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Toledo CacaoFest – 21st to 23rd May 2010 – featuring the “Three Kings of Belize”

Three Kings of Belize

Three Kings of Belize

ToledoChocolate.com – The fourth annual Toledo CacaoFest promises to be better than ever! Join us over the Commonwealth Day holiday weekend for a family weekend celebration of cacao, culture, and the rich flavours of the Toledo District.

Friday 21st May: The Festival opens with its signature Wine and Chocolate evening, held on the rooftop terrace of the University of Belize. Guests will enjoy fine wine and food, chocolate delights from Belize’s four chocolate producers – Kakaw, Goss, Cotton Tree, and Cyrila’s – live music, from Pablo Collado, and a fireworks display.

Saturday 22nd May: Saturday sees the return of the Taste of Toledo cookery and craft fair, this year in its new seafront location at Petillo Park and the Grounds of the Father Ring Parish Hall. The Fair showcases local and national artisans work, local food and cookery demonstrations, as well as music and dance performances and masterclasses, and a special screening of the newly released award-wining “Three Kings of Belize” DVD.

New Cacao for Kids activities include a sock-puppet class, and a puppet show by the National Library. We will also create the longest rainforest mural in Belize, with a chalk pavement art scene along the Fishermen’s Co-op wharf and although we can’t hope to compete with the current world record 75,000 square feet creating, we’ll be setting a record for Belize!

The Sea Toledo kayaking, snorkelling and boat trips will depart from the Fisherman’s Co-op wharf, giving everybody the chance to appreciate the beautiful coastal waters of Toledo. The inland Cacao Trail tours take you through the organic cacao orchards in Toledo, to learn how the pods are grown, harvested and processed before being turned into chocolate – the food of the Gods! We’re offering two very special tours – The Lodge at Big Falls’ tour will include a visit with Florencio Mes (one of the “Three Kings”), and Sun Creek Lodge’s tour features cave-swimming at the stunning Hokeb Ha Cave at Blue Creek. (more…)

Audubon showcases the best art and photographs of nature

Belize Audubon Society Green Wave Initiative

Belize Audubon Society Green Wave Initiative

Channel 5 Belize – The Belize Audubon Society held an artistic competition to bring awareness to the importance of biodiversity. They invited schools and the general public to submit photographs or art work showing life forms that are a part of the country’s flora and fauna. Of the hundreds of submissions, the best works were chosen to be displayed at the Mexican Embassy.

Dareece Chuc, Education Program Mgr, Belize Audubon Society: “We’re having a biodiversity art and photography exhibition. It’s a part of our Green Wave Initiative and the Green Wave is about educating youths and children about the importance of biodiversity.”

Delahnie Bain: “So what are the pieces you have on display?”

Dareece Chuc: “Okay, on display we have various artwork done by children living in communities buffering the protected areas that we manage. So we have from Biscayne, Crooked Tree, Lemonal Village and also some schools in the Belmopan area. We also have a very short section on oil spills and the effects on biodiversity and in regards to the photography component, we have various entries from the general public.” (more…)

Operation Jaguar In Effect

7 News Belize – Since early yesterday, you may have seen the BDF and Police patrols all over the place and the news was sent out that Police are on a major operation. It is called Operation Jaguar and it was launched in Belize City at the direction of the chairman of the National Security Council, Prime Minister Dean Barrow. According to an official release, “The Operation, which will be conducted for a sustained period of time, will target high crime areas in Belize City and is intended to provide safety and security for residents in these areas and restore public confidence in the Government’s anti-crime efforts. It is expected that this Operation will be successful in identifying and disrupting gang activity that is primarily responsible for the violence in the city. ”

Operation Jaguar also involves the re-assignment of additional Police officers as well as Coast Guard personnel and more than 100 additional soldiers from the Belize Defence Force, including Belize Special Assignment Group (BSAG) a police special team. A number of strategies will be used, including increased stop and search operations, static and roving vehicular checkpoints, vehicle and house searches, static patrols, and combination of foot, bike and mobile patrols.

