Last week, several media houses were leaked an unsigned copy of
a "Memorandum of Understanding" (MOU) - not a proposal, detailing the
granting of a 99-year exclusive lease for the Maya city of Caracol "and
the immediate surrounding area comprising 20 square miles for tourism
and other development" to Tropical Resources Limited and WEST*GROUP.
The signators on this agreement were to be Prime Minister Said Musa for
the Government of Belize; Eugene Zabaneh, Chairman of Tropical
Resources Limited, and Patrick Jefferies, Chief Executive Officer of
On Tuesday (June 29th), The San Pedro Sun contacted the Archeology
Department, the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) and several other relevant
agencies. Many were totally unaware of the existence of the MOU. During
that same day or the next, other media and agencies, private and
public, aware of this impending atrocity were also busy calling to
voice their opposition. By Wednesday evening, a press release was
issued by the National Institute of Culture and History (NICH) quoting
Minister of Tourism Mark Espat, who stated that Caracol would not be
turned over to any private developer. This was good news indeed.
One of the many disturbing revelations to come out of this is how
one person, and not even the person in charge of archeological sites,
could sign a document practically giving Caracol away on behalf of the
government without the consent or knowledge of certain ministers in
Cabinet, the House of Representatives, the Senate or the people of
Belize? Archeological sites fall under the responsibilities of the
Minister of Tourism, who stated in the NICH press release, "an open,
transparent process of appropriate consultation for any development of
our archeological sites, parks and public lands must be forthcoming."
During last Tuesday's Cabinet meeting, "Cabinet appointed a committee
to access resources to prepare a master plan for the development of the
Caracol archaeological site. Once the plan is completed, interested
investors will be invited to participate in the development of the
area." Was this the groundwork needed to enable the signing of this
MOU? Was the timing of the leak of this MOU so close, that this could
have been a done deal before anyone knew what had happened or could do
anything to stop it? Anyone who thinks something like this could not
happen in Belize is either naive or simply kidding himself/herself. Mr.
Zabaneh himself, acknowledged the existence of this document in a press
release. He is a businessman, and one cannot blame him for trying, but
government should be taken to task for considering, or entertaining the
notion of granting an exclusive license for a cultural site to ANYONE.
Now, to the actual point of this editorial. I would like to publicly
thank the ONE person who had enough integrity and love of country to
make this MOU public. This person, to me, is a real patriot - a true
Belizean. This type of character and spirit is what the September
Celebrations should be about, not political rhetoric or speeches.
People who brave certain personal prosecution if discovered - in order
to do the right thing for his/her country. A person who realizes their
small ripple can create a tidal wave. A person whose fear of doing the
right thing is overshadowed by the fear of the consequences of not
doing the right thing. A person who is not afraid to speak out and be
Can ONE person make a difference? YES, they can!