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138 residents of Toledo District receive purchase price approval for land

Posted: Sunday, December 10, 2023. 11:32 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: Cordel Hyde, Minister of Natural Resources; Oscar Requeña, Area Representative for Toledo West; and Paul Thompson, CEO of the Ministry of Natural Resources, on Saturday presented 138 residents of the Toledo District with purchase price approval for their piece of land. The documents were distributed after a short ceremony in Yemeri Grove Village.

Minister Hyde reminded the residents of the importance of owning land, emphasizing that land ownership places them in a position to do something great for themselves and their families: “The truth of the matter is that this country, our land mass is finite, it’s not infinite. Every time someone gets a piece of land, it gets smaller and in the past, over many years, there have been a handful of people who have gotten big chunks of land and that’s left very little for those who don’t have. Our job, our responsibility, is to make sure the people who don’t have land, get land. Our job is to make sure we lift you up, to give you an opportunity to own a piece of the Jewel, to own a piece of land so you can build a house, you can mortgage that, you can send your children to school, you can start a small business because once you have land, you are not going to be poor.”

Hyde also cautioned against selling the land once title is obtained, saying that we “borrow land for our children,” not just passed down from the ancestors. He also commended colleague Requeña for his passionate advocacy on behalf of his constituents, which led to the de-reservation of land from the Machaca Forest Reserve – though things were held up because of the contention between Yemeri Grove and Laguna over village boundaries.

Minister Requeña said the Government has found a way to support Toledoans despite the challenges with land in the district. He acknowledged that the 2015 Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) ruling establishing Maya communal land rights for the majority residents and put what he called a “moratorium” on any changes to land boundaries. Both Hyde and Requeña insisted that the Government is not fighting with either village over their claims to the area, the former saying that we must find a way to talk to, not at, each other.

“It’s a starting point. Today we have 138 persons who are going to be receiving their purchase price so that you can purchase your piece of land and have it in your name. And we won’t stop there; we will continue – because some people will say ‘da only 138 people you will help?’ No, we will continue, but it is a starting point. We will continue and I haven’t given up. I am hoping that we can find a way to work with both our communities, with Laguna and Yemeri Grove, so that we can resolve the issue in terms of how we proceed, how we move forward, and how we can make more land available for all Belizeans,” Requeña stated, adding that land is our ‘birthright.’

Moving forward, Requeña committed to creating and ensuring a Maya Land Tenure Policy that builds on the CCJ ruling and implements the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) Protocol that has allowed various developments including seismic testing by U.S. Capital Energy and the paving of the road from Santa Cruz village to San Jose.

 

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