Reports say that they are illegally harvesting xaté as far as 12 miles inside Belizean territory
In response to increased sightings of Guatemalan xatéros inside the Columbia River Forest Reserve, the Belize Territorial Volunteers (BTV) plans to undertake an expedition in the area to document the reported incursions which have been marginalizing Maya hunters and farmers in the area, BTV founder Wil Maheia told Amandala.
Last week, Fermin Castellano of San Antonio reported that he had seen a Guatemalan xatéro armed with both a machete and firearm, and harvesting the xaté palm as far as 12 miles inside Belizean territory, near the La Union area of the Columbia River Forest Reserve.
Castellano said that when he saw the armed xatéro, he became nervous and hid in the bushes.
Although it happened three years ago, the armed assault by xatéros on Emelino Cho, the alcalde of San Jose Village, Toledo, and villager Alfredo Sho, near Doyle’s Delight, Cayo—who xatéros had shot after the men gave them food—has embedded lingering fear in many Toledo villagers, forcing them to cut back on farming and hunting activities.
Maheia said that people have stopped reporting these incidents to Belizean authorities, because their reports fall on deaf ears.
He told us that villagers of San Jose have also expressed concerns over an increase in incursions in the area, and their hunting and farming activities continue to be negatively impacted.