Vancouver Mining Justice Alliance Calls for an End to Violence and Impunity! (Open Letter)

OPEN LETTER TO:

Kevin McArthur

President, CEO and Director of Tahoe Resources Inc.

Royal Centre
1055 West Georgia Street, Suite 1500
Vancouver, B.C., V6E 4N7

Otto Pérez Molina
Presidente de la República
Casa Presidencial
6ª Avenida 4-41, Zona 1
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala

Georges de la Roche Plihal
Ambassador for the Republic of Guatemala

His Excellency Georges de la Roche Plihal
Ambassador for the Republic of Guatemala
130 Albert Street, Suite 1010
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5G4

Sra. Claudia Paz Fiscal General of Guatemala

Claudia Paz y Paz Bailey
Fiscal General de la República
Ministerio Público
15ª Avenida 15-16, Zona 1, Barrio Gerona
01001 Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala

REGARDING THE MARCH 17 2013: KIDNAPPINGS AND MURDER OF INDIGENOUS COMMUNITY LEADER(S) OPPOSED TO VANCOUVER-BASED MINING IN GUATEMALA.

Vancouver Mining Justice Alliance Calls for an End to Violence and Impunity!

The Mining Justice Alliance announces with terrible concern the horrible news that four leaders of the Xinca people in Jalapa, Guatemala were forcibly abducted the evening of Sunday, March 17, 2013. The four men kidnapped were: Roberto González Ucelo, President of the Xinca Parliament and President of the indigenous community of Santa María Xalapán; Parliament members Rigoberto Aguilar (Administrator); Rodolfo López Jiménez (Cabinet Member); and  Exaltación Marcos Ucelo (Secretary).  Earlier that evening the four men had acted as observers at a community consultation on mining in San Rafael las Flores in Santa Rosa Guatemala. While they were travelling home from the event through an area of the neighbouring department of Jalapa known as Pino Dulce, they were stopped and forcibly abducted by a group of heavily armed men.

According to reports by MiningWatch, and Amnesty International[1]  Rigoberto Aguílar and Rodolfo López escaped and sounded the alarm at some time during the night. Rigoberto Aguílar was reportedly injured.  In the early morning of 18 March, Roberto González’ vehicle was found with multiple bullet holes and Exaltación Marcos was found dead. About four hundred people peacefully gathered in the immediate area in order to protect the scene of the crime while demanding that authorities initiate a proper and full investigation. That evening, President Roberto González Ucelo was found alive.

The consultation at which the four men were present on the eve of their disappearance is one of many organized by communities across Guatemala to address the issue of mining. Called “Consultations of Good Faith”, they were started by Indigenous people who were directly affected by Vancouver’s gold giant, Goldcorp, after seeing the damages to their communities brought by mining alongside a widespread concerns that there had been insufficient or non-existent consultation by the company. In these Consultations of Good Faith, over 1 million people in Guatemala, Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike, have already voted explicitly against mining in their territories and regions. A recent public opinion poll estimates that 66% of Guatemalans at large are opposed to mining.2

The mine in question for the four abducted Xinca leaders is the Escobal project owned (via subsidiary) by Tahoe Resources, a Vancouver company with close links to Goldcorp. (Goldcorp owns 40% of Tahoe, and the two companies share many executives). Last month, the Mining Justice Alliance joined 49 other Canadian and US civil society organizations to call for the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) to open an investigation to determine who is responsible for ongoing violence near this and other mines in Guatemala. MiningWatch Canada has repeatedly expressed concerns that recent public statements by Guatemalan officials reflect ongoing stigmatization and criminalization of human rights defenders, and conflation of non-violent community organizing with violence. A recent UN report echoes these concerns.  The Mining Justice Alliance fears that more violence against human rights and land defenders will follow. As outlined in the February 28 joint statement, we believe the ongoing, peaceful, community-based resistance to the Escobal mine—a resistance which has been sustained over two years—indicates that the company lacks the social license to operate there.[2]

The Mining Justice Alliance stands in solidarity with the peoples of Guatemala demanding respect for the rights of Indigenous Peoples to free consultations regarding the future of their communities and the lands they inhabit. Equally, we demand respect for life and the security of community members. We note that this recent violent incident is part of a global pattern of violence and conflict which occurs with disturbing frequency in and around mine projects—many of which are owned by Canadian companies based in Vancouver. This horrifying pattern, we believe, is linked to widespread corporate practices which systematically prioritize the drive for profit over the rights and self-determination of local communities.

For the respect of human rights

For the right of Indigenous peoples and all peoples to determine their lives and their cultures

For the freedom of expression and thought

For the freedom of movement

For the respect of the Mother Earth and the resources she offers

For the freedom of community organization

For the freedom to assemble and discuss in consultations!

In response to these recent events, the Mining Justice Alliance:

  • Urges Guatemala’s Attorney General to request that the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) undertake a full and impartial investigation into the violence in the area, in particular the existence of an armed group, and to ensure the protection of the human rights and environmental defenders who are demanding respect for their rights to live in a safe and healthy environment and to free, prior and informed consent over the mine project.
  • Calls on the Ministry of Energy and Mines and the Ministry of the Environment in Guatemala to reject Tahoe Resources’ request for an exploitation license for the Escobal mine.
  • Calls on Goldcorp and Tahoe Resources to pull out from San Rafael Las Flores given lack of social license for its Escobal project and the prevailing climate of violence that prohibits communities from peacefully conducting public referenda. We believe its presence in the communities is generating conflict.

We further urge people in Vancouver and across Canada to expose the unjust practices of Canadian mining companies and to oppose the violence to land and lives that too often follows in their wake.

Mining Justice Alliance

Vancouver BC Canada  – Unceded Coast Salish Traditional Territories

miningjustice@gmail.com

miningjusticealliance.wordpress.com


[1] Amnesty International. March 19, 2013. Guatemala: Fears for Safety of Indigenous Leaders. http://www.amnesty.ca/get-involved/take-action-now/guatemala-fears-for-safety-of-indigenous-leaders

[2] See MiningWatch Canada. February 28, 2013. Canadian and US Organizations Call for Investigation into Recent Violence at Canadian Owned Mines in Guatemalahttp://www.miningwatch.ca/news/canadian-and-us-organizations-call-investigation-recent-violence-canadian-owned-mines-guatemala

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