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Screen_shot_2011-07-12_at_7.52.54_PMFor the past few days at least, the BTL mess has been placed on the backburner by another critical scandal which is just about ready to erupt rampant corruption in the Ministry of Natural Resources. For sure it is nothing new, but one local media house in Belize has unearthed chilling tales of titled land being sold out from under their owners without their knowledge.

Just imagine you have title to a piece of land, so on the weekend you head out there with the family to spend some quality time, only to find another family there having a BBQ…or building a house…and they have title to the land too a title which they got from the proper authorities at the Ministry of Natural Resources.

Its a bizarre situation, and word is there are plenty more instances of corruption where those came from. Today CTV-3 learnt about another land mess in San Estevan maybe a little different from those reported in the Belize City media…but still involving corruption in the Ministry of Natural Resources and, even more shocking, involving the nephews of the Minister of Natural Resources, Gaspar Vega. Heres that story.

Yari Catzim- Reporting

Jose Castillo is a resident of the village of San Estevan in the Orange Walk district. He has been the sole owner of this piece of land for over 20 years. He has a title for the land which clarifies that he is the legal owner for this parcel #562.

So that’s the end of the story, right? He has the title for the land so he is the rightful owner. But not so fast - Castillo recently learnt that he is not the only person with a title for parcel #562. When he visited the Lands Department in February of this year he was told that another title has been issued for this land under the name of Rodel Hernandez Jr. and Cosmar Hernandez, both nephews of the Minister of Natural Resources Gaspar Vega.

Not only that, but the Deputy Prime Minister’s nephews have started building on the piece of land.

Jose Castillo- Landowner

“Yo lo conseguí porque era canal mío entonces estaba muy pegado al pueblo entones yo lo mande a medir para que yo lo venda por lotes. Ellos lo empezaron a pagar me pidió el señor a comprar ese uno pero él se murió y no me lo pago. Los muchachos tampoco me lo quisieron pagar pero ellos siempre lo agarraron.”

According to Castillo three years ago he made a deal with Rodel Hernadez Sr. that he was to purchase the piece of land, but Hernandez Sr. passed away without any money changing hands and without the transaction thus taking effect.

Yari Catzim- Reporter

“Y el arreglo era que él debía pagar cuanto para el terreno?”

Jose Castillo- Landowner

“Tres mil pero no me pago nada entonces les fui a preguntar a ellos y no lo querían pagar entonces lo agarraron.”

Yari Catzim- Reporter

“Ok entendemos que ellos también tiene título para ese terreno igual como usted tiene titulo.”

Jose Castillo- Landowner

“Así dicen que tiene uno que pagaron un abogado para que les pase el terreno en su nombre de ellos con un título.”

Yari Catzim- Reporter

“Usted ya visito el Departamento de Terrenos y le dijeron que existe otro título?”

Jose Castillo- Landowner

“Yo ya fui con los meros de allí de don Cawich y entonces me dijeron que ya tenían otro titulo y yo n o podía pagar.”

The issue is a touchy one for this resident of San Estevan, as the Hernandez brothers are his neighbours. In addition Rodel Hernandez Jr. and Cosmar Hernandez are the nephews of the Hon Gaspar Vega, Minister of Lands, which makes the whole thing a little touchy. He has sought legal advice, though, and his attorney has advised the Hernandez brothers to cease and desist construction on the land.

Jose Castillo- Landowner

“Me siento mal porque no debían de hacer eso porque yo tengo un titulo y ese es el que yo creo que vale pero no se puede hacer nada hasta ahorita.”

Yari Catzim- Reporter

“Vemos que tanto como usted y muchas personas en Belice están pasando por la misma situación pensó usted que algún día le pasaría esto a usted?”

Jose Castillo- Landowner

“No nunca creí que me pase a mi pero esto está sucediendo ahora.”

Yari Catzim- Reporter

“Entendemos que usted tiene un abogado ahora?”

Jose Castillo- Landowner

“Si traje una carta de un abogado y no se respecto siempre siguieron adelante. La carta decía que ni yo ni ellos hagamos nada en el terreno pero ellos siguieron adelante.”

This story has just come to our attention and well keep digging. One question wed ask for sure is how the nephews of the Minister of Natural Resources were able to get title for a piece of land when somebody else has title for that land. It doesnt seem like that should be possible. Well have more on this story as it develops.

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