Tuesday, May 12th, 2015. Aaron Humes Reporting: Squatters in the western section of Lake Independence in the vicinity of the Chetumal Street/ Lake Independence Boulevard area say they have endured a hard existence despite being naturalized Belizeans and siring Belizean children.
They have had to scrap for all they have, including electricity and water which are amenities to the rest of us. However, for several weeks now they have been in battle with private landowners who claim title to tracts of property in the area, not to mention Government’s planned developments.
Already several families have been relocated to the village of Cotton Tree in Cayo District and others are being offered their own leased properties as soon as they have been identified.
But a few are still clinging on, saying their ties to the area run deeper than simple occupation. Their homesteads represent years of hard work, sweat and occasional tears and cannot be given up that easily. Today squatter resident Bernarda Rivera says they want to stay for the sake of their children, who cannot be ripped away from all they have known.
The squatters we spoke to say they no longer trust area representative and Minister of State Mark King. Rivera accuses him of deliberately withholding the map of the area authenticated by the Ministry of Natural Resources, Lands Department, as part of his plan to replace the squatters with his own supporters. She says they have obtained the map which was authenticated in July of 2014. They no longer believe the Minister when he says he will help them get land.
Another squatter, Patricia Lopez, shared her plea not to be relocated. She says the Minister should have better explained his intentions rather than go behind their back as they allege. She insists that they are not “criminals” simply because they have nowhere else to go and are asking the Prime Minister to intervene because King has “betrayed” them.
Rivera says the squatters’ group has obtained legal representation and is seeking an injunction to stop any relocations or sales of land in the area. In a release issued earlier this week from Minister of State King’s office, the Minister repeats the official zero tolerance position of the Lands Department and Government of Belize for squatting and promises that, quote, “These Belizeans will be given land elsewhere under the Lake I Land Amnesty Program to ensure that they own a piece of the Jewel.
“The release reiterates that those officially without land in the division must apply through the Minister’s constituency office for access, assuring that “What we have indicated will eventually happen.”
But the squatters we spoke with today, who showed us their identification papers labeling them as Belizeans, say they have been pushed around at both the Minister’s office and Lands Department office in Belmopan and will seek another way to protect what is theirs.
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