By Adele Trapp
At last count, there were 32 Guatemalans living illegally inside Belizean protected areas—particularly the Caracol Archaeological Reserve and the Chiquibul National Park—according to information released to the media today, Wednesday, by Friends for Conservation and Development (FCD), a Cayo-based NGO which co-manages the Chiquibul National Park.
Rigoberto Gutierrez, who FCD’s Park Ranger Derric Chan said has expanded his ranch inside Belize almost 25 acres, may be linked with further illegal encroachments and incursions into Belizean territory, FCD’s executive director Rafael Manzanero indicated.
Those incursions include the increased clearing of Belizean forests, which have escalated from a reported 113 hectares in 1987, 692 hectares in 1994, 4,680 hectares in 2009, and almost 5,000 hectares in April 2011, are a major threat to Belize’s territorial integrity, the NGO points out.
“We need more boots on the ground,” said Manzanero, calling for an increase in observation posts inside the protected areas in question.
It’s not just the illegal clearings for farming and pasturing nearly three miles into Belize that pose a serious problem for Belize; there is a multi-million-dollar interest involved, spanning the illegal logging trade, clandestine xate harvesting, and stealthy scarlet macaw poaching expeditions deep into Belize’s Maya Mountain Massif, and particularly across the majestic and expansive Chiquibul, which makes up a sizeable chunk of the Cayo District.
FCD notes that 13 detainees were held in 2010, but 11 were caught in 2010 up to 22 kilometers, or nearly 13 miles into Belize.
In addition, 46 horses brought by encroaching Guatemalans were confiscated over the past two years, 32 of them in 2011. More....