Maya Leaders Alliance complain of illegal logging in Toledo

We have been reporting on the illegal loggers from Guatemala who have been invading the Chiquibul Forest Reserve. But in the Toledo District, Rosewood is also being extracted without permits and it went under the radar until a few months ago, when the increased logging caught the attention of the Maya Leaders Alliance and Toledo Alcaldes Association. The illegal movement of rosewood, however, is not the handiwork of Guatemalans. It turns out, that the villagers in the south have joined the illegal trade and are peddling the hardwood at rock bottom prices. According to Ligorio Coy and Cristina Coc of the Maya Leaders Alliance, the problem is being ignored by the relevant authorities. Coc and Coy spoke to News Five via phone today.

Via Phone: Cristina Coc, Spokesperson, Maya Leaders Alliance

Cristina Coc

We see blocks and blocks of rosewood being stored in yards and then we have witnessed large containers come to load up these rosewood and take them out of the district. Weve done our own investigation because we feel that this is an increase in the amount of logging thats going on. We have found through our investigation that the majority of these woods are being logged illegally. In that sense we are saying that they dont have permits to log these rosewood. In fact, we have found that our own villagers in some instances are being encouraged to log and they are being encouraged to bring the rosewood to these drop-off sites, sell them at three dollars and seventy-five cents, sometimes three dollars and fifty cents, sometimes three dollars a foot for the rosewood to middlemen. After this is done, we understand that the forest officers here in the Toledo district come to these drop-off sites and stamp the rosewood so they appear to be legitimate.

Ligorio Coy

Via Phone: Ligorio Coy, Chairman, Maya Leaders Alliance

We have made several calls to the Chief Forest officer in Belmopan to address this logging. We are very concerned here in Toledo and the Maya Leaders Alliance. We have tried to meet with these officials; Forestry Department, Lands Department and Police Department. They disrespected us. They didnt want to come and meet with us and try to address this issue.

Via Phone: Cristina Coc

We feel that no matter what position you hold, for instance if you are a forest officer, you cannot abuse that position. You are breaking the law and we need those people to be held accountable. We are very concerned about our forest. We dont want the authorities to begin to do something about this when its too late, when all the rosewood is gone. We are very concerned that after the rosewood is gone, that the other hardwoods are going to be extracted in the same manner.

According to the Maya Leaders Alliance, they will be forced to take action as a community if their requests for official intervention continue to be ignored.

Channel 5