported last night, the Ministry of Natural Resources has granted permission to survey three properties on Mapp Caye which is a mangrove island the eastern edge of the Swallow Caye Wildlife Sanctuary. Now there are some nature reserves like the one in Corozal Bay that only protect the water – but we’ve checked, and Swallow Caye isn’t one of them.

The law enacting the Swallow Caye Sanctuary states that it is comprised by, quote, “all that piece or parcel of land and water east of Belize City in the Belize District in including Swallow Caye and Mapps Cay, comprising of approximately 8,970.13 acres.” So it covers land and water and by the coordinates we’ve pegged in – the property is on Mapp’s Caye – within the reserve. That means that giving the permission to survey the properties is hopefully, an error and one the Ministry of Natural Resources would have to correct. If they do intend to correct it, they would have to give the three persons who’ve been given permission to survey property somewhere else. As we reported last night, the three parcels of land were designated as compensation for island property that Sharon Fraser, Wayne Fraser and Rurico Alvarado lost on the Montego Bay Development when the last government conveyed that to a developer with close ties to the PUP.

But right now we don’t know for sure what the Ministry of Natural Resources will do because we were unable to reach the Minister who just returned to the country today, or the CEO who won’t be in until next week. We did speak with the Public Relations Officer who promised to get back to us but at news time, had not. And that uncertainty is rattling the man who set up the reserve, Lionel “Chocolate'” Heredia. The reserve is his passion and he’s worked for going on two decades to get it established. Now that a portion is on the block – the 79 year old says it’s driving him crazy.

Lionel “Chocolate'” Heredia, Activist
“In five days it is my birthday, I will complete 80 years but I left kinda of shaky. Why? Because if you don’t have a government that minds our natural resources and the mangroves, it is very important those mangroves, if they would ever get out there, the Minister, I would take him and show him what is in those mangroves and thing. I would do it so they have more courage to save the mangroves especially. Belize is rich in a lot of natural resources.”

Jules Vasquez,
When you meet with the Minister you will ask him to please not grant title or lease on that property?

Lionel “Chocolate'” Heredia,
“Jules you what I even will do, I will get down from my chair and kneel down and say please Minister don’t do that. I worked hard many years for this place.”

Jules Vasquez,
Right now how are the manatee populations in that area?

Lionel “Chocolate'” Heredia,
“The biggest population is there and then you can go right there and you don’t have to chase them, they come around the boat. So beautiful, there is not another place like Swallow Caye in Belize.”

Chocolate' hopes he can have that meeting with the Minister by next week when his wife – who helped him set up the sanctuary – returns from the United States. We’ll keep you posted.