ALERT: Help Maya Itza of Guatemala w Holiday Lette

owl@grolen.com
20 Dec 1996 22:25:28 EDT


A C T I O N A L E R T !
December 1996

THE FOLLOWING ALERT REQUIRES IMMEDIATE ATTENTION

C O N T E N T S

(1) The Crisis in Brief: Petén, Guatemala and the Maya Itzá
(2) Statement from the Bio Itzá Committee
(3) Authorities for You to Contact
(4) Open Letter from the EcoLogic Development Fund, English and
Spanish

CRISIS IN BRIEF
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
* The Maya Itzá are one of 21 Mayan linguistic groups in Guatemala.
* The Itzá are on the verge of cultural extinction as fewer than one
hundred people now speak the language fluently.
* In 1991, the Itzá of San José, Petén banded together to halt
illegal logging in their municipal forests and established THE
COMMITTEE OF THE BIOSFERA ITZA RESERVE.
* Since that time this community organization has effectively
protected a 36-square kilometer municipal forest reserve and promoted
activities for environmental conservation, cultural revitalization, and
community development.
* San José’s current Mayor has recently announced under municipal
decree that he is disbanding this community group. Like his
predecessors he sees greater personal and financial benefit in logging
the forest reserve than protecting it.
* The Mayor has appointed his father as the new leader of the Bio
Itzá Committee and secured the support of immigrants to serve on the
committee.
* These immigrants have been very clear in expressing their desire
to cut down the forest for agricultural plots.
* To reverse this injustice, the Bio Itzá Committee has requested
immediate letters from international organizations to be directed at
local authorities.
* This is a situation when a letter can both save a tropical forest
and ensure that the efforts of a threatened cultural group continue.

For more information contact:

Shaun Paul Reginaldo Chayax Huex
EcoLogic Development Fund Presidente
PO Box 383405 Comité Bio Itzá
Cambridge, MA 02238 USA San José, Petén, GUATEMALA
tel (617) 441-6300 community telephone 011 [502] 928-8135
fax (617) 441-6307
email: news@ecologic.org

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
LETTER OF APPEAL
WRITTEN BY THE BIO ITZA COMMITTEE

November 19, 1996

DEAR FRIENDS IN THE CONSERVATION AND INDIGENOUS PEOPLES COMMUNITY.
The Committee of the Biósfera Itzá reserve wish to make known, both
nationally and internationally, the following. Since 1991, when the
reserve was founded, this organization has pioneered the conservation
of the environment in the Department of Petén, Guatemala in Central
America. As the last indigenous inhabitants of the Petén’s forest, the
Maya Itzá have fought to maintain the forest, culture and language of
their great civilization. The reserve protects 6 km2 of threatened
primary forest under the guidance of a Management Plan; we also have a
Forest Inventory, a map of the area, archaeological studies of the
sites within the reserve, and currently have five on-going projects
that are compatible with the environment. Furthermore, we have
received technical and/or financial assistance from the following
institutions: the University of Michigan, Cultural Survival, IIZ-
Austrian Embassy, ProPetén/CI, TNC, CONAP, CATIE/RENAR, CCAD, EcoLogic
Development Fund, and SEGEPLAN.
Unfortunately, for the past three years the Biósfera Itzá
Committee has suffered at the hands of the current municipal leader,
Julian Tesucún y Tesucún, who together with members of the immigrant
population, want to extract the forest resources protected within the
reserve. With this purpose in mind, the municipality held a meeting
Saturday, November 16, 1996 in which Mr. Tesucún y Tesucún
inappropriately permitted the election of a new Committee to manage the
Biósfera Itzá. Those in attendance represent the immigrant population
and other persons with personal agendas. Their interests are not the
well-being and development of the Maya Itzá community, rather their
primary goal is to log the reserve and divide it up for the extraction
of forest resources--thereby converting it into a desert.
As such, we urgently protest before you, asking for your moral
support to exert pressure on the authorities and institutions whose
role it is to protect the rights of the indigenous communities and the
environment. We want this situation to be resolved through the
appropriate legal channels so that we can live and work in peace for
the good of the environment and future generations. We are the first
indigenous organization to worry about our natural environment in the
northern forested region of the Petén, which has suffered deforestation
and destruction due to the increasing number of immigrants from other
parts of the country.
With the hope of receiving your words of support, we thank you for
your consideration. For more information, please communicate with us
by means of the community telephone in San José ([502] 928-8135).

