Maya Leaders take community members to US Capital drill site

Maya communities protest (Toledo)

Maya communities protest
(Toledo)

Thursday, May 1, 2014. JUAN CAAL Reporting: There was a showdown at the entrance to US Capital Energy drill sight inside the Sarstoon Temash National Park in Toledo today.

A group of men and women from buffer communities, aided by the Maya Leaders Alliance went to the area today claiming that they were going to stop the oil company from carrying out any further activities on what they describe as ‘Maya land.

US Capital Energy’s permit to carry out oil exploration in the Sarstoon Temash National Park was set to expire at the end of April; but that expiry date has been waived by government.

That means that US Capital Energy could continue with its activities as per normal.  But the Maya Leaders Alliance and members of buffer communities will have none of it.

Police presence

Police presence

And so when they showed up at the entrance to US Capital Energy access road today, they were met by a team of police officers.

Reports from Toledo say that despite the police presence, some members of the group from the Maya Leaders Alliance still managed to make it pass the over a dozen police officers at the entrance.

When the bus carrying the Maya people was prevented from entering the area, the people got out and started to walk towards the drill site.

It is a 7-mile journey and half way through the trek by foot, US Capital Energy officials relented and allowed the bus to proceed to carry the group to the drill site.

The only condition was that no one was allowed to get off the bus and they were left to observe what was going on from inside the bus.

The Executive Director of the Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management, SATIIM, Greg Choc told reporters that “it is the government that is breaking their own laws.”

Choc went on to say that “the government must know that it is the communities who are fighting not SATIIM itself.”

Cristina Coc (Maya Leaders Alliance)

Cristina Coc
(Maya Leaders Alliance)

For her part, the head of the Maya Leaders Alliance Cristina Coc says that her organization remains committed to do whatever it takes to stop US Capital Energy from proceeding with pre-drilling activities inside the Sarstoon Temash National Park.

Coc told reporters today that this fight is in memory of Julian Cho and noted that “we will take over what is rightfully ours.”

She stated firmly that “this is ours, we will stand even if we have to die in fighting.”

According to Coc “if there is any oil in our lands, the government should ask our permission to enter our lands and we should have a say in how our resources should be extracted.”

Alfonso Cal from the Alcalde Association says that what the Maya communities are fighting for is a better future for their children.

Alfonso Cal (Alcalde Association)

Alfonso Cal
(Alcalde Association)

“The fight must continue,” said Cal, noting that “it is very unacceptable that we have to get permission to walk through our own lands. Did they ask permission from us to enter?”

Cal concluded his public statements by saying that “this is just the beginning of the real fight. We want the government to know that we are up to the challenge even if we die trying.”

On Wednesday, the attorney for US Capital Energy Michael Peyrifitte told reporters in Belize City that he is not concerned about the Maya Leaders Alliance and SATIIM and their stated goal to interrupt the drilling activities in the Sarstoon Temash National Park.

In fact, Peyrifitte says that his client has a legal permit to conduct its operations and that “we are within the law.”

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3 Responses to Maya Leaders take community members to US Capital drill site

  1. PELICAN Reply

    May 1, 2014 at 10:15 pm

    I think Choc and Coc are going too far They need to come clean

  2. Mary Reply

    May 2, 2014 at 12:10 am

    This situation bears watching. Both sides need to open meaningful dialogue before things get out of hand. I encourage this be done as a matter of first priority. The level of antagonism on both sides needs to also be halted post-haste. Only when cooler heads prevail can meaningful dialogue take place.

  3. Anonymous Reply

    May 2, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    Commentator PELICAN….

    Choc and Coc are going too far? Let’s forget the waiver the government made (hell, if all it takes is a waive why have any laws at all? why the hell waste time in court?). Let’s also forget the absolutely disrespectful language the attorney of US Capital used and continues to use to trivialize the matter (I have no idea how this man is Speaker of the house). Let’s forget the long legal struggle to even get the government to recognize the possibility of customary land rights. Let’s forget that cases like this has and continue to occur in many parts of the world, with the oil companies almost always winning. Yeah.. focus on Choc and Coc.

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