New structures ‘unearthed’ at Belize’s Caracol Mayan Ruin

Caracol Maya Ruin Belize

Caracol Maya Ruin

San Pedro Sun – The ruins of Caracol are located in the Vaca Plateau of the Cayo District and recent studies performed by NASA have unearthed thousands of new structures using their most advanced technology. Utilizing NASA’s laser tools, researchers have discovered and illustrated in a 3D form, the complex urban centers built at the ancient Maya City of Caracol.

In a press briefing on Tuesday, May 11th, a NASA based group revealed information – which normally would take 25 years to collect – and was done over a span of 4 days gathered by using a technique called LiDar (light Detection and Ranging). Airborne LiDAR made research significantly easier, and faster, allowing researchers to see ‘beyond the rainforest’. Laser beams emitted from a plane were able to penetrate the thick canopy that covers the site to reach sensors on the ground. The laser survey then produced images of the ancient settlement and its surroundings, covering a 200 square kilometre radius in just four days.

“It is very exciting,” said Arlen Chase, Anthropology Professor at the University of Central Florida, where the data is being analyzed. “The images not only reveal topography and built features, but also demonstrate the integration of residential groups, monumental architecture, roadways and agricultural terraces, vividly illustrating a complete communication, transportation and subsistence system.”

This breakthrough and results of the LiDAR mapping project in Caracol are significant. A total of eleven new causeways, five new causeway termini, tens of thousands of agricultural terraces and many hidden caves were located.

The new developments have prompted Nasa’s researchers to recreate the Caracol landscape in 3D model so as to better understand the Maya Civilization in an effort to discover clues as to what may have happened to the maya empire in that era.

Currently in the state of excavation and restoration Caracol is the largest known Maya center in Belize. The largest pyramid in Caracol, “Canaa” (Sky Place), rises 140 feet high, and it is the tallest manmade structure in all of Belize. Since Caracol is located in the Chiquibul Rain Forest, there is a plethora of flora and fauna to enhance the true beauty of this magnificent Maya center. Caracol is an enormous ceremonial center, perhaps the largest site in Belize.

PM Barrow, DPM Vega respond to call for ban of offshore drilling

Amandala – Minister of Natural Resources Gaspar Vega told Amandala today that he would consult with his technical staff and submit a paper to Cabinet to formulate a position on offshore drilling in respect to petroleum concessions that have already been granted for the territory of Belize.

While the Minister was non-committal on the issue and did not state a clear position with respect to existing concessions, he did say that the matter should be put under review. Vega said he would leave it up to the experts to decide. He said that he will have to make certain that the Department of the Environment does everything to ensure that Belize does not take any needless risks. He did confirm that he has no clear position at this time, but it is a matter he wants to table for discussion.

On Tuesday, the Association of Protected Areas Management Organizations (APAMO) issued a declaration on the occasion of its Annual General Meeting, calling on the Government to ban offshore petroleum exploration. Chairman of APAMO, Edilberto Romero, went further to tell our newspaper that all habitats deemed fragile in Belize should in fact be off-limits to petroleum exploration.

COLA (Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action) has written to Prime Minister Dean Barrow in a similar vein. OCEANA has also gone on record to oppose offshore petroleum exploration.

The Government of Belize has taken the view that the existing contracts have already been sealed; however, the investors would still require permits from the respective government departments, including the Department of the Environment, before they can be permitted to do anything on the ground. This is where, according to Prime Minister Dean Barrow, the DOE can ensure that nothing is done that is detrimental to Belize’s environment.

“Oil rig accidents have caused deaths and injuries. It poses more risks than benefits, and we at COLA oppose the exploration of oil in the waters of Belize. We are hereby calling for a moratorium on offshore drilling,” COLA tells PM Barrow.

Prime Minister Barrow told Amandala this evening that he is responding to COLA’s letter. “There will have to be proper consideration of the entire thing,” said Barrow, commenting that COLA’s letter did make some good points.

“I can’t say how the thing is going to shake out,” said Barrow. He commented that while he has no problem breaking contracts that are secret and illegal, breaking contracts that are above board and open to the public is quite a different story.

