Alert: Help Maya Itza of Guatemala Save Forest w Holiday Letter

Shaun Paul spaul at igc.apc.org
Sat Dec 21 19:33:13 EST 1996


                      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:  Peten, Guatemala and the Maya Itza
(2)  Statement from the Bio Itza Committee
(3)  Authorities for You to Contact
(4)  Open Letter from the EcoLogic Development Fund, English & Spanish

      CRISIS IN BRIEF
      ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
*   The Maya Itza are one of 21 Mayan linguistic groups in 
    Guatemala.

*   The Itza are on the verge of cultural extinction as fewer 
    than one hundred people now speak the language fluently.

*   In 1991, the Itza of San Jose, Peten 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 Jose’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 Itza 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 Itza 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                    Comite Bio Itza
Cambridge, MA 02238  USA         San Jose, Peten, GUATEMALA
tel (617) 441-6300               community tel 011 [502] 928-8135
fax (617) 441-6307
email: news at 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 Biosfera Itza 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 Peten, 
Guatemala in Central America.  As the last indigenous inhabitants 
of the Peten’s forest, the Maya Itza 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, ProPeten/CI, TNC, CONAP, CATIE/RENAR, CCAD, 
EcoLogic Development Fund, and SEGEPLAN.
	Unfortunately, for the past three years the Biosfera Itza 
Committee has suffered at the hands of the current municipal 
leader, Julian Tesucun y Tesucun, 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. Tesucun y Tesucun inappropriately permitted the election of a 
new Committee to manage the Biosfera Itza. 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 Itza 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 Peten, 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 
Jose ([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 
	Comision 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 Aragon Gonzalez, Gobernador
	Gobernacion Departamental del Peten
	Ciudad Flores, Peten, Guatemala
	Tel/Fax:  011 [502] 926-1383

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

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

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

(5) 	Excelentisimo Senor Presidente
	Alvaro Arzu
	Palacio Nacional 
	Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala

	EMAIL: AlvaroArzu at guate.net

PLEASE SEND A COPY OF ALL LETTERS TO:

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

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

OPEN LETTER FROM THE ECOLOGIC DEVELOPMENT FUND


						December 16, 1996

Dr. Edgar Armando Aragon Gonzalez, Gobernador
Gobernacion Departamental del Peten
Ciudad Flores, Peten, Guatemala
Tel/Fax:  011 [502] 926-1383


Dear Dr. Aragon Gonzalez,
 
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 Jose, Peten.

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 Itza 
Reserve" in San Jose by Mayor Julian Tesucun y Tesucun.  If this 
is true, I am confident that you will join us in supporting the 
valiant efforts of the Bio Itza Committee to protect their 
natural resources, promote the sustainable use of these 
resources, and preserve of their language and culture.

The Bio Itza Committee was formally established in September 1991 
in San Jose when Itza 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 Jose as a municipal forest reserve (in 
the 34-91  session, of the folio 312-317 of the Act No. 37).  The 
Bio Itza 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 Jose’s threatened forests, 
the reforestation of degraded areas, the promotion of ecotourism 
and most importantly, the education of Maya Itza 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 Itza 
people.  

Because of its important work, many national and international 
organizations have supported and are willing to continue 
supporting the Bio Itza Committee. Institutions that have joined 
forces with the Bio Itza Committee by donating their financial, 
technological, and human resources include: Secretaria de 
Planificacion Economica (SEGEPLAN); Direccion General de Bosques 
y Vida Silvestre (DIGEBOS); Plan de Accion Forestral Maya (PAF-
MAYA); Academia de Lenguas Mayas de Guatemala; Comision 
Centroamericana de Ambiente y Desarollo (CCAD); Asociacion del 
Rescate y Conservacion de la Vida Silvestre (ARCAS); Centro 
Argonomico Tropical de Investigacion Ensenanza (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 Cooperacion Internacional, Austria;  US Agency 
for International Development (US AID).