Ecologically,

REGINALDO CHAYAX HUEX FELICIANO TZUL COLLI
PRESIDENT VICE PRESIDENT

LUIS FERNANDO LOPEZ CESAR MUNOZ SUNTECUN

JUAN JULIO TUT BERTA HUEX CHAN

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

THE AUTHORITIES IN GUATEMALA NEED TO KNOW THAT INTERNATIONAL
ORGANIZATIONS OBJECT TO WHAT IS HAPPENING TO THE ITZA!

PLEASE WRITE A LETTER, PREFERABLY IN SPANISH, TO THE AUTHORITIES
IN GUATEMALA.

AUTHORITIES FOR YOU TO WRITE IN ORDER OF PRIORITY:

(1) Ing. Juan Francisco Asturias Fajardo, Coordinador Nacional
Comisión Nacional del Medio Ambiente, CONAMA
5 Avenida 8-07, Zona 10
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Tel: 011 [502] 332-7174
Fax: 011 [502] 362-6845

(2) Dr. Edgar Armando Aragón González, Gobernador
Gobernación Departamental del Petén
Ciudad Flores, Petén, Guatemala
Tel/Fax: 011 [502] 926-1383

******************************************************************
OTHER PEOPLE THAT NEED TO HEAR FROM YOU

(3) Seńor Diputado Mario Hugo Miranda
Presidente de la Comisión de Medio Ambiente
Congreso de la República de Guatemala
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Tel/Fax 011 [502] 232-1260 (Ask for the "extensión 327"
- tres dos siete)

(4) Lic. Manuel Barquin
Delegado Departmental, Petén
Procuraduría General de la Nación
Santa Elena, Petén Guatemala
Tel/Fax: [502] 926-0318

(5) Excelentisimo Seńor Presidente
Alvaro Arzú
Palacio Nacional
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala

EMAIL: AlvaroArzu@guate.net

PLEASE SEND A COPY OF ALL LETTERS TO:

Reginaldo Chayax Huex AND/OR Shaun Paul
Presidente EcoLogic Development Fund
Comité Bio Itzá PO Box 383405
San José, Petén GUATEMALA Cambridge, MA 02238 USA
fax c/o PROPETEN [502] 926-0495 fax (617) 441-6307
email: news@ecologic.org

OPEN LETTER FROM THE ECOLOGIC DEVELOPMENT FUND

December 16, 1996

Dr. Edgar Armando Aragón González, Gobernador
Gobernación Departamental del Petén
Ciudad Flores, Petén, Guatemala
Tel/Fax: 011-502-926-1383

Dear Dr. Aragón González,

I am writing on behalf of the EcoLogic Development Fund, an
international charitable organization, to bring your attention to a
problem of great concern to us regarding San José, Petén.

Both my organization and many other international agencies have
recently received reports concerning the questionable dissolution on
November 16, 1996 of the "Committee of the Biosfera Itzá Reserve" in
San José by Mayor Julian Tesucún y Tesucún. If this is true, I am
confident that you will join us in supporting the valiant efforts of
the Bio Itzá Committee to protect their natural resources, promote the
sustainable use of these resources, and preserve of their language and
culture.

The Bio Itzá Committee was formally established in September 1991 in
San José when Itzá community members established their general
assembly. The area in which their development has been centered is
located in the buffer zone of the Mayan Biosphere along the perimeter
of El Zotz-San Miguel-La Pelotada Biotope. This 36-square kilometer
area was conceded by the Honorable Corporation of the Municipality of
San José as a municipal forest reserve (in the 34-91 session, of the
folio 312-317 of the Act No. 37). The Bio Itzá Committee, under the
leadership of Reginaldo Chayax Huex and Feliciano Tzul Colli, developed
a management plan and established projects to protect this fragile
area. These projects include the protection of San José’s threatened
forests, the reforestation of degraded areas, the promotion of
ecotourism and most importantly, the education of Maya Itzá youth in
their nearly lost traditions and language. They have been effective
not only in their conservation work, but also in promoting the economic
development and cultural well-being of the Maya Itzá people.

Because of its important work, many national and international
organizations have supported and are willing to continue supporting the
Bio Itzá Committee. Institutions that have joined forces with the Bio
Itzá Committee by donating their financial, technological, and human
resources include: Secretaría de Planificación Económica (SEGEPLAN);
Dirección General de Bosques y Vida Silvestre (DIGEBOS); Plan de Acción
Forestral Maya (PAF-MAYA); Academia de Lenguas Mayas de Guatemala;
Comisión Centroamericana de Ambiente y Desarollo (CCAD); Asociación del
Rescate y Conservación de la Vida Silvestre (ARCAS); Centro Argonómico
Tropical de Investigación Enseńanza (CATIE); Consejo Nacional para un
Bosque Sostenible (PROPETEN); OEW, Austria; Le Centre National de la
Recherche Scientifique, France; Cultural Survival, USA; The Nature
Conservancy, USA; UNESCO, UNICEF, the EcoLogic Development Fund, USA;
University of Michigan, USA; Instituto para la Cooperación
Internacional, Austria; US Agency for International Development (US
AID).

