Flare at Spanish Lookout oilfield, operated by Belize Natural Energy with CHx investment. Photo: Robin Llewellyn
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Mayan people battle oil giants as Belize's rainforests threatened
10th February, 2012
Forest communities are fighting increasing incursions onto their land by US oil companies. Now the Belizean government is seeking to reverse a court ruling preventing them allowing oil exploration, logging or mining. Robin Llewellyn reports from Belize
In a wooden hall built on stilts in the Belizean rainforest a man is speaking in Q’eqchi’, a language common among the Maya on both sides of the Guatemala-Belize border: 'When we are kept in the dark, when we are kept like in a pot, we are like chickens, and those who intend to deny us our rights are putting on the salt and the onion - all the seasonings - to cook us... And that’s what they want.'
He is Manuel Xó Cú, a member of Mayan advocacy organization Defensoría Q’eqchi’, part of a Guatemalan delegation of Q’eqchi’ leaders who have come to the Belizean region of Toledo to share experiences.
'There was a leader' he says, 'who, in three-quarter pants and a torn-up shirt went to Washington and voiced our concerns about the denial of rights to our land. The Inter-American Commission found the Guatemalan Government guilty of violating the rights of the community, and the government started to respond and to address it.'
The visiting Maya describe current threats to their communities as including nickel mines, African Palm plantations, and oil companies, in addition to the cattle ranchers who deprived them of most of their land...
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