Yesterday, we showed you a small part of the media tour organized by the SATIIM last week Friday and Saturday.
Its purpose was to provide the public with what’s at stake with US Capital Energy’s oil exploration plan inside the Sarstoon Temash National Park.
But the leading personalities who have spoken out against the development are those from SATIIM, and more importantly Greg Ch’oc.
Well, Ch’oc who has his own controversial approach, intended to show that the mandate with which he speaks comes from the Mayan Communities who has named him their spokesperson.
Our news team followed him around for those 2 days, and Daniel Ortiz put together this report:
Daniel Ortiz reporting
The Executive Director of SATIIM took us to 2 of the 5 Mayan Communities in the buffer zone to so that they themselves could change the impression that SATIIM is the only organization heading the resistance against US Capital. According to the Crique Sarco and Midway Villagers we spoke to, SATIIM is only a messenger; the villages are the ones who are headstrong that Government and US Capital are violating their rights.
Midway Villager - Mayan speech
"Many people have said why Mr. Ch'oc is always the one to be interpreting, translating, but we have elected him. It's our community's decision to be the one to speak for us and that's why he is happy that we have organized this meeting so that the community is given a chance to speak."
"A lot of people have said why Mr. Cho'oc. I want to make known here that it is our village that has elected him to help us to translate for us, to speak for us. We may be able to speak some English and some Kreole but often times when we speak, we don't really say what we want."
So, with that in mind, the 2 villages welcomed us in to see what it is they are defending, their quiet way of life. It included chores like chopping firewood, the preparation of food – like 'Caldo', one of the dishes they shared with us and their subsistence farming:
Crique Sarco Village - Mayan speech
"We the indigenous people, we've been living here, made our livelihood, we depend on all the resources we have here and she highlighted that the Alcaldes, if they have differences but the they are representing the interest of the community as well."
Samuel – Crique Sarco Villager -
"I have heard a lot of different people saying that it's SATIIM, it's not SATIM, it's about the people that live, that benefit from the resources we have in and around Crique Sarco. SATIM is only asked by the community to represent us.
We cannot prove that our corn fields, our rice, our beans, or whatever we plant will be affected. For sure they will be affected in some way or the other, so that's why I am saying that we are the most affected community because that's what we survive on, from corn, rice, beans and those are just some of the crops that we are afraid might be affected by these pollutants."
And the communities also wanted to clear the air on another issue. They say that they are not opposed to oil exploration inside the Sarstoon Temash National Park or near their communal lands. According to the villages, since they are being asked – or according to them, forced in this case – to take the biggest risk, they should reap some benefits from the oil exploration:
Samuel – Crique Sarco Villager
"We are not against oil drilling but in the manner the government and the company is performing, we have said that we want to meet with them. I can recall the different proposals we have written and we want to present it to them but at this moment none of them want to talk to us. They don't want to sit around the table and discuss the way forward."
And one villager placed on record their biggest concern, the fact that the rest of the country only remembers the Mayan culture when it is convenient:
Marcos Choc – Crique Sarco Villager
"Us, the Maya people do exist. We are the first people living in these areas to the present time and history states that the Maya people were the first inhabitants in this nation, that's why we have so many Maya sites that our country is benefiting from through tourism and to the present time we are going culturally, we are still using Maya people of today, so I would like the whole nation to understand and that yes us the Maya people still exist and we are here, we are still living but we know that our rights had been violated."
Just as there is that strong voice opposing US Capital, there are also those villagers who say that have no problem with the development or the company:
Elena Bo – Crique Sarco Villager
"I don’t have no problem with US Capital. US Capital is helping. I see the help with the school, big great help and the road now needs to be fixed but nobody wants to fix the road."
Thomas Cal Jr. – Crique Sarco Villager
"Before the people said, they said majority of the people sign the resolution but that was before. I know for now in today's date, that majority has gone against that proposal. I want the nation to know that majority has gone against the proposal because SATIM has been lying us for years. They have promised work. Where is the work? No work and then the company is at least providing a job two weeks for everyone. When has SATIM done this?; None, none of the days before they started so I don't see where they are saying that majority is still in favor of the resolution."
Marcos Chub – Chairman, Crique Sarco Village
"The fact is that here in Crique Sarco this community is divided, to be very honest. As the chariman of Crique Sarco I am for development but a development in a fair and just manner."
Those villagers who are in favor of the development, have been strongly criticized by their own as accepting the financial benefits to change their allegiances, and they get their fair share of disapproving nods
Marcos Chub – Chairman, Crique Sarco Village
"And I know that whenever one person speaks in favor of a group, some people get mad, the other side, and that's politics."
"Do you work for US Capital
"Not at the moment Mam.
"You used to?"
"I used to work. I'm straight forward. I use to work for Seismic and many of us worked in Seismic, majority of us but just last two weeks I got a little two week to help myself."
Due to time constraints, we weren’t able to speak with 3 Mayan communities due to their remote locations.