We support the leaders of the Bio Itzá Committee, elected by the Itzá
themselves, in their claim to their rights as indigenous people under
United Nations Convention ILO 169, Article 15, ratified by the
Government of Guatemala, which states that indigenous people have the
right to participate in the use, management and conservation of their
natural resources. The removal of the Bio Itzá Committee’s leadership
and their replacement by three of the Mayor’s relatives and recent
immigrants with little understanding of the local culture and intent on
converting the forest into agricultural lands is in clear violation of
this Convention.

Please join us by helping to resolve this conflict in San José. We
believe that the Bio Itzá Committee should be rewarded for its valiant
efforts rather than punished. This is the second time that Mayor
Tesucún y Tesucún has tried to take land away from a community
organization. The first involved the Ixchel group, under the
leadership of Brenda Mayol. Please join with us to stop this second
attempt.

Both the EcoLogic Development Fund and many other international
agencies would be most grateful to you for any action taken by your
office to settle the conflict in San José for the well being of the
Maya Itzá and all of Petén. We, in turn, are committed to investing
financial and technical assistance to promote economic development and
conservation in San José.

The Bio Itzá Committee has realized projects that serve not only as a
model to other Guatemalans, but to the international community as well.
I am sure that they would welcome you if you visited them to see first-
hand the results of their efforts at reforestation and ecosystem
preservation. We believe that this fragile parcel of land should
remain with the Bio Itzá Committee, who has shown the desire and
ability to improve and preserve it.

Knowing of your dedication to environmental and cultural conservation,
I kindly ask you, Mr. Governor, to help ensure that the Bio Itzá
Committee’s vital environmental and cultural work continues. On behalf
of the government you represent and in the interest of preserving the
environment and upholding the human rights of the Maya Itzá, we await
your assistance in resolving this urgent matter.

Thank you again for your attention.
Sincerely,

Shaun Paul, President
EcoLogic Development Fund

cc: Juan Francisco Asturias Fajardo, CONAMA
Seńor Diputado Mario Hugo Miranda, Presidente de la Comisión de
Medio Ambiente
Lic. Manuel Barquín, Delegado Departamental, Peten; Procuraduría
General de la Nación
Arq. Jorge Cabrera, Director Ejecutivo, CCAD
Seńor Reginaldo Chayax Huex, Presidente, Comité Bio Itzá

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

OPEN LETTER FROM THE ECOLOGIC DEVELOPMENT FUND IN SPANISH

16 de diciembre 1,996

Dr. Edgar Armando Aragón González
Gobernador
Gobernación Departamental del Petén
Ciudad Flores, Petén, Guatemala
Telefax: 011-502-926-1383

Estimado Dr. Aragón González:

Le escribo en nombre de EcoLogic Development Fund, una organización
internacional y caritativa, para pedir su atención a un problema de
gran interés para nosotros, que ocurre en San José, Petén.

Mi organización y muchas otras agencias internacionales recientemente
han recibido reportes sobre la forma anómala de sustituir los miembros
del "Comité de la Reserva Biosfera Itzá" en San José el 16 de noviembre
1,996 por el alcalde Julian Tesucún y Tesucún. Confío en que, de ser
este el caso, Usted se unirá a nosotros para apoyar los valientes
esfuerzos del "Comité Bio Itzá", en proteger sus recursos naturales, el
uso sostenible de estos recursos, y garantizar la preservación de su
lenguaje y cultura.

El Comité Bio Itzá fué establecido en septiembre de 1,991 en San José
como resultado de la formación de una asamblea general con los miembros
de la comuidad Itzá. El área en la cual su desarrollo está centrado
está localizada en la zona de amortiguamiento de la Biosfera Maya a lo
largo del perímetro del Biotopo El Zotz-San Miguel-La Pelotada. Estos
6 kilómetros cuadrados de área fueron concedidos por la honorable
corporación de la Municipalidad de San José como una reserva de bosque
municipal (en sesion del 34-91, folio 312-317 del acta No. 37). El
Comité Bio Itzá, bajo el liderazgo de Reginaldo Chayax Huex y Feliciano
Tzul Colli, han desarrollado un plan de manejo y establecido proyectos
para proteger esta frágil área. Sus proyectos incluyé la protección de
bosques amenazados, reforestación en las áreas degradadas, promoción
del ecoturismo y algo muy importante, la enseńanza a los jóvenes Maya

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