We support the leaders of the Bio Itza Committee, elected by the 
Itza 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 Itza 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 Jose.  
We believe that the Bio Itza Committee should be rewarded for its 
valiant efforts rather than punished.  This is the second time 
that Mayor Tesucun y Tesucun 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 Jose for the well being 
of the Maya Itza and all of Peten.  We, in turn, are committed to 
investing financial and technical assistance to promote economic 
development and conservation in San Jose.

The Bio Itza 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 Itza 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 Itza 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 Itza, we await your assistance in 
resolving this urgent matter.

Thank you again for your attention.
					Sincerely,

					Shaun Paul, President
					EcoLogic Development Fund

cc: Ing. Juan Francisco Asturias Fajardo, Coordinador 
      Nacional, CONAMA
    Senor Diputado Mario Hugo Miranda, Presidente de la Comision 
      de Medio Ambiente
    Lic. Manuel Barquin, Delegado Departamental, Peten; 
      Procuraduria General de la Nacion
    Arq. Jorge Cabrera, Director Ejecutivo, CCAD
    Senor Reginaldo Chayax Huex, Presidente, Comite Bio Itza


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

OPEN LETTER FROM THE ECOLOGIC DEVELOPMENT FUND IN SPANISH



					16 de diciembre 1,996


Dr. Edgar Armando Aragon Gonzalez
Gobernador
Gobernacion Departamental del Peten
Ciudad Flores, Peten, Guatemala
Fax: 011-502-926-0459


Estimado Dr. Aragon Gonzalez:

Le escribo en nombre de EcoLogic Development Fund, una 
organizacion internacional y caritativa, para pedir su atencion a 
un problema de gran interes para nosotros, que ocurre en San 
Jose, Peten.

Mi organizacion y muchas otras agencias internacionales 
recientemente han recibido reportes sobre la forma anomala de 
sustituir los miembros del "Comite de la Reserva Biosfera Itza" 
en San Jose el 16 de noviembre 1,996 por el alcalde Julian 
Tesucun y Tesucun.  Confio en que, de ser este el caso, Usted se 
unira a nosotros para apoyar los valientes esfuerzos del "Comite 
Bio Itza", en proteger sus recursos naturales, el uso sostenible 
de estos recursos, y garantizar la preservacion de su lenguaje y 
cultura.

El Comite Bio Itza fue establecido en septiembre de 1,991 en San 
Jose como resultado de la formacion de una asamblea general con 
los miembros de la comuidad Itza.  El area en la cual su 
desarrollo esta centrado esta localizada en la zona de 
amortiguamiento de la Biosfera Maya a lo largo del perimetro del 
Biotopo El Zotz-San Miguel-La Pelotada.  Estos 6 kilometros 
cuadrados de area fueron concedidos por la honorable corporacion 
de la Municipalidad de San Jose como una reserva de bosque 
municipal (en sesion del 34-91, folio 312-317 del acta No. 37).  
El Comite Bio Itza, bajo el liderazgo de Reginaldo Chayax Huex y 
Feliciano Tzul Colli, han desarrollado un plan de manejo y 
establecido proyectos para proteger esta fragil area.  Sus 
proyectos incluye la proteccion de bosques amenazados, 
reforestacion en las areas degradadas, promocion del ecoturismo y 
algo muy importante, la ensenanza a los jovenes Maya Itza sobre 
sus tradiciones y lenguaje y lo trascendental de no perder ambos.  
Ellos han sido muy efectivos, no solamente en su trabajo de 
conservacion, sino tambien han promovido el desarrollo economico 
y cultural del pueblo Itza.