Nature’s reality show – Belize’s low-key tempo and stunning natural habitats

Flight to Punta Gorda Belize

Flight to Punta Gorda Belize

Travel Daily News – My first evening perched in a treetop resort in the jungles of Belize was rudely disturbed by a long, strange and ear-splitting sound. While the unique architecture of my room included an airy veranda with a simple screen separating me from the rain-forest’s natural inhabitants was pleasing, at that moment I must admit that I longed for the classical wall structure. But nature won-out that night as I fell asleep in the lush tropical setting despite the mysterious groans that continued to emanate from above.

Nature throws you a loop in Belize. That first evening was a sign. Coming here, be it hidden away in the secluded south or even on the quiet agricultural northern highways; as a traveller you are propelled far away from the cookie-cruncher tourism of vast resorts, grand pools and flocks of weary travellers. In Belize you are a guest among others at nature’s reality-show.

What this small nation lacks in fine sandy beaches or grandiose developments, it is even more appealing for its verdant natural beauty, romantic secluded settings, spectacular aquatic life and the unique cultural mix of people who call this land home.

An image that I came to Belize with was from “Three Kings of Belize”, a documentary of first-time Canadian filmmaker Katia Paradis. In her slow-moving portrait she tells the stories of three of the country’s notable musicians and their daily existential struggles. The mix of an aging Garifuna composer, an ethnic Mayan harp player and a Creole accordionist and their simple lives in the jungles somehow prepared me for this world of unsung kings and quiet natural diversity.

The next day began with a patio breakfast overlooking the dense forest canopy – at the Machaca Hill Rainforest Canopy Lodge. This sprawling resort occupied my first days in the southern corner of the country. At breakfast staff pointed out a pack of howler monkeys roaming the treetops. These are the largest monkeys of the America’s, I was told. I was less surprised to hear that they are also the loudest. They venture in groups and the howls of the night before were likely two male monkeys setting the territorial boundaries straight. (more…)

Citizens Stage Protest Against Crime in Belmopan

LoveFM – The public cries “enough is enough” in Belmopan this morning in a peaceful demonstration against the escalating crime that has been plaguing Belize. The move was prompted after the death of thirty year old Aubrey Lopez who was shot and killed on Wednesday night on Prince Street. Lopez is the son of Belmopan Mayor, Simeon Lopez. He was also a prominent basket ball player and teacher at Edward P. York High School in Belize City. His cold blooded murder has stirred the residents of his hometown Belmopan who are saying Belizeans have tolerated enough and call on the leaders of the country to take charge. We spoke to Nigel Petillo, President of the Belize Grass Roots Youth Empowerment Association.

Nigel Petillo; President, Belize Grass Roots Youth Empowerment Association

“While we do not want to stress and elaborate on the loss of Aubrey we want to use this time to stand up together in solidarity and tell our government that hey mean ‘enough is enough stop talk act now’. We cannot wait for you guys to be drafting up a plan when the crime situation is only escalating. We are calling on the Honourable Perdomo, Crispin Jeffries, the youth leaders in the community and leaders on a whole to come out and let us deal with this problem together. You guys can’t solve it on your own. It is evident. Every week the media shows us a new form of crime and violence that is affecting our country. We have all come to the decision that we are not going to be standing aside waiting to see you guys solve the problem when it seems as if though it is too much for you.”

The escalating crime, particularly in Belize City has led Cabinet to publicly acknowledge that Belize in now in, quote “crisis” and further stated that there is now a lack of confidence in the Police Department. In that release issued on Wednesday, the government also said that it is drafting a plan to tackle crime. Petillo says however, that if necessary, the leadership must be changed. (more…)

Belize Fisheries Deptartment concerned about offshore oil concessions

Petroleum Concessions Map of Belize

Petroleum Concessions Map of Belize

Channel 5 Belize – The updated Belize Petroleum Contracts map, shown, listed seventeen companies which have been given concessions to explore for oil on land and sea. That number now reaches eighteen as one more company, Northern Spirit Resources, has also been granted a license to search for oil.

News Five has been investigating the principals behind the slew of companies and one which has been granted a concession to look for oil in the sea is Princess Petroleum Limited.

