By Aaron Humes: On July 5 and 7, Belizean natural and cultural resource managers met with Guatemalan authorities and villagers at the Belize-Guatemala border in the Chiquibul for the first combined linkup patrols.
Present on the patrols from the Guatemalan delegation was the Environmental Police (DIPRONA), National Commission of Protected Areas (CONAP), local alcalde (COCODE) and other invited community members. From the Belize delegation were the Belize Defence Force, the Institute of Archaeology, Special Patrol Police Unit, Chiquibul Park Rangers and the Chiquibul Park Manager. The Linkup meetings lasted one hour at the border point of each region where the authorities from Belize dialogued with CONAP and the COCODE of the Village. The environmental impacts were the main subject of discussion. It was established that the Belizean authorities will continue cutting fences and evacuating cattle from Belize and will pursue programs to reforest the area. Villagers said that the owners of the fences and cattle are not from their community. The meetings were cordial and have sparked new hopes for an open dialogue of collaboration.
The groups met at Retiro, adjacent to San Jose Las Flores, Peten, Guatemala, and Valentin in the Caracol Archaeological Reserve adjacent to La Rejoya, Peten, both considered “hot spot” areas of permanent threat over the resources in the Chiquibul and whose members have been active in degrading the forest and engaging in illicit activities ranging from poaching, farming and illegal logging.
The groups discussed challenges on the ground and ensured that implications of these challenges are understood, including impacts of cattle farming and fires in the forest and the protection afforded to the Chiquibul Forest as a natural park and reserve and its importance.
These efforts are made possible with the support of the GIZ Selva Maya Programme, Protected Areas Conservation Trust, US Fish and Wildlife Service and the US Department of the Interior-ITAP.