[Part of a photo essay by Grahame Russell of Rights Action, who is currently leading a delegation of North Americans to Guatemala in partnership with the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC). The group has been visiting communities resisting violent repression and environmental damage caused by multinational corporations, including a number of global mining companies.]
A Mayan Priest Celebrates A Ceremony In Honor Of The Lote 8 (El Estor) Struggle For Land And Justice, And For The Visit Of Rights Action / UNBC In Solidarity With The Q’eqchi’ People Of Lote 8
From the town of El EStor, we drove 2 hours in 4×4 pickups, to the top of the mountain range to the north of Lake Izabal, where, since the 1960s, a string of Canadian companies (INCO, Skye Resources, Hudbay Minerals) and now a Russian company (Solway Group) have used lies, corruption and repression to try and forcibly remove the Q’eqchi’ people from their historic lands, to get access to a vaste deposit of nickel ore.
From the end of the brutally rough road, we walk a further hour to arrive at the new community of Lote 8. In 2007, 100s of small homes in Lote 8 were burned to the ground twice, by private security guards hired by Skye Resources (later bought out by Hudbay Minerals), and by police and soldiers. 11 women were gang-raped, during the second illegal eviction ~ a brutal tactic of community terrorization.
In 2011, the women filed a lawsuit in Canada with the Klippensteins law firm, one of three precedent setting lawsuits against Hudbay Minerals.
We were moved and honoured to be welcomed into Lote 8 by the community and to be invited to participate in their ceremony, led by a community elder.