The register of the directors or managers of the company are: Sudi Ozkan and Memet Hamdi Karagozoglu, businessmen of the Princess casino on Newtown Barracks. The secretary of the company is listed as attorney Rodwell Williams whose address is ninety-nine Albert Street. Williams is a senior partner at Barrow and Williams, the PM’s law firm. The Association of Protected Management Organizations (APAMO) has vehemently said that it wants a ban on all offshore exploration.

The Fisheries Department, which manages several eco-sensitive marine areas throughout the country, is monitoring the developments and is concerned about how the concessions are granted. Beverly Wade, the Fisheries Administrator, says that her department is now liaising with other departments to start the discussion on whether or not there are areas that should not be considered for exploration.

Beverly Wade, Fisheries Administrator: “I must say that first of all, the concessions that have been given out are primarily a permitting process that happened through the Geology and Petroleum Department. At that point there is not necessarily consideration of whether or now—there is no real policy in place to say we are not going to give concessions for certain areas in Belizean Territory. My understanding is that the entire territory is blocked off. So there is no real policy in place, like in some countries to say well there are some areas that we are not going to give concessions for. (more…)

Cabinet, Crime and the Belize Police

Corporal Gavin Sanchez

Corporal Gavin Sanchez

7 News Belize – Police are under pressure from – we suspect – the political directorate to wrap up two open, publicly festering investigations: the first is the case of constable Gavin Sanchez who was killed by a fellow officer who shot him 9 times in the San Pedro police barracks; and the second is the case of Steven Buckley, the construction worker who was shot by a police officer.

As we understand it a representative from the DPP’s Office was scheduled to visit the San Pedro police station this afternoon to examine the scene of the crime. But there seems to be some uncertainty about whether the man who shot Sanchez, Sergeant Paulino Reyes is still in the country. As we reported earlier this week there are insistent reports that Reyes has left Belize and returned to his home country in El Salvador. High level sources in law enforcement say though that he is still in the country. We should know by the time charges are brought – and those are expected soon. How soon? Right now we can’t say as the DPP’s office is still assessing the evidence.

And as regards the Buckley case – that file had to be sent back from the DPP’s Office to the police because the investigative content – we are told – was lacking. Charges in that case are also expected shortly.

That’s what was promised in a cabinet release which was issued on Wednesday with a major statement on crime. It acknowledged that crime has reached, quote, “crisis proportions…both in terms of the increase in violent crime…and the lack of confidence in the Police Department…” end quote. The release says that Government is reorganizing the Police Department and a plan outlining that will be unveiled on the 2nd June. But more than just police plans, a major new coordinated anti crime initiative is being launched by government to be steered by a project office. That is also expected within the next few weeks.

Belize gold potential “intriguing,” says Geologist Cornec

Amandala – Geologist Jean H. Cornec, a founding director of Belize Natural Energy, which struck commercial oil in Belize in 2005, and who has done extensive work in Belize with the Geology Department (through the UN), has just released a report in which he cites specific areas of Belize – and particularly the Maya Mountains and a network of rivers and tributaries in the region – as having “intriguing gold potential.”

Craig Moore, the current Inspector of Mines, in the Department of Geology and Petroleum, told Amandala this evening, that the Cornec report, to which the department has contributed, is credible. Cornec, who is evidently trying to spark international interest in Belize’s gold reserves with his press release titled, Gold Potential of the Maya Mountains, Belize’s Best Kept Secret?, has always expressed interest in Belize, Moore added.

Dated May 2010, Cornec’s five-page report says, “Belize holds intriguing gold potential in an under-explored region that is politically secure while offering attractive mining deal terms. Alluvial gold was first described more than 60 years ago, and fine gold flakes can be panned in numerous drainages of the Maya Mountains.”

Cornec goes on to say, “Very large portions of the Maya Mountains remain unexplored or under-explored for the bedrock sources of the gold using modern prospecting techniques. This is in part due to challenging surface conditions such as thick vegetation, rugged terrain and limited road access, as well as the lack of knowledge in the mining industry of the gold potential.” (more…)

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