SATIIM claims GOB and U.S. Capital Energy are illegal occupying Maya lands

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On Friday we brought you the story of a confrontation between police and Maya community leaders as well as park rangers for the Sarstoon Temash National Park, most recently co-managed by the Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management (SATIIM). The indigenous organization said the officers who stopped the group at the Joe Taylor Bridge asking for identification on orders of the senior police commander were armed, in at least one instance with what appeared to be an M-16 rifle. Eventually, only the community leaders and a local TV station were allowed access to the area for a brief period. According to SATIIM the Government and U.S. Capital Energy are in “illegal occupation” of and “engaged in illegal activities” on what they consider to be Maya communal titled lands. They add, “We will not be told how and when to traverse our traditional lands. We will go where we decide we need to go as we have traditionally done. US Capital or the Government of Belize will not determine our movements on our traditional lands.” SATIIM charges that the Government and the company are following practices similar to other lands where oil has been discovered, where law enforcement and military personnel are put in charge of guarding the territory. The organization suggests it may “change its strategy” as a result and concludes, “When injustice becomes law resistance becomes duty.” Meanwhile, in Tuesday’s Amandala newspaper, Officer Commanding Punta Gorda Police Superintendent Simeon Alvarez denied sending his officers to intimidate the SATIIM personnel, saying, “I don’t think the police were out there to intimidate the SATIIM personnel. I don’t think that was the case.”  He said that the men were there merely to “keep the peace” and “prevent anything from getting out of control.” Supt. Alvarez says no one was detained or stopped and a report on the matter was being prepared for Commissioner Allen Whylie who may make a public statement on the incident. And in one last piece of related news, this Friday and Saturday media houses including PLUS News have been invited by SATIIM on a tour of the area. We plan to be there and bring you the story at that time.

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