On April 4, 2014, the criminal trial of Mynor Padilla will begin in Puerto Barrios, Guatemala. Padilla is charged with the murder of Aldofo Ich Chamán, and the wounding of at least ten others on September 27, 2009 near El Estor, Izabal. The victims of these violent crimes and their families are calling upon allies to join them in solidarity in Puerto Barrios as the trial begins.
Witnesses allege that Mynor Padilla, the head of security at the time for Hudbay Minerals/Compañía Guatemalteca de Niquel (CGN) opened fire on a group of villagers in El Estor who opposed forced evictions and other human rights violations in relation to Hudbay/CGN’s Fenix mining project.
At the time that these violent incidents took place, CGN was the wholly-owned Guatemalan subsidiary of HudBay Minerals, a Canadian mining company. HudBay and CGN are also currently facing civil lawsuits in Canadian courts for their role in the killing of Adolfo Ich, the shooting-paralyzing of German Chub and the gang-rapes of 11 women from the nearby community of Lote 8 during a forced eviction.
On September 27, 2009, a series of community protests took place in response to fears that further illegal evictions of Q’eqchi’ communities in the El Estor region would be carried out by HudBay Minerals/CGN. Mine company security personnel reacted to the protests with violence. Individuals who were wounded in the attack include: Haroldo Cucul, Santos Caal Beb, and German Chub Choc, from barrio La Union; Alejandro Acte, Ricardo Acte, and Samuel Coc, from the community of Las Nubes; and Alfredo Tzi and Luciano Ical, from barrio El Chupon.
Adolfo Ich Chamán, a widely known and respected local teacher, community leader, and father of four was specifically targeted and killed. Witnesses state that armed security used their shotguns to push him away from the gathered crowd before a security guard hacked him with a machete and Mynor Padilla shot him in the head.
On the same day, German Chub, a young local man and father of one, was watching a soccer game near the fence that separates the community of La Union from mining company buildings, when security personnel arrived. German alleges that he was shot by Mynor Padilla in another unprovoked attack.
German lives with a number of grave medical conditions as a result of this incident. “I have suffered devastating and permanent injuries because of the shooting. The bullet badly damaged my spinal cord, so I am now a paraplegic. The bullet also punctured and collapsed my left lung. My left lung no longer works.”
In the four and a half years since these events, victims, witnesses, and family members have struggled through a long and frustrating series of legal processes in order to have justice served for these violence crimes.
Despite an order issued for Padilla’s arrest shortly after events in September 2009, he remained at large. Company officials confirmed that he continued to be on paid leave from his work as head of security and remained on the CGN payroll for at least the following year. In response to the perceived unwillingness of the Public Prosecutor’s office to enact the arrest warrant, community members went before the Human Rights Section of the Public Prosecutor’s Office in December 2010 to demand that the Ministry of the Interior take immediate action. They likewise demanded that investigations be conducted impartially, in response to concerns that the Compañía Guatemalteca de Níquel (CGN) was corrupting community leaders and proposing witnesses who were not present at the moment of Chamán’s murder.
Padilla was arrested on September 25, 2012, after having remained a fugitive from justice for almost three years. The trial is scheduled to begin on April 4, 2014, eighteen months after the arrest.
Angelica Choc, the widow of Adolfo Ich, speaking of her thoughts leading up to the trial, said, “I only hope that everything will go well on the 4th of April. That the laws are followed, that the authorities conduct their work appropriately and without being manipulated.”
[Activists in Toronto, the city where HudBay Minerals is based, march in support of the communities harmed by Canadian mining projects around the world. Photo: Allan Lissner]
Throughout this process, supporters both in Guatemala and internationally have expressed solidarity and concern for the safety of the family of Adolfo Ich Chamán, while denouncing his murder as a targeted act of violence against a respected Maya Q’eqchi’ community leader and an open critic of human rights violations and environmental damage caused by corporate mining activities. They have also stood in solidarity alongside the other victims of violence carried out by CGN, the Maya Q’eqchi’ community of El Estor, and all human rights defenders who defend their land, land rights, and the rights of Indigenous Peoples.
When the trial opens in April, those who will be serving as witnesses, as well as the families of victims – all of whom have faced significant risk throughout this process – call upon allies to join them at the courtroom to demonstrate their solidarity.
Angelica Choc makes the request clear: “Let all of us who are fighting in defense of our territories unite to demand that justice be served.”
