Xatéros loot archaeological artifacts from western border to Belmopan: Dr. Awe

A recent assessment of activities in the Columbia River Forest Reserve and Bladen Nature Reserve by a committee set up to assess the impacts of work by the Belize Hydroelectric Development Management Ltd.(BHD) has unearthed the looting of two archeological sites in Toledo with “two big holes excavated on the sites.”

A stop order is in effect for BHD; however, the committee established to assess the situation along with the Forest Department is calling on Belizean authorities to cancel the permitted development works.

The lootings, which the team said were done 75 meters away from the BHD camp, are a symptom of a much larger problem that has persisted along Belize’s western border with Guatemala, and which has reportedly crept into the corridors of the Capital City, Belmopan.

Director of the Institute of Archaeology, Jaime Awe, told Amandala Wednesday that more sites have been destroyed by xatéros, Guatemalans who enter Belize illegally to cut xáte palms, in the Chiquibul Forest Reserve than anywhere else in Belize.

He said that while he had not received the report from the conservationists in Toledo, they had done checks in the recent months that continue to unearth massive lootings by Guatemalan xatéros.

“Belizeans also loot but they are certainly not as efficient and opportunistic as the xatéros,” said Awe, who described the lootings as “heartbreaking.”

Lootings by xatéros on the outskirts of Caracol, three kilometers from the Belize-Guatemala border, has been “rampant,” he told us.

The Institute of Archaeology, said Awe, only has a staff of 15, and only two of them are able to do the field visits.

Because of the lack of surveillance, the Guatemalan looters have gone into the Belmopan area, he noted.

Belize completely loses the information these looted artifacts would have provided, said Awe. “You can’t put a price tag on it.”

A new Maya stela, a stone monument, was found in Toledo in late 2009, on the last reconnaissance visit to the area.