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#433651 - 03/21/12 09:24 AM Mayas protest Rosewood moratorium  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 57,759
Marty Offline
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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.

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.

However, you are aware that the Rosewood won’t last forever. It’s 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 doesn’t last forever, but if we don’t get it, someone else will definitely come and get it.

Are you concerned that maybe if you continue like this, your children won’t 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 it’s 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.

Do you know that if you go into protected areas and private property – 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.

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.

How much do they then sell it for?

Santiago Acal
I have no idea.

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.

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

Santiago Acal
Yes we have numbers

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 can’t sell it.

How many feet do you have in your yard?

Sylvestre Choc
Forty-thousand feet.

Now how much will you sell that for?

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

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.

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.

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 o’clock this morning, they didn’t 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.


#433652 - 03/21/12 09:24 AM Re: Mayas protest Rosewood moratorium [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 57,759
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline

Villagers Protest for Continued Rosewood pillaging

A freeze was put in place on the harvesting and exportation of rosewood last Friday within days of the resumption of office by the Dean Barrow administration. It was a first major policy statement coming from the new Minister of Forestry and Sustainable Development, Lisel Alamilla that immediately won praise from conservationists. But there are two sides to the coin, because on the ground among Mayan communities in the south, rosewood is a way of life. The moratorium caught them off guard and today they headed to Belmopan. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

Isani Cayetano, reporting

A delegation of roughly a hundred and fifty villagers from the south, predominantly rosewood loggers from several Maya communities in Toledo, descended upon Independence Hill this morning, posters held high, while Cabinet met inside the Assembly Building. The gathering is a successful busload of protestors who made the journey to the capital city to oppose the recently passed moratorium on rosewood harvesting. Leading the charge is Remy Choc.

Remy Choc, Protestor

Remy Choc

“This process that took place this morning, we left our village early in the morning to be here because the people, especially the farmers, the cutters, my dad, investors, they have rosewood that they cut already and, you understand, it just come to a process that bam the rosewood [cutting] ceased.”

Since the approval of a suspension on logging activities last Friday there is serious contention over the fact that there was no advance notice given prior to the moratorium.

Oscar Requeña

Oscar Requeña, Area Representative, Toledo West

“The problem with it is that our people have not been prepared for it. A lot of our people—and most of them are farmers, they take their little money, they have invested it in buying chainsaws and cutting rosewood, they have all the planks there. We have other business people, we spoke to one particular business who said he has invested one hundred and fifty thousand dollars and it is all tied up there. Our position is that fine, no problem with the moratorium but I think they need to be reasonable and give time to people so that they can take out all the logs that they have already harvested.”

Remy’s father, Sylvester Choc, a resident of San Pedro, Columbia, is one of four major rosewood dealers operating in the district. He remains in possession of almost forty thousand feet of lumber which he fears will languish on his compound in the weeks to come.

Remy Choc

“My dad went to the bank [and] get money to invest. That money that he invested into the rosewood will stay right there and not only for my dad, I’m talking on behalf of my people. Many of them get kerosene, gas, workmen and all of that [and now] they have losses. So this is why we came this morning to Belmopan to protest to let our [prime] minister, Mr. Dean Barrow, have pity on the people open his heart.”

The decision to freeze all rosewood harvesting until a thorough assessment of its sustainability can be conducted has become a polemic issue. On one hand environmentalists are breathing a sigh of relief and on the other stakeholders are up in arms over stock they won’t soon be able to sell.

Remy Choc

“Many people will say it’s politics. We don’t come here for politics. We came here, you know, mek at least our rosewood we invested, mek we sell it and you know. Give us a chance to sell out the amount that we have left to, you know, then we can gain back the little money that we invested.”

Mike Espat

The stance that elected area representative Mike Espat has taken is quite simple.

Mike Espat, Area Representative, Toledo East

“Our position is that no [there’s] no problem on the moratorium. What they should do is clean up all the lumber that they have on the ground. This is a concern because there is, I don’t know, I would say maybe half a million to a million dollars worth of rosewood that has already been cut [that’s] sitting on the ground and the longer they are exposed to the sun, they will start to deteriorate.”

In November 2011, the Ya’axche Conservation Trust, then headed by newly-appointed Minister of Forestry Lisel Alamilla, joined forces with Friends of Conservation in writing P.M. Barrow to address the pillaging of the precious wood. Among their concerns was that the conventional practice of protecting rosewood through the use of a custom order had been dropped. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

Late this evening, there was a reaction from Cabinet. While it is endorsing the rosewood moratorium in the Toledo and Stann Creek Districts, the Cabinet release says “The Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries, and Sustainable Development will take into consideration those with valid licenses who may have already cut trees with a view to exporting the lumber.”