Those unable to attend the trial in person should stay tuned for information on opportunities to stand in solidarity from afar.
After having been away from Guatemala for two years, I am fortunate to have been able to return for two months! During this – albeit short – trip, I aim to visit with, and publish articles, videos, and updates, from communities in resistance to at least three different Canadian-connected mines (as pictured below): the Fenix Mine in Izabal (formerly owned by Hudbay), the Marlin Mine in San Marcos (owned by Goldcorp), and the Escobal mine in Jalapa (owned by Tahoe Resources, and partially by Goldcorp).
In addition to working to disseminate info on the struggles surrounding these mines, I hope that the meetings I have with communities in resistance will help to inform the solidarity work that the group I organize with, the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN), will carry out in shareholder season. During that time, in April and May, these and other mining companies will hold their AGMs in Canada, many of which will take place in Toronto. See here for a peek into what we got up to during last year’s shareholder season!
I’ll be posting both quick updates and longer articles/videos on this blog, and look forward to any feedback, as always!
Joanne Jefferson and I co-wrote the following article for Alternatives Journal, check it out on their site.
The scene was absurd: four activists, each with a bundle of 75 black and gold helium-filled balloons, riding an escalator. As we reached the top, we clipped our banner to the bundles and let go, watching our work rise slowly toward the hundred-foot ceiling of the lobby of a downtown Toronto office tower. Suddenly there were security guards rushing toward us. One of them jumped to make a grab for the bottom edge of the banner. We held our breath. He missed by mere inches and groaned. And then for just a moment, everyone in the lobby was standing still, staring up, as our huge painted banner rose until the balloons bumped and jostled against the ceiling. The bold red letters made our message clear: “HUDBAY MINERALS, CORPORATE CRIMINALS.”
Outside on King Street, we joined the group of protesters who had already been standing in the pouring rain for more than two hours. A banner just like the one we had raised inside was stretched out, soaked, between two elders from the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation. They had traveled from northern Manitoba to confront Hudbay at this shareholder meeting where important decisions were being made by people who may have a financial stake but whose lives will never be directly impacted by the actual workings of any of the company’s mines.
Hudbay Minerals is one of several Canadian-owned mining companies censured by environmental activists, human rights organizations and more recently by mainstream media for carrying out violent forced evictions, murdering a community leader who resisted one of their mines, robbing Indigenous peoples of their lands, supporting brutal police and security operations and criminalizing anyone who has tried to resist their mining projects around the world and here in Canada. Hudbay has gained increasing attention recently because they are the first Canadian company to be tried in Canadian courts for crimes committed at mines overseas.
Activists infiltrate mining luncheon, distribute a dose of reality
Today, the Canadian Club of Toronto invited major players in Canada’s mining industry to a formal luncheon and panel discussion entitled “The Challenge to Lead.” However, attendees who have ties with communities impacted by these Canadian operations expressed grave concern. Given the poor track record of Canadian mining companies at home and abroad, individuals were left questioning the legitimacy of Canada’s extractive industry claiming leadership in Corporate Social Responsibility.
Pierre Lassonde, Chairman of Franco-Nevada Corporation, moderated a panel that included David Garofalo, President and CEO of HudBay Minerals, Rob McEwen, Chairman and Chief Owner of McEwen Mining, and Piotr Pikul, Partner at McKinsey & Company, on the challenges and opportunities facing the Canadian mining industry.
Rachel Small, an attendee who has worked with Latin American communities near a number of Canadian mines said: “Canadian mining companies have a long track record of committing human rights and environmental abuses at their mines around the world. We’re handing out these fliers that say ‘Corporate Criminals Taking Leadership’ to point out how absurd it is that a company like Hudbay, infamous for its poor social and environmental record, can speak at an event like this about being ‘global leaders’ in the industry.” After the fliers were distributed, event staff scrambled to retrieve and confiscate them.
In fact, HudBay Minerals made headlines last year when it became the first Canadian company to be tried in Canadian courts for crimes committed at mining operations overseas. Plaintiffs are trying to hold HudBay Minerals accountable for the actions of private security employed by the company, who allegedly shot and killed Adolfo Ich Xaman, a teacher and community leader in a town near their Fenix mine in Guatemala. Another lawsuit against the company alleges that private security gang-raped 11 women during a forced eviction from land to which the women and their Mayan communities hold ancestral rights according to a ruling by the Guatemalan Constitutional Court. These cases are proceeding in the Superior Court of Ontario.
