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The Maya land rights saga

LettersThe Maya land rights saga

Tues. Feb. 13, 2024

Dear Editor, AMANDALA

The Maya communal land rights saga continues to be a plague for the nation-state of Belize. This very sensitive and problematic issue will continue to haunt this country for many generations to come. The government seems to be clueless about how to resolve this ordeal.

This issue has its origin at the Caribbean Court of Justice where the Maya leaders won a monumental judgment against the state. They were awarded over 6 million dollars over a portion of the highway that was built on Maya land that led to Jalacte Village, a bordering community with Guatemala in southern Belize.

The case that was presented to the CCJ on behalf of the people of Belize to debunk the Maya land rights was weak and appeared ill-prepared. Moreover, the decision made at that high court regarding this issue gave a major blow to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of this country.

The Privy Council, which was Belize’s highest court until they voted for a change to the CCJ, would have never reached a verdict in favor of the Maya’s land rights in the Toledo District.

Whilst it is human nature to be sympathetic to the plight of all indigenous and oppressed people of the western hemisphere, the reality is that, once the Europeans arrived in this part of the world, the condition of these people diminished to oblivion.

The decision made by the CCJ, acknowledging that these people are direct descendants of the ancient Maya civilization and do have rights to their land, from my estimation eliminates and/or eradicates the entire colonial era. The Maya people in the Toledo District now use this judgment as a tool to hold the government to ransom.

The irony is that Belize is the only country, among the 5 countries that are considered part of La Mundo MAYA, that has this problem with Maya people. Whilst historically attempts have been made in Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador, and Honduras by the Maya to acquire their land, their claim has never even seen the light of day.

If the government cannot find an amicable solution to this disastrous situation very soon, Belize will not only have to contend with the existential threat of the Guatemalan claim at the ICJ, but they will also have to deal with an internal threat for the territorial integrity of the country by the Maya people. If the Maya have their way, the land mass of this country will shrink drastically.

Take heed, Belizeans!

Concerned citizen
J. Alvarez      

(AMANDALA Ed. Note: Ah, but remember, brother Alvarez; the Maya of southern Belize are Belizeans still; like the Mennonites who own tens of thousands of acres, are Belizeans too. Agreed, Maya land rights is a difficult issue; but not for our “territorial integrity.” Belizean land is going nowhere, unless our borders are changed. One nation, one government, one people – Belizeans all!)

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