Last night CTV-3 broke the story of corruption involving a piece of land in San Estevan – land which had been legally owned by San Estevan resident Jose Castillo for more than 20 years. Imagine Castillo’s surprise when a title for his piece of land turned up in the hands of Cosmar and Rodel Hernandez Jr. who coincidentally are the nephews of Minister of Lands Gaspar Vega.
The land in question is parcel #562 located in San Estevan. When Jose Castillo went to pay his land tax in February, he found out that his piece of land, for which he has title, also belongs to the Hernandez brothers, and they also have a title.
It doesn’t seem possible, or at least it shouldn’t be possible. But it is, and cases continue to emerge in which landowners find that their land has been sold out from under them, and the new owners have been given legal title from the Ministry of Lands.
But if this happens to you, what can you do? Well today we contacted the Orange Walk Police Department to find out. We were told that it is a civil matter and the Police will not get involved. The two ‘owners’ of any piece of land must seek resolution through the Ministry of Lands. If that doesn’t work, then the parties must take the matter to Court. If the Magistrate hands down an order, and that order if disobeyed by any of the parties, then, and only then will the Police become involved.
So we checked with the Lands Department here in Orange Walk. A representative there told us that they only became aware of the Castillo/Hernandez case from our newscast last night. While he could not comment on the matter or even tell us if an investigation will be done into the matter, he did tell us that there are ‘various’ ways in which titles of the sort we were querying can be acquired.
And that’s where our investigation stalled for the day. Our attempts to reach either Cosmar or Rodel Hernandez Jr. were futile, as none of the numbers we called for them were answered. We tried to reach Commissioner of Lands Wilbert Vallejos, but we were told repeatedly that he was unable to take our call.
We did find out something interesting today, though. In trying to ascertain how Cosmar and Rodel Hernandez would have access to acquiring a title for land which already had an owner, we looked for a connection between the brothers and the Ministry of Natural Resources, other than their uncle the Minister of Natural Resources that is. We found out that another of the Minister’s nephews, Barony Hernandez, holds a high position within the Ministry. Barony, we understand, is the brother of Cosmar and Rodel. It’s enough to makes lights flash and alarms sound, but we’re not ready to go there just yet. But we will continue digging, and will have much more on this story in tomorrow’s newscast.