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Mayan and Garifuna Indigenous in Belize Demand Respect for Their Ancestral Land

March 2013

Roughly the size of New Jersey, Belize is one of the smallest countries in Central America. The country is also in the epicenter of the Mayan territory. More than half of Belize’s population of 300,000 are Mayan indigenous and Afro-descendants, known as Garifunas.

 The Mayans and Garifunas of Belize are struggling to maintain control over their ancestral land. The government of Belize has illegally granted US Capital Energy, a Texas-based company, a license to explore and drill on the land of 38 Mayan and Garifuna communities. The license awarded by the local government – without the consultation and approval of the communities – violates two decisions of Supreme Court of Belize from 2007 and 2010, which named both the communities and government as co-managers of the area. The government’s unilateral decision to disregard the court decision opened the door for the undesired presence of US Capital Energy in the local communities and the ensuing conflict. Our colleagues at Cultural Survival have organized an e-action to support local communities, which Grassroots International supports.  It is critical to participate in this e-action. If the US Capital Energy gets the final go-ahead to drill in southern Belize, local communities face threats not only to their sovereignty, but could potentially face a disastrous environment catastrophe because the selected sites are situated near tectonic fault lines. Also, the US Capital Energy is reportedly attempting is trying to bribe local mayors and infiltrate Mayan governance structures, according to reports from the Mayan Leaders Alliance to Grassroots International and Cultural Survival.  Please take action to support Mayan and Garifuna communities’ defense of their ancestral territories and a dignified life. 

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