Por el trabajo importante realizado por ellos, muchas 
organizaciones nacionales e internacionales hemos apoyado y 
estamos disponibles a continuar apoyando al Comite Bio Itza.  Las 
instituciones que han unido esfuerzos con el Comite Bio Itza con 
recursos humanos, tecnologicos y donaciones financeras incluyen:  
Secretaria de Planificacion Economica (SEGEPLAN); Direccion 
General de Bosques y Vida Silvestre (DIGEBOS); Plan de Accion 
Forestral Maya (PAF-MAYA); Academia de Lenguas Mayas de 
Guatemala; Comision Centroamericana de Ambiente y Desarollo 
(CCAD); Asociacion del Rescate y Conservacion de la Vida 
Silvestre (ARCAS); Centro Agronomico Tropical de Investigacion y 
Ensenanza (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 Cooperacion 
Internacional, Austria; y la Agencia Internacional para el 
Desarollo (US AID).

Nosotros apoyamos a los lideres del Comite Bio Itza elegidos por 
su asamblea general del pueblo Itza en la reivindicacion de sus 
derechos como pueblo indigena bajo la convencion de la Naciones 
Unidas O.I.T. 169, Articulo 15, ratificado por el gobierno de 
Guatemala.  El cual dice: La gente indigena tiene derecho a 
participar en el uso, mantenimiento y conservacion de sus 
recursos.  Remover el Comite Bio Itza y reemplazar a sus lideres 
por tres parientes del alcalde y recientes inmigrantes, con poco 
entendimiento de la cultura local e intentar convertir el bosque 
en tierra para la agricultura, es una clara violacion de esta 
convencion.

Gracias por ayudarnos a resolver este conflicto en San Jose.  
Nosotros creemos que el Comite Bio Itza deberia ser gratificado 
por sus valientes esfuerzos, en lugar de ser castigado.  Es la 
segunda vez que el alcalde Julian Tesucun y Tesucun trata de 
quitar la tierra a un grupo comunitario. La primera vez ocurrio 
en el caso del grupo Ixchel cuya lidereza es Brenda Mayol.  
Por favor unase a nosotros y bloquee este segundo intento.

EcoLogic Development Fund y otras agencias internacionales 
estariamos muy agradecidos por cualquier accion tomada desde su 
oficina para resolver este problema por el bienestar de los Maya 
Itza y todo el Peten.  Nosotros, en respuesta, continuaremos 
ayudando tecnica y financieramente a promover el desarrollo 
economico y conservacion de San Jose.

El Comite Bio Itza ha realizado proyectos que han servido no solo 
como modelo a otros guatemaltecos sino tambien a la comunidad 
internacional.  Estoy seguro que ellos le daran la bienvenida si 
Usted los visita, para ver los resultados de sus esfuerzos en 
reforestacion y preservacion del ecosistema.  Nosotros creemos 
que esta fragil parcela de tierra debe ser 
trasladada al Comite que demostro su interes y habildad de 
mejorarla y preservarla.

Conociendo de su dedicacion por la conservacion del medio 
ambiente y la cultura, atentamente le pedimos su ayuda para 
asegurar que el Comite Bio Itza continue con su trabajo, que es 
vital para el desarrollo de la region. En nombre del gobierno que 
Usted representa y que esta interesado en 
la conservacion del medio ambiente y de la preservacion de los 
derechos humanos de los Mayas, esperamos su asistencia para 
resolver este problema urgente.

Gracias por su atencion.

					Atentamente,


					Shaun Paul
					Presidente


cc: Ing. Juan Francisco Asturias Fajardo, Coordinador 
      Nacional, CONAMA
    Senor Diputado Mario Hugo Miranda, Presidente de la Comision 
      de Medio Ambiente
    Lic. Manuel Barquin, Delegado Departamental, Peten; 
      Procuraduria General de la Nacion
    Arq. Jorge Cabrera, Director Ejecutivo, CCAD
    Senor Reginaldo Chayax Huex, Presidente, Comite Bio Itza


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(news at ecologic.org), P.O. Box 3405, Cambridge, MA 02238-3405 USA. 
EcoLogic is a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing the 
destruction of biodiverse tropical ecosystems by advancing 
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