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US energy company must suspend oil exploration until government of Belize obtains free, prior and informed consent of Toledo’s Maya and Garifuna peoples, says new report

10 September 2013

US Capital Energy Belize, Ltd must suspend its oil exploration immediately in Toledo, and resume activities only if the Belizean government obtains the free, prior and informed consent of the Maya and Garifuna peoples who live in the area, says an international rights organization in a new report.

‘Toledo District, Belize, is the ancestral homeland of indigenous Maya people and Afro-descendant Garifuna people. Under human rights law, the government of Belize is obliged to protect and ensure Maya and Garifuna land rights. Private businesses operating in the area also have a duty to respect these rights,’ says Lucy Claridge, Minority Rights Group International (MRG) Head of Law.

‘The government of Belize must halt oil exploration in Toledo without further delay, and delineate and title Maya and Garifuna lands,’ Claridge added.

MRG’s new report, Sarstoon-Temash Institute for Indigenous Management (SATIIM).

In 1994, without consulting Toledo Maya or Garifuna people, the government converted almost 42,000 acres of their ancestral territory into government land, the Sarstoon-Temash National Park (STNP). The government then opened the STNP to oil exploration by USCapital Energy Belize, Ltd, a wholly owned Belizean subsidiary of American company USCapital Energy, Inc.

The legality of these actions has been challenged by both national and international bodies. First the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2004, and then the Supreme Court of Belize in 2007 and 2010 instructed Belize to abstain from oil exploration in Toledo.

These bodies concluded that the [email protected]

  • Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is a non-governmental organisation working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples worldwide.
  • For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact the MRG Press Office on [email protected].