McEwen Mining’s reputation is less than stellar. A 2012 complaint that communities near McEwen Mining’s Los Azules project in Argentina filed with Canada’s Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor claims that the company lied about the impact their open-pit copper mine would have on glaciers in the area, and that it violated a number of international standards. McEwen Mining refused to engage with the claim, effectively ending the only government process communities have access to in Canada to bring forward complaints.
Monica Gutierrez, an attendee from the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN) responded after the panel: “These companies do have an international reputation, as they claim, but it’s definitely not one of trust or one that Canadians should take pride in. What does it say about Canada, if these companies, with their terrible records, are claiming leadership in setting the future direction for our country?”. In reference to the question of mining companies adhering to local laws, panelist Piotr Pikul said: “You just have to do it”. Communities near Canadian mines globally are waiting for companies to comply with this imperative.
This evening we received the news of an amazing victory in the long and ongoing struggle of the Mayan Q’eqchi’ communities that have suffered at the hands of Canadian company Hudbay. The Superior Court of Ontario ruling, which allows for the claims of 13 Mayan Guatemalans to continue to trial in Canadian courts, sets a new precedent for holding Canadian companies accountable here for crimes committed overseas. While this struggle for justice is far from over, today represents a significant victory in the larger work of chipping away at mining impunity at the Canadian and global scale.
To quote Rights Action:
“We are grateful to and in awe of the Mayan Qeqchi people who – despite on-going poverty, despite already having suffered great repression, despite on-going threats – took the decision to seek justice and remedy in Canadian courts. We are deeply grateful to Klippensteins for taking on these now precedent setting legal cases, on a ‘pro bono’ basis, and demonstrating both the legal brilliance and heart-felt commitment to stay with this much needed legal struggle in Canadian courts. Thank-you to all who have donated funds in support of the health and humanitarian needs, and the justice and reparations struggles of the mining harmed people and communities in El Estor. This struggle for justice and remedy is far from over; more support is needed.”
July 22, 2013, Toronto, Canada: In a precedent-setting ruling with national and international implications, Superior Court of Ontario Justice Carole Brown has ruled that Canadian company Hudbay Minerals can potentially be held legally responsible in Canada for rapes and murder at a mining project formerly owned by Hudbay’s subsidiary in Guatemala. As a result of Justice Brown’s ruling, the claims of 13 Mayan Guatemalans will proceed to trial in Canadian courts.
“As a result of this ruling, Canadian mining corporations can no longer hide behind their legal corporate structure to abdicate responsibility for human rights abuses that take place at foreign mines under their control at various locations throughout the world,” said Murray Klippenstein, lawyer for the 13 indigenous Mayans. “There will now be a trial regarding the abuses that were committed in Guatemala, and this trial will be in a courtroom in Canada, a few blocks from Hudbay’s headquarters, exactly where it belongs. We would never tolerate these abuses in Canada, and Canadian companies should not be able to take advantage of broken-down or extremely weak legal systems in other countries to get away with them there.”
Hudbay argued in court that corporate head offices could never be held responsible for harms at their subsidiaries, no matter how involved they were in on-the-ground operations. Justice Brown disagreed and concluded that “the actions as against Hudbay and HMI should not be dismissed.”
“Today is a great day for me and all others who brought this lawsuit,” said Angelica Choc, a plaintiff and widow of Adolfo Ich. “It means everything to us that we can now stand up to Hudbay in Canadian courts to seek justice for what happened to us.”
“This judgment should be a wake-up call for Canadian mining companies,” said Cory Wanless, co-counsel for the Mayans along with Mr. Klippenstein. “It is the first time that a Canadian court has ruled that a claim can be made against a Canadian parent corporation for negligently failing to prevent human rights abuses at its foreign mining project. We fully expect that more claims like this one will be brought against Canadian mining companies until these kinds of abuses stop.”
This is the second significant legal victory for the Mayan plaintiffs this year. In February, Hudbay abruptly dropped its argument that the lawsuit against it should be heard in Guatemala, not Canada, after fighting tooth and nail over this issue for over a year, forcing survivors of rape to travel to Toronto to endure extensive cross-examination and the legal team to spend countless hours compiling stacks of evidence, expert reports, and witness testimony.
For more information about the claims, see www.chocversusHudbay.com.
- Watch a short video filmed during the hearing in March 2013 when an Ontario judge heard pre-trial motions to dismiss the HudBay lawsuits (for which the ruling was issued today).