Channel 5

#433653 - 03/21/12 09:25 AM Re: Mayas protest Rosewood moratorium [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 57,759
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline

Gang Suppression Unit suppresses Mayans en route to protest

Remy Choc

And while some protestors made it Belmopan to picket outside the National Assembly Building this morning, a second busload was turned back upon reaching Armenia. Both buses were met by a contingent of armed officers, believed to be members of the Gang Suppression Unit, who formed an ad hoc checkpoint near the outskirts of the village. According to Remy Choc, the passengers were required to exit the vehicles where a complete search of their persons was conducted in a nearby field. When it was discovered that the second bus was being driven without a permit for charter, the driver and his commuters, were forced to return south but not before an exchange with the officers.

Remy Choc

“We got a call from one of the bus drivers and a lady. They said that the police were dressed in civilian uniform, dragon unit. They pulled them over and they took them to afield and they took out everybody from out of the bus. We never did have a close chat with the people but when we came here because the time was on the doc, so we told them we need to start the process. Don’t worry about that. We came here not with the violence, we came here with love to let our minister and the senator hear the people. At least give us that chance.”

Channel 5

#433812 - 03/23/12 07:48 AM Re: Mayas protest Rosewood moratorium [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 57,759
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline

Forestry Minister, Right Back At Protestors

On Tuesday - 60 Mayans from the Toledo district staged a demonstration on Independence Hill in Belmopan - demanding that the moratorium on Rosewood be lifted.

Their argument was that they have all their money tied up in Rosewood on the ground - and the moratorium has turned their valuable commodity into a wasting asset.

They brought heat on the new Forestry Minister Lisel Alamilla - and last night on the Lik Road Talk Show - she put that heat right back on them.

She said the majority of the communities and the Alcaldes support a moratorium - and that the protest was the product of a few very wealthy folks pushing buttons. Here are her remarks:..

Minister Lisel Alamilla
"If you know who is leading this you would understand what the agenda is. This is being led by the agents who are the buyers. They are the ones who are paying $4 a board foot to the Mayan villagers who are doing all the hard work."

"I want to say that one of the protesters that was interviewed is the alcalde from Medina Bank and I have with me a petition signed from Medina Bank - a petition of 30, because I was working on this prior to being appointed as minister because this is a subject that is very dear to my heart. We have 30 alcaldes that have signed on to this petition and of it 26 voted that they wanted a full stop - moratorium on this matter and only 3 said that they want to continue."

"26 of them voted and said; "The government of Belize should prohibit the export of raw rosewood lumber. Rosewood should only be exported as a finish or semi-finished product." There are 39 Maya villages in the Toledo District and of that we have 30 of them that have sign on to this petition."

"Those persons that are speaking are the ones who have been made millionaires and of course they are not happy about what's happening because this will now be regulated."

"People perhaps don't fully understand. We are not closing down the logging business; we have no intentions of doing that."

The Chief Forestry Officer has said that those who have Rosewood on the ground will be allowed to sell it…eventually. But, first, the purpose of the moratorium is to stop the cutting - so that a thorough assessment can be made of the state of the forestry resource.

Channel 7

#433933 - 03/24/12 08:37 AM Re: Mayas protest Rosewood moratorium [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 57,759
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline

Chief Forestry Officer says Alcaldes support Rosewood moratorium

On Tuesday Mayas from the Toledo district converged on the Independence Hill in protest of the moratorium on Rosewood. They were demanding that the moratorium be lifted as they were loosing money. Their money they say is tied up in Rosewood still needing to be processed for exportation. The moratorium it seems has turn their gold to charcoal. They brought put the spotlight on the new Forestry Minister Lisel Alamilla and she responded. She said that most of the communities and the Alcaldes support a moratorium - and that the protest was as a result of a few very wealthy folks agitating for their personal gain. Her claim is that of 30 of the alcaldes that area who signed on at least 26 of them were for the moratorium. The Chief Forestry Officer has indicated that already harvested Rosewood will be allowed to sell. But that the main purpose of the moratorium was to halt the cutting - so that a thorough assessment could be conducted on the state of the forestry resource.


#434155 - 03/27/12 07:55 AM Re: Mayas protest Rosewood moratorium [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 57,759
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline

Loggers meet in the South to discuss Rosewood

Since she took office only about two weeks ago, Lisel Alamilla had hit the ground running. Government confirmed this morning, that the portfolio responsibility of Indigenous People has been dropped from Minister Lisel Alamilla. When the responsibility was first announced on March thirteenth, the Maya Leaders Alliance (MLA) came out saying that there are eminently qualified persons within the Maya community who well understood the interests of the indigenous people. The MLA questioned whether the government would have created a Ministry of Creole People or Mestizo People without consultation with those communities, and if they would have appointed a non-Creole or non-Mestizo to “handle” the relationship with those communities. Well, the Prime Minister has step backed and Alamilla’s Ministry is now the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development. Alamilla still has her hands full with the Rosewood situation. Since declaring the moratorium, she has been applauded by environmentalists and upset loggers who earn substantial amounts from the trade. Over the weekend, loggers held a meeting to discuss the moratorium. News Five Isani Cayetano reports.


