Belize: Call For Expertise - Campaign Against Oil Drilling On Maya Lands In Southern Belize

Name of Organization: Maya Leaders Alliance (MLA) and Toledo Alcaldes Association (TAA)
Primary Contact: Pablo Mis, Program Director, (501) 662-1663, mayaleadersbelize [at] gmail [dot] com
Other Contact: Ligorio Coy, MLA Chairman of Board of Directors, (501)660-8914
Cristina Coc, Spokes Person of the MLA, (501) 660-5583

Over the years you have supported the work of the Maya Leaders Alliance and the Toledo Alcaldes Association in the areas of land rights security, strengthening of Maya form of governance - Alcaldes and community education. Land rights security is fundamental because it is in our relationship with the land and the environment that we live our identity as Maya people. Our Maya form of governance is the mechanism that facilitates our identity into practical realities on a daily basis as a community and the medium with which we engage with the wider community. Through the Alcaldes, the community is recognized as the fundamental authority for decision making. The success of our partnership over the years has been the result of a dynamic and vibrant alcalde system. The community education strategy has focused on human rights, indigenous rights, constitutional rights and protection under international law and environmental law. This has empowered community members with knowledge on contemporary mechanisms of protection and a result that compliments and adds confidence to the work of the alcaldes. The community education has also focused on transforming the educational institutions where young Maya students are with the vision of building more responsible and accountable leaders and community members.

I reiterate that our success has been as a result of our communities' capacity to organize and mobilize themselves independently through the alcaldes. Through the alcaldes we have engaged with as much community members possible, on the terms and conditions of the community, bring our minds together on issues and agree, by a majority decision, on strategies to move forward. Through this we have achieved unity within our communities and drawn solidarity between 38 Maya villages. In Belize this kind of unity is hard to find. For the Maya people this is the strength that has been maintained before successive governments and the arsenal behind the successful 2007 and 2010 Land Rights Judgments.

The government of Belize has ignored both its domestic laws and international law and it continues to violate the Maya people, their land and its natural resources. As I write there is a well crafted collusion between the government and US Capital Energy Ltd to break down the Maya people. As we speak US Capital Energy has a fully and well resourced team of local and international professionals, opposition parliamentarians and government agencies making promises to community members and intimidating the traditional leaders into submission. The government has given US Capital permission to drill for oil on Maya lands but with no regards to the standing Land Rights Judgments of 2007 and 2010. We have been here before and we have always emerged victorious because we have remained united and have held our traditional leaders accountable.

The role of the Maya Leaders Alliance and Toledo Alcaldes Association is to facilitate information, have a visible presence in the communities with the people and giving direct support to the traditional leaders as they engage with government and third party representatives. The Maya Leaders Alliance has leaders who have over 30 years of experience in engaging with the government and companies, who have served in the leadership of the association of alcaldes and most importantly are themselves members of our communities. Our priority at this point is to ensure and secure unity in each community and solidarity with the 38 communities. Creating a unified political front must be achieved in order for the government to begin engaging the communities and their representatives in good faith on this subject of oil drilling in protected areas and on Maya lands. Our end goal is to safeguard and protect the wellbeing of our people, natural resources and environment.

The Maya Leaders Alliance and the Toledo Alcaldes Association are community based organizations and do not have the financial and human resources to implement a solid campaign against US Capital Energy. Therefore, the board of directors of the Maya Leaders Alliance is making an urgent call for support.

1. The immediate need for resources to support an intensive mobilization of a team of Maya leaders to canvass the 38 Maya communities. This will ensure visible presence with community members and direct support to the traditional leaders as representatives of the company and government engage in a strategy of instilling fear/intimidation and division. The team will clarify information being presented by the company and the government and impart information and knowledge on the rights of the communities.

2. A need for resources to support the mobilization of the MLA/TAA legal team. Domestic attorney is Antoinette Moore SC - moorelawbze [at] gmail [dot] com ; international attorney is Moira Gracey - moira [at] carranza [dot] ca and Seanna Howard. There is also the need for additional pro-bono legal support and/or interns specifically on environmental law and indigenous rights.

3. There is the need for experts on oil and indigenous peoples, negotiation processes, interpretation of Environmental Impact Assessments and Social Impact Assessments. There is already a strong focus on the environmental aspect of this work being undertaken by conservation groups locally. The social, particularly the indigenous peoples interest, needs priority attention.

The above list does not exhaust the areas of need. Feel free to suggest areas that you may be interest to help in. We are aware that the entire Toledo District has been blocked into oil concessions, granted and approved by the government and this first work by US Capital Energy in the region will set the precedence of engagement for the rest of the Maya villages and the region.

In solidarity,

Pablo Mis
Program Director
Maya Leaders Alliance
Voice of America Road
Punta Gorda Town, Toledo
Belize CA
Telephone: (501) 722-0067
Email: mayaleadersbelize [at] gmail [dot] com