Posts Tagged illegal

Toledo villagers beg for BDF

The following story is an extract from: Amandala
Posted: 18/06/2010 – 09:49 AM
Author: Adele Ramos – adelescribe@gmail.com

The chairman of the village of San Jose and villagers of San Jose and Na Lum Cah, Toledo, are calling on the Government of Belize to increase Belize Defence Force (BDF) presence in the area, after reports that Guatemalan xatéros are operating very close to their village, and have most recently been stealing their horses.

Even though a military operation was dispatched to the area at the start of the week, according to an official source, Guatemalan xatéros, villagers say, were sighted in the area as recent as last night, Wednesday.

The report is furthermore linked to the sighting of an illegal clearing inside the Columbia River Forest Reserve – a magnet to Guatemalan xatéros, loggers and poachers who frequent the area to illegally extract natural resources. Eight men were recently sighted together in the area.

Clearly, the most recent developments solidify security concerns by villagers in the area, not too far from the reserve, whose property have allegedly been pillaged at night by persons they believe to be illegal xatéros.

Wil Maheia, activist and leader of the People’s National Party, reported to Amandala that even though the rains prevented him and his companions from going deep into the Columbia River Forest Reserve, they were able to speak with frustrated villagers from San Jose, Toledo, who confirmed rustling of horses and a donkey from the area.

“We spoke to the chairman Mr. Peck who mentioned that he would like to see a more permanent presence of the BDF in the area, because it is only when things like this happen that they get a reaction from the military,” Maheia conveyed. “‘If Amandala did not print that article, probably no movement would have taken place,’ he said.”

Emitero Sho, villager of Na Lum Cah, echoed that frustration, complaining that the Guatemalans stole his donkey and some horses from other villagers. When they went to report the matter to the Punta Gorda police, 30 miles away from where they live, villagers said, the PG police sent them to file a report at the San Antonio Police Station, several miles inland. The villager said that he did not have the money to go to another station to file the report and so decided to abandon those attempts. Despite a complaint filed to the Ministry of Defence, the villager said, no one has gone to locate them to get any statements from them.

Maheia narrated: “When we arrived in the village, we saw some military personnel. We went to ask them if they had gone into the Colombia Forest to investigate the reports of Guatemalan squatters and that of the stealing of horses. Lt. B. Robinson said that he cannot make a comment on their visit in the area and that all questions should be directed to Officer [Ganney] Dortch at Price Barracks [Ladyville]. Rafael Sho, a villager of San Jose, said that he had gone into the forest and saw xatéros extracting the xaté and that he would like to see the presence of the BDF.

“He told us that as of now, the BDF are patrolling, but it is limited and the xatéros are out there in full force. We also got a report that last night, the Guatemalans were back in the village of Na Lum Cah and tried to steal more horses, but when the horse made a noise, the owners were awakened and the Guatemalans ran away. Almost every villager we spoke to asked that there should be more military presence in the area.”

Military Liaison Officer, Lieutenant Victor Briceño, reported to Amandala Thursday that the BDF is currently out on a mission in the area to find out the facts on the ground. Briceño said that they have received the complaint at their ministry that Guatemalans have rustled horses in the area and cleared out a portion of the Columbia River Forest Reserve.

The xatéros used to bring their own horses, he recollected, claiming the horse rustling has not happened in that area for a while.

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