Norwegian Cruise Lines—which proposes to set up a US$50 million cruise port at Harvest Caye in southern Belize, near Placencia—has been working to galvanize support from locals for its project, and not only has it been lobbying for that support across villages in Toledo; it has also pitched a job offer to Cristina Coc – the main spokesperson of the Maya Leaders Alliance (MLA) – who the company recently tried to hire as its public relations officer in Belize.
Coc said that about a month ago, she received a call from a Norwegian rep, who said that they had seen her on TV and they like what they see. The rep asked Coc to consider going to work with them, to help them make sure that the company gets good publicity. She told us that she later received a call from a Norwegian official in California, asking for a meeting. Coc, who told us that she was not interested in such a post, said that she asked the Norwegian reps to put the offer in writing, but they never did.
According to Coc, she was invited to a meeting which Norwegian was having in Bella Vista in September to discuss the project.
Coc said that while she did not attend the Bella Vista meeting, reports from persons who attended indicate that the emphasis was placed on greater tourism business and more job opportunities for locals.
The Garifuna community has spoken publicly on the project; however, there has yet to be an official statement from the Maya community.
Amandala understands that the Maya alcaldes of Toledo are due to meet next week to discuss the proposed cruise port, after which they intend to issue a public statement declaring their stance.
Last week, though, Norwegian issued a statement highlighting the support it has received from some persons in the Maya community.
In a press release, Norwegian Cruise Line said, “Twelve Mayan villages were represented at the meeting on September 15, 2013, where respected Mayan leaders publically expressed their support for Norwegian’s new development.”
It added that, “The Mayan leaders who were in attendance publically announced their support of Norwegian’s project on Harvest Caye and urged the villagers to support it as well.”
The company said that benefits include more tax revenue for Belize and up to 1,000 new jobs.
“Norwegian also plans to employ a majority of Belizeans in the construction and operation of the destination in Belize,” the company said.
It added that it has created a hiring program for Belizeans: “Once the destination is ready to open, those Belizeans will have priority preference for the numerous staff positions needed to run the day-to-day operations,” Norwegian said.
Pablo Mis, MLA program officer, told Amandala that the association is aware that Norwegian agents have been going around to the communities, canvassing names for project support and making employment offers.
Mis said that there have been questions by villagers, asking Norwegian if they were prepared to put their offers to the community in writing, but they have not yet done so—similar to US Capital’s approach, he said.
Mis said that they will attempt to find out who those 12 Maya leaders from 12 communities mentioned in the Norwegian press release are, but a formal position from the Maya community will be outlined and released after their upcoming alcaldes’ meeting.
Mis said that the MLA has not been engaged through a formal process. Both he and Coc told us that the position represented by Norwegian Cruise Lines does not represent a formal position of the Maya alcaldes as a collective.
Of note is that Toledo has nearly 40 Maya villages.