Features — 16 June 2015 — by Adele Ramos
Indigenous leaders prepare declaration to reduce incursions

BENQUE VIEJO DEL CARMEN, CAYO, Fri. June 12, 2015–Maya Q’eqchi leaders of Belize traveled to Poptun, Petén, Guatemala, recently for a three-day meeting, as a follow-up to a reunion of indigenous community leaders that was held in Punta Gorda this March.

The representatives of the indigenous communities developed a draft declaration calling for more attention to be paid by their governments to the communities located near the border, so that incursions into the Chiquibul-Maya Mountains area can be reduced.

“Once reviewed and finalized, the declaration, whose contents is based on matters related to ‘territory, natural resources and ancestral knowledge,’ will be presented to the Governments of Belize and Guatemala,” said Rafael Manzanero, Executive Director of Friends for Conservation and Development (FCD).

“The leaders of indigenous communities from Southern Petén and Southern Belize shared their ideas, and vision on how to unite efforts and promote local participation that addresses the environmental, social and economic problems of their communities situated along the Belize-Guatemala border,” Manzanero added.

He noted that there are several indigenous communities in southern Belize near Belize’s western border with Guatemala, and in Guatemala there are several communities that are composed of Maya Q’eqchi and Maya Mopan near to its border with Belize.

“On both sides of the border, indigenous communities are located inside or near the protected area block known as the Chiquibul-Maya Mountains. The reunion, therefore, was directed at issues that affect them, and how they can live in harmony with each other and with their natural environment,” Manzanero explained.

Apart from FCD, participating agencies included the Toledo Alcalde Association, Coordinadora de Asoc. Campesinas Agropecuarias de Petén (COACAP), Aj Ral Chooch, Casa de la Esperanza, Comunidad Lingüística Maya Q’eqchi, Comunidad Lingüística Maya, Commonwealth of Communities of South Petén, National Council of Protected Areas (CONAP), and Asociacion Balam.

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