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Maya leaders in public quarrel over funds for mapping of Toledo communities

Posted: Friday, March 31, 2023. 6:11 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Dueling press releases from the Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management (SATIIM) and Toledo Alcalde Association (TAA) have laid bare the continued divide in the Maya community on the future of its leadership as well as that of the fight over communal land rights.

On Wednesday, SATIIM demanded “full accountability for funds received in the name of Maya communities” – specifically US$1.8 million for a “Securing and Protecting the Tenure Rights of the Maya People of Southern Belize,” project which succeeded in the demarcation of the village of Santa Elena through a partnership with the Land Tenure Facility. Its executive director Maya Ch’oc – daughter of Indigenous People’s Commissioner Greg Ch’oc – called it a “missed opportunity for the other 38 Maya villages” including those which SATIIM serves who have complained about missing out. SATIIM also noted that the matter has come up before the Caribbean Court of Justice. Meanwhile, SATIIM trumpeted its accomplishments in Conejo Creek and previously Crique Sarco where village boundaries have been delimited.

Today, the TAA and Julian Cho Society (JCS) hit back, announcing that it has “secured another multi-year extension to continue to support the implementation of the 2015 Consent Order through our partnership with the Land Tenure Facility – an international and multi-stakeholder financial mechanism that works in direct partnership with indigenous peoples,” after a full audit.

In clarification, the TAA/JCS stated that the funding helped to develop a methodology for delimiting village boundaries, legislation for the protection of Maya rights and capacity building, reaching more than 5,000 people in 25 communities as well as agreements with the Government on delimitation principles and methodologies, as well as legal representation in court cases and negotiations with the Government including the development of a third-party inventory.

Vowing it would not give in to “distraction,” the TAA/JCS argues it has regularly reported back to all 41 villages through the TAA assemblies and concludes, “For us, a people united will never be defeated. We remain focused and will continue to stand with the Maya people knowing that our struggle will always be a site of resistance. We celebrate Santa Elena’s historic boundary delimitation achievement. The struggle continues.”


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