Posts Tagged xateros

Toledo villagers beg for BDF

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

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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Great News for Protected Areas

The following story was extracted from 7 News dated December 22nd 2009. This is great news for the protected areas system in Belize.  Ya’axché thanks to the Government of Belize  for taking action.

From the entire staff at Ya’axché Conservation Trust – Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.

Major Change in Policy on Harvesting of Xate

As we come up on Christmas, Belize – Guatemala issues are at the forefront of the public discourse. And one year ago – it was about the same when Guatemalan Lionel Arellanos erected a storage container in Belizean territory. Remember that? Just west of Jalacte? It took months to get it off! But in February, the BDF did bulldoze it. And while that was 2008, in 2009 – the issues are the ongoing Chiquibul incursions and what the Foreign Minister calls our “artificial” border.

And somewhere beneath all this is the issue of Xate. It’s been a hot button territorial issue for years but tonight we can report that there are two important changes at the policy level in Belize and Guatemala. First, according to Ambassador Fred Martinez, the Guatemalans are changing the requirements for export market Xate – requiring that it be gathered from Xate farms and not forests; and second the government of Belize has put a freeze on all Xate concessions in Belizean territory. Ambassador Martinez discussed both developments with us yesterday.

Ambassador Fred Martinez,
“The xate problem is there, the collection of xate leaves. But we are very pleased to see a development in Guatemala where they have passed legislation to verify from where the xate comes from, that is certify that the xate will only come from farming, the artificial farming of xate, and will no longer be accepted for export if it comes from the picking of the xate in forest. We have pushed that cooperation with them, listen you need to help us because your forests are being decimated just the same as ours and we need to do something. A conscious effort has been taken by them very seriously and now they have introduced that.

The Ministry of Natural Resources recently decided to take a serious look at the licensing of xate picking in Belize as some licenses were issued by the previous administration and continued by this new administration with the argument that if the Guatemalans are coming in and picking it and taking it away, might as well you give the opportunity for a few Belizeans to do some money. But this was the argument by the negotiator, please look at this very seriously: for $60,000 of royalty to the Government of Belize, why do we expose ourselves because these three or four people that end up with a license don’t go and pick up the xate, they hire the same Guatemalan xateros to come into Belize and they are the ones we have to stop, they are the same ones who are creating problems; decimating our forest.

Whose controlling them and when you catch them and they holler that my boss has a license and I have a work permit and when they are caught with a gun, because you are not going to go into that forest with just a small machete, you go there with a gun to protect yourself, the gun is illegal so they are caught with an illegal firearm and so the problem is compounded and we’ve been hollering hey, listen let’s make a review and we are so glad to see that the Forest Department is taking a serious look and saying let’s put everything on freeze.

The next xatero that is caught in the forest of Belize that means it is an illegal xatero, there will be no such thing as someone with a license to collect xate because one xatero was passing the license to another one and subcontracting another one and the next thing you know you had hundreds of Guatemalans pouring in with copies of somebody’s license. So we’ve had to take stock, let us look at what’s there. We are under serious threat of these people moving in. It is not a threat orchestrated by Guatemalan government, they themselves have a serious problem. We therefore have to stop and help ourselves to ensure that we do not end up as the Peten has ended up.”

Hon. Sedi Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs
“We have problems down south, Guatemalans come in but the problem is compounded by the fact that local Belizeans employ them so that when they are caught here with the xate and the like they put a permit and say they have a permit from somebody or when they catch them in here and they are doing wrong they say well I am employed by this Belizean, this Belizean hired me. So we are really in a catch 22 situation; Belizeans need the Guatemalans to do the work in their fields, they bring them in, and the process these people come and do their own thing; destroy the society, the land, the forest and everything.”

And while those changes are happening at the policy level – on the ground – the problem persists. When we were in the Chiquibul three weeks ago we saw multiple evidences of Xatero activities, and returning from the border about four kilometres into Belizean territory, the BDF were on the trail of a trio of Xateros but they scattered and ran before the BDF team could intercept them. We couldn’t capture it on tape because the BDF ordered us to get down because of the risk of live fire.

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Ya’axché Rangers Trained as Special Constables


Special Constable Alejandro Ical (Photo Courtesy Ya'axché)

Last weekend, at a cermony in Punta Gorda Town, Alejandro Ical, a Ya’axché Ranger of Medina Bank was sworn in as a Special Constable by Superintendent Robert Mariano becoming an official member of the Belize Police Department witht the full power of arrest.

Ical, now, joins Ya’axché Head Ranger Marchilio Ack, and Rangers Vigilio Cal, Anignacio Makin, Victor Bonilla, Rosendo Coy, and Ocatavio Cal as Special Constables enforcing natural resource laws in Golden Stream Corridor Preserve and Bladen Nature Reserve. The Ya’axché Rangers take great pride in their work patrolling and enforcing the laws in order to protect Belize’s natural wonders such as Bladen Nature Reserve, the jewel in the crown of the country’s protected areas. The Special Constable Rangers must be upstanding citizens and ambassadors in their communities helping to unite Ya’axché’s work with the  local people with benefits of fresh water, clean air, replenished game stocks and environmentally friendly livelihoods. Ya’axché Special Constables will now volunteer time working with the Police Department in order to familiarize themselves with protocol and procedures from making arrests to prosecuting offenders and keeping a peaceful and safe environment.

