Pressure on Satiim Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 30 April 2014 00:00

choc.jpg - 630.02 KbOver the past couple of weeks an organization identified as the Toledo Association for Belize Rights (TABR) has come out swinging against SATIIM. TABR's chairman, Joseph Estephan has consistently been out on the streets in Punta Gorda with loud speakers at any place where people gather to deliver the organization's message that Belize is for Belizeans and that SATIIM does not represent everyone in the Toledo district. His message is also one that the Ketchi people are not indigenous to Belize and therefore are not entitled to ancestral lands. Estephan's goal is one where he is asking Belizeans to join him to ensure that Belize's petroleum wealth, if it is ever found in the Sarstoon Temash Park, that it be spread equally to all the people of Belize.

Estephan has gone as far as to visit the various Mayan communities in Toledo and has been canvassing them to get an idea of what the true sentiment is about oil exploration in the Sarstoon Temash park. He is also getting  a sense of whether or not SATIIM truly represents everyone in the Toledo district. And he says, unlike what Greg Ch'oc would like the country to believe, SATIIM is neither representative of the mayas in Toledo or does his organization’s views of communal land shared by all. He also says that the way in which Ch'oc gets people to follow him is almost dictatorial. In his visits to the various Mayan villages, Estephan claims he has come across instances where alcaldes with opposing views to those of SATIIM are removed and replaced on whims.

Those reactions were echoed on Channel 7's newscast on Monday April 28 when two alcaldes and the chairman of Barranco village appeared on that newscast. During an interview, Valentin Makin who was the first alcalde of Conejo village, until a few days ago, explained that he was unceremoniously removed from his position at the behest of SATIIM. The reason he gave was because he signed an agreement with U.S. Capital Energy to upgrade a road that leads into the community. 

Makin's version of the events were that in his capacity as 1st Alcalde, he signed the letter for the road because it was something that Conejo Village desperately needed, and while he didn't take the matter to his villagers get a consensus, he believes that he had the authority to do so, and that he was looking out for the best interests of his community.

A press release was issued on the ousting of Valentin Makin, and this Newspaper must stress that the release was routed to the media via, Greg Ch'oc. Ch'oc claimed he was asked to disseminate that the release which came from the entire village of Conejo. In that release, the villagers explained themselves saying that Valentin Makin betrayed his community. This statement says that, contrary to his claim that he signed a letter for a road; he actually "signed a document which purportedly stated that Conejo had granted its unequivocal free, prior and informed consent for US Capital Energy Belize Ltd to continue its work and drilling..." This, according to the statement, was a lie and that the "Conejo Villagers" didn't give that permission.

To supposedly punish Valentin for his "betrayal", they invoked Maya Communal Law and forcibly removed and replaced him with Eufemio Makin, who is now acting as Conejo's First Alcalde.

The media has been digging into context of Makin's removal, and multiple sources say that the real reason Valentin Makin was punished was because those in opposition to US Capital say he got too friendly with the oil company. This agenda, those sources say, actually comes from Greg Ch'oc and SATIIM, who want to crush anyone in the Mayan communities who doesn't side with them in their opposition to US Capital. It's supposed to be no prisoners' campaign to remove all major influences from the buffer communities, to combat the company's quiet infiltration.

Greg Ch'oc has denied that allegation saying that he had absolutely nothing to do with Makin's removal from office of Alcalde.

Valentin Makin; Pedro Ba, the 1st Alcalde, Sunday Wood Village; his second in command, Alejandro Tush; and Dr. Joseph Palacio, the Chairman of Barranco Village all share the opinions of TABR. They say that SATIIM and Greg Ch'oc has created an illusion that he speaks for all the Mayans and for all the Buffer Communities. Sunday Wood's Alcaldes say that because they don't sign on to the concept of Customary Land Rights, the agenda that Ch'oc is pushing for, they were left out in the cold to fend for themselves as a buffer community. According to Ba and Tush, Sunday Wood Villagers want lease land just like every other Belizean in the country is looking for so that they can own a piece for themselves.

Palacio says that, as a member of the Barranco Village, which is predominantly Garifuna, they've been left out of the decision making for this push against US Capital, which is unfair because they are a buffer community just like the others, and should have equal say.

So, to recap, there is an Alcalde removed by a method he disputes, the entire Mayan Village of Sunday Wood which claims to have been excluded, and the entire village of Barranco which says that Greg Ch'oc doesn't speak for them.

What they all have in common is that they don't support SATIIM and Ch'oc against US Capital, and they've been punished for that.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 April 2014 15:14