Belize: Garifuna Fight for Communal Lands


The Garifuna are descendants of West African, Central African, Island Carib, and Arawak people who live primarily in Central America. Recently, in Belize, the Garifuna have been threatened with the loss of their communal lands to pave the way for foreign investors. The Government of Belize (GOB) and US Capital Energy, an oil company trying to extract oil from the area surrounding Barranco and other villages in Belize, had been working to gain the support Garifuna villagers.

 

Sarstoon Temash Institute of Indigenous Management (SATIIM), a nonprofit non-governmental organization which represents people in a group of five villages that live outside of Sarstoon-Temash National Park in Belize, is fighting for indigenous land rights within Belize.

 

On July 18, 2014, the Government of Belize issued a statement that it had received 39 applications for title to lands in what appears to be the Barranco area. According to the statement, it is “a vital step in building the foundation of renewed economic development”.

 

Barranco is a village of Garifuna. SATIIM has filed a case against the Government of Belize and US Capital Energy seeking that they consult the indigenous people who own the land collectively before issuing permits for the drilling of oil. This is a landmark case which will define the rights of Belize’s indigenous groups in accordance with international law to give free and informed consent before the Government of Belize issues permits to companies that will seek to extract natural resources.  It will also determine their rights under international law to share in profits from the exploitation of the natural resources within their ancestral lands.

 

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