San Mateo family homeless for Christmas

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 17, No. 49            December 20, 2007

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A family of five in the San Mateo area of San Pedro Town is now homeless today after orders from the Supreme Court to demolish their home of 10 years were carried out. Gerald Banner, fisherman and resident of the island says he is doing all he can to put a roof over his family’s head this Christmas but so far, he’s been fighting a losing battle.

    But there is more to this story than you may think. The Sun spoke to Gerald Banner who explained to us what was happening and why he and his family are out of a home for Christmas. When we arrived at the scene, just across from the lagoon, there were two police officers, two workers who were dismantling the house and the Assistant Marshall of the Supreme Court who stood watching as they tore down the roof of the home. The Banner Family stood watching in disbelief as the place they called “home” was taken away in less than a day. The property legally belongs to Irma Vasquez and Bani Vasquez of Belize City. But what went wrong to have the Banner family out of their home?

    According to Gerald Banner, “As they give me [a lot] I came to build on it one time. I didn’t waste any time to build. Afterwards, in three months, he (Omar Arceo, the then chairperson), passed with his boat and said I have to go to his office because he did a mistake, he didn’t check the file and so on. I told him he had already given me this. He said I had to go from there because I had to come off and this and that. I told him I will come off but he will put me and my family in a nice hotel and then if they break down my house, they will relocate me to another area and build a nice house. He said he wasn’t on that. He said he wanted me off the land. Now I am living here for ten years and he wants me to come out because he said when he checked the files, they had another owner on it. I told him that is not my affair. He gave this to me. He said he wanted me out of the land, so now in ten years I have been all up and down Belmopan, but nothing gets done.”

    The Banner family was unable to provide a land title and had no choice but to stand and watch as they men tore down their house. Banner claims he has been pushing the issue with the council to have him acquire the lease but it was to no avail. And now he can’t pick up the pieces as fast as they are taking them down. And whilst the now homeless family tries to figure out their next move, so far the family claims they have been separated from their father who has been sleeping on his temporary boat home.

    And there’s a lot to add to this one. First, our associates at Channel 7 news spoke with the former Chair of the Lots Committee Omar Arceo. He acknowledged that he made an error, and did the best he could to correct it by offering another piece of land and urging Banner to take it – but Banner made it clear he wasn’t interested. He says that beyond that, he could do no more. Arceo adds that he was not the one to originally give the land to Banner. He adds that if Banner had followed procedure, this could have been averted.

    The current Chair of the Lots Committee Eiden Salazar acknowledges also that it was an error and says that it’s one that he’s trying to fix. He says that the Minister of Natural Resources will be out on the island on Thursday and he will try and get a lot assigned for Mr. Banner. As for the house that Banner somehow feels he’s entitled to, Salazar made it clear that he’s sensitive to the human aspect of the case and says he will try and offer some help on the community side.
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