Ya'axche's Rangers Special Constables

Thanks to Wildlife Without Borders (WWB) of United States Fish and Wildlife Service for funding the training of Ya’axché rangers.

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San Pedro Columbia Dedicated to Their Natural Resources

The village of San Pedro Columbians of Toledo, called a meeting last Sunday, November 1st to seek answers to questions surrounding the recent permits granted to Belize Hydroelectric Development Management Company Limited (BHD) as well as Xatéros in Columbia River Forest Reserve and Bladen Nature Reserve.  

Villagers from Columbia reported that Guatemalans have been extracting large amounts of  Xaté leaves from the Columbia River Forest Reserve.   It was learned at the meeting that these Guatemalans are legally employed by Belizeans who hold a permit from the Forest Department to extract Xaté.  The villagers were generally displeased that they had not been consulted on these permits and mentioned that if Xaté is to be extracted in the Reserve that buffers their communities should be the ones to benefit.

The larger focus of the meeting was on BHD’s recent permit granted despite BHD’s illegal damages they inflicted on Columbia River Forest Reserve and Bladen Nature Reserve from bulldozing and clearing steep slopes.  Once again, villagers were displeased that they had not been consulted on the matter and were unified against any dam development in such a pristine area.  There were also concerns about BHD’s track record from the HydroMaya dam in San Miguel and their recent illegal development.

The meeting in San Pedro Columbia was very well attended with over 150 community members, the Department of Environment, Ya’axché Conservation Trust, the Police Department, the Belize Defence Force,  and Area Representative  Honorable Juan Coy. 

While Ya’axché is not anti-development or anti-dam, they do support transparent and open planning that will fairly weigh development and conservation needs of Belize and of course follow the due process of natural resource laws.  In fact, Ya’axché is leading an effort to develop a management plan for Columbia River Forest Reserve in order to systemically plan for environmentally-friendly development.   In order for this integrated planning to take place all parties need to be open to discussion and best practices should be utilized. 

Photos courtesy of Ya’axché Connservation Trust.



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Xaté Stories Get Wide Coverage

We were recently pleased to see yet further coverage of the xaté-related issues we’ve been writing about recently.  First there was a piece on the increased demand for xaté from Palm Sunday, written by FFI.  That was picked up by

Second was our original report on the apprehension of 16 illegal xatéros.
That was also picked up by Susty.

Thank you to all the other blogs and their editors for distributing these posts.  We must all work together to get the message out about the illegal exploitation of our natural resources.



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Fauna & Flora Discusses Xate

Our partner, Fauna & Flora International, published a piece on the heightened demand for the slow-growing xate palm around this time of year.

“As it’s Palm Sunday, we thought it a highly pertinent day to highlight the overexploitation of palms in Central America. Many people don’t realise the impact that global demand for palm leaves is having on some of the world’s most pristine rainforests.”  — Fauna & Flora International

Here’s a link to the post, we thank FFI for their support and partnership in this work.  Exposure, monitoring and providing constructive enterprise options to replace destructive ones are the way to fight this trend.

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Ya’axche Apprehends Illegal Xate Harvesters

Yesterday, the pristine Bladen Nature Reserve, the “jewel” in the crown of Belize’s terrestrial protected areas, was the site of a huge illegal xaté bust. Ya’axche forest rangers, in partnership with the Police and Forest Departments, arrested 16 xatéros and confiscated a huge quantity of leaves.

Xatéros with Illegal Xaté

Xatéros with Illegal Xaté

Apprehended in a region called “Matacion” between Trio Village and the Bladen Nature Reserve, the xatéros were quickly brought to the police station in Independence for questioning. Ya’axché rangers were tipped off to the xatéros’ presence when they approached the Bladen Nature Reserve Ranger Base on the morning of Monday, March 23, and presented a license to harvest xaté in surrounding Forest Reserves. The xatéros left after being informed that their license was not valid for Bladen Nature Reserve. However, a routine ranger patrol on Tuesday found signs of xaté collection within the protected area. Several square miles within Bladen Nature Reserve had been stripped of xaté, as well as a large area of the renowned Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. On Wednesday, March 25, two patrols, including a police officer, a Forest Officer and nine staff from Ya’axché set out to find the culprits. Around 1:00 pm they encountered the xatéros with a cache of 26 bales of xaté. Each bale held 70 bundles, totaling approximately 72,800 leaves harvested.

Stripped of All but One Leaf

Decimated Xaté

Healthy Xaté

Healthy Xaté

Although they had been operating under a valid license for extracting xaté within nearby protected areas, they had no right to be extracting within Bladen or Cockscomb. As such, the Forest Department reacted fast by questioning the concessionaire, from Cotton Tree village outside Belmopan, who admitted that some of his Guatemalan employees may have collected xaté outside of their concession.

Over 18,000 Plants Were Destroyed

Over 18,000 Plants Were Destroyed

Camp Along Bladen River Where Xate Was Bundled

Camp Along Bladen River Where Xate Was Bundled

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