- Coverage on the demonstration outside of Hudbay’s Annual General Meeting, in support of indigenous communities in Guatemala and Manitoba in May 2013.
- An op-ed I wrote in October 2010, shortly after visiting the Mayan Q’eqchi’ community that has brought Hudbay to court, in which I share some of the stories that the women of Lote 8 (who were attacked and raped by Hudbay security) shared with me.
- See this post from May 2010 for a bit of background information on nickel mining and Hudbay’s involvement in the area
Chief Arlen Dumas of the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation (MCCN) flew in from Manitoba to assert the rights of his community after Hudbay sued community members for hundreds of millions of dollars for holding peaceful gatherings at the Lalor Lake mine site. “Hudbay has been operating nearby for 80 years and has never consulted with us,” said Chief Dumas. Clayton Thomas-Muller, a member of the Pukatawagan CreeNation, also addressed the crowd. “Investing in disputed Indigenous Lands, not respecting communities’ Free, Prior and Informed Consent, trying to use the courts to suppress our Cree Nations’ sovereign right to say no, are all signalers that the board and CEO of Hudbay are both negligent and uninformed,” said Thomas-Muller. The MCCN has been served an injunction, making it illegal for their members to go on their own territory, which is now considered mining company property.
A determined group of supporters weathered the heavy rain outside, informing passers-by and holding signs, including “Death of our Land = Death of our Nation” and “Tailings Last Forever.” The Eagle Heart singers and drummers kicked off the gathering and continued to express their solidarity through song. Inside the lobby of the AGM venue (150 King St. West), activists released 300 balloons attached to a banner – reading “Hudbay Minerals, Corporate Criminals”- to express their message against Hudbay high up on the ceiling. Asked why she came to the protest, the Rev. Maggie Helwig, an Anglican priest said “Canadian mining companies are causing environmental havoc around the world. Hudbay is one of them.” In addition to denouncing the injustices faced by the MCCN, the demonstration also expressed concern over Hudbay’s behaviour in Guatemala, where the company’s security forces at their former mine raped, murdered and severely injured members of Mayan Q’eqchi’ communities in incidents in 2007 and 2009. These communities, who were peacefully defending their ancestral lands, are now seeking justice against Hudbay in Canadian courts. These ongoing cases represent the first time a lawsuit against a Canadian mining company over human rights atrocities abroad will be heard by a Canadian court. With regards to these cases around the world, Clayton Thomas-Muller stated that “these aggressive actions against the Mathias Colomb Cree and our relatives in the south shine a light on blatant mismanagement and the extremely high risk threatening Hudbay shareholder interests.”
Mathias Colomb Cree, Aamjiwnaang & Mayan Q’eqchi’ Stand Up to Hudbay Minerals and other Corporate Criminals
This Thursday and Friday, May 9th and 10th, join us at TWO events to learn about and take action to resist corporate impunity and the continued colonization of indigenous territories across Turtle Island and the world!
THURSDAY – RESIST CORPORATE COLONIALISM: Mathias Colomb Cree and Aamjiwnaang Speak out!
Thursday May 9th, 7-9pm, Beit Zatoun (612 Markham St, Toronto), free!
Join us at this sit-down event featuring Chief Arlen Dumas of the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation, multi-media presentations, speakers from impacted communities, and representatives of Idle No More.
Learn about the Mathias Columb Cree Nation’s struggle to stand up to mining company Hudbay’s efforts to criminalize them as they assert their rights to live off of and protect their land and waters as guardians of their territory.
Learn about Mayan Q’eqchi’ communities in their pursuit of justice for the violence carried out by Hudbay’s security forces in Guatemala.
The event will also feature Vanessa Gray from Aamjiwnaang First Nation. Vanessa is a founding member of ASAP (Aamjiwnaang and Sarnia Against Pipelines) and organizes for Environmental Justice and against Enbridge’s Line 9 reversal proposal in her home of Aamjiwnaang/Sarnia.
FRIDAY – RESIST HUDBAY: A Protest to Hold a Canadian Corporate Criminal Responsible
Friday May 10th, 9:30am, 150 King St. West (outside of the building where Hudbay’s shareholders are meeting!)
Website Facebook event
Once a year, the board of directors of Hudbay, a Canadian mining company infamous for human rights abuses around the world, converge in downtown Toronto.
Come out on May 10th…
…in solidarity with Mayan Q’eqchi’ communities in their pursuit of justice for the violence carried out by