S James Anaya


In the last several years, the government of Belize, through its

Ministry of Natural Resources, has granted at least seventeen concessions

for logging on lands totaling approximately 480,000 acres in the Toledo

District, its most southern political subdivision. The rural parts of the

Toledo District that are affected by the concessions are inhabited primarily

by Maya people, descendants of the Maya civilization that flourished

throughout substantial parts of Mexico and Central America hundreds of

years prior to European colonization in the Western Hemisphere. On

November 29, 1996, Maya organizations initiated in the Supreme Court of

Belize, the trial court of general jurisdiction, an action challenging the

granting of the logging concessions. In the lawsuit, the Maya assert rights

over lands and resources that are included in the concessions and seek to

have the concessions enjoined and declared in violation of Maya rights.