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INDIGENOUS MAYA AND GARIFUNA CAN DECIDE WHETHER OR NOT TO VOTE IN MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS

FeaturesINDIGENOUS MAYA AND GARIFUNA CAN DECIDE WHETHER OR NOT TO VOTE IN MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS

By Wellington C. Ramos, Adjunct Professor of History and Political Science

Under International Law, the UN Declaration On The Rights Of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), treaties, conventions, charters, constitutions and other legal covenants, indigenous peoples like the Garifuna and Maya people who live in Belize and other countries do not have to participate in their countries’ elections if they choose not to. Below is a copy of the UNDRIP on the Rights of Indigenous peoples:

UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)

UNESCO actions on engaging with indigenous peoples address the following paragraphs, inter alia, of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP): 

Affirming that indigenous peoples are equal to all other peoples, while recognizing the right of all peoples to be different, to consider themselves different, and to be respected as such,

Recognizing the urgent need to respect and promote the inherent rights of indigenous peoples which derive from their political, economic and social structures and from their cultures, spiritual traditions, histories and philosophies, especially their rights to their lands, territories and resources;

Acknowledging that the Charter of the United Nations, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, affirm the fundamental importance of the right to self-determination of all peoples, by virtue of which they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development;

Emphasizing that the United Nations has an important and continuing role to play in promoting and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples;

Believing that this Declaration is a further important step forward for the recognition, promotion and protection of the rights and freedoms of indigenous peoples and in the development of relevant activities of the United Nations system in this field:

Article 41

The organs and specialized agencies of the United Nations system and other intergovernmental organizations shall contribute to the full realization of the provisions of this Declaration through the mobilization, inter alia, of financial cooperation and technical assistance. Ways and means of ensuring participation of indigenous peoples on issues affecting them shall be established.

Article 42

The United Nations, its bodies, including the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and specialized agencies, including at the country level, and States shall promote respect for and full application of the provisions of this Declaration and follow up the effectiveness of this Declaration.

They have the fundamental legal right to: formulate their own constitution, conduct their own elections, choose how they want to be represented, who they want to represent them from among their own people and set up their own form of government to govern their territories in these countries. The reason for this is because prior to these people being colonized by the European countries, mainly Spain, France and Great Britain, they were nation states governing themselves. 

Colonization by these European countries led to the destruction of their nation states and forced subjugation by their colonizers. After colonization came independence, but these countries continue to suppress indigenous peoples’ rights with Neocolonialists who were educated by their colonial masters.

 Little do many of the local elected representatives realize that the system they pledge to uphold, is not to their people’s benefit and advantage but that of the colonial nations. Most of the countries who claim that they are independent are not, because they do not have the resources to govern themselves. They still depend on their former colonial master or other countries, to provide them with financial assistance and their citizens living in the Unites States to send remittances to their families back to their homelands to survive. Below is recent data that was obtained from the World Bank:

In Belize and all the countries where the Garifuna and Maya people live, everything is controlled by the central governments. These governments impose their laws at will on the Garifuna and Maya people without their free, prior and informed consent. If the Garifuna and Maya people disobey the laws of these countries, they subject themselves to being detained, arrested, kidnapped, imprisoned or even being killed. 

The people who are targeted the most are the Garifuna and Maya leaders who are advocating for their peoples’ rights. These governments have signed treaties and conventions to respect and grant these indigenous Garifuna and Maya people their rights but have failed to enforce them. Two of the biggest rights that are constantly being violated are human rights and land rights. Below are pictures of a Garifuna leader and a Maya leader who were killed by their governments for advocating on their people’s behalf: 

A PICTURE OF ONE OF THE FIVE GARIFUNA LEADERS WHO WERE KINAPPED IN TRIUNFO DE LA CRUZ, HONDURAS, WHO ARE STILL MISSING AND PRESUMED DEAD:  ALBERTH SNEIDER CENTENO

A PICTURE OF A MAYA LEADER BY THE NAME OF JUAN DE EON TUYIC VELASQUEZ WHO WAS FIGHTING FOR HIS PEOPLE’S RIGHTS IN GUATEMALA AND WAS KILLED. 

The Garifuna and Maya people must adopt their own constitutions and charters, to govern their people and lands in the countries where they live. They must follow up by electing their own representatives to govern their territories and lands with autonomy and jurisdiction over them. 

Currently, the governments in these countries where they live continue to encroach upon their lands, imposing the collection of taxes from them and sending little or no revenues back to spend in their villages or towns. In the case of Belize, there is not even one elected Garifuna person in the House of Representatives, so taxation without representation is undemocratic.

Plus, they exercise control in the taking of the Garifuna and Maya lands and sometimes with the consent and collaboration of their elected representatives, through the central and local government system. The political systems in these countries do not operate to benefit the Garifuna and Maya people. What it does is to continue supporting the ongoing violations of their human, land and other fundamental rights that the Garifuna and Maya people possess.

 It is now time for the Garifuna and Maya people to exercise their rights and to stop waiting on their governments to grant them rights they have possessed for centuries before their territories were colonized and neo-colonized by the Spanish, French and British.

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