An immediate stay on the extraction of rosewood has presented a stumbling block for quite a number of loggers whose primary means of income is the commercial exploitation of valuable timber. In mid-2011 the issue of harvesting in the south made headlines when it was brought to light that the wholesale despoliation of rosewood was out of control. Since the re-election of the Barrow Administration earlier this month swift measure has been taken to suspend the activity without delay. While that decision appeases the conservation community it has been met with harsh criticism by industry stakeholders.


Here in Mafredi, a village several miles northwest of Punta Gorda Town, Eduardo Villafranco is bearing the adverse effect of the moratorium. As a newcomer to the trade he has invested substantially in acquiring roughly sixty thousand board feet of rosewood, a pile of lumber he needs to sell in order to make a profit.


Eduardo Villafranco

Eduardo Villafranco, Rosewood Dealer

“It’s like a livelihood for us here in Toledo since we have problems getting paid for rice. So everybody decided to do something else noh.”


Villafranco, like others in the business, finds himself in a pickle. He is of the opinion that the resolution to bring rosewood harvesting to a screeching halt, without any notice given prior to that abrupt decision, was a knee-jerk reaction.


Eduardo Villafranco

“We hope that the government will take a quick step on it noh and let’s get moving because the longer it stays here the more people lose because it’s out in the sun and it gets all cracked up and stuff like that and then the prices are going to drop because of that, you know.”


Villafranco is one of a handful of dealers who attests that those affected most by the freeze are the many tree cutters who depend heavily on income derived from logging.


Isani Cayetano

A firsthand experience of what the operation entails means joining a group of lumberjacks by boat up the Moho River to an area known as Boom Creek. Along the banks of this tributary are loads of harvested rosewood; the process however, takes place in the dense wilderness. To get there we traverse an often treacherous dirt road by tractor.


Isani Cayetano

“Deep inside the Boom Creek forest, some two miles off the banks of the Moho River in the Toledo District, a gang of eleven men has gathered here where they are harvesting rosewood. This is their lifeline, the only means by which they are able to feed their families and educate their children.”


Israel Sanchez

Israel Sanchez, a resident of this community, has been cutting rosewood for almost four years.


Israel Sanchez, Logger

“As you can see around here we have a lot [of trees]. We don’t cut the small, small ones them. We cut only the good sized ones them and we leave the seedling trees also fu mek we could got some more rosewood.”


The question of sustainability is central to the issue of rosewood harvesting. While Sanchez and his workmen are responsible in their practice there are others who aren’t as conscientious about the environment. That carelessness, which ultimately led to the moratorium, will cost veteran dealer Sylvester Choc dearly.


Sylvester Choc, Rosewood Dealer

Sylvester Choc

“If you buy wah hundred thousand feet you make about thirty percent profit. It’s profitable but since the competition has started then ih no practical because sometime people change the price and we sell about four [dollars and] fifty [cents]. We have to pay about four [dollars] twenty-five [cents] to the buyers them. We have to pay royalty to the government [so] it’s critical when there is competition. Like the other shop when there is too much competition ih get the same way that’s why I wahn quit it.”


But for Choc to withdraw his stake in the business he needs to find market for forty thousand board feet of rosewood. Purely financial, it is the equivalent of a hundred and sixty thousand dollars he has invested in purchasing the precious lumber.


Sylvester Choc

“Sometimes yo got profit and loss. Yo cyan’t think that you wah profit all the time.”


Isani Cayetano

“Yo haffi prepare for the rainy days.”


Sylvester Choc

“Yes. But right now I deh eena di hole.”


Santos Sanchez

After expenses, a hundred thousand dollars of which he owes to the bank, Choc will pocket the balance. For Santos Sanchez, a local feller, rosewood is what keeps Boom Creek thriving.


Santos Sanchez, Rosewood Cutter

“Everybody is being affected because we cannot bring food to the table if we don’t sell this rosewood because this is our only hope, there is nothing more. You know, in the village we have a lot of them [residents] affected too. Some of them, the people are not sending their children to school because they don’t have no income, you know, and it’s really, really hard for us.”


Despite an inability to sell their product the team lumbers on. Each load of rosewood is transported to the riverside by tractor. There the contents are discharged and stockpiled for shipment downstream. It’s a livelihood that has been deemed illegal, work they wouldn’t mind giving up had they been forewarned of its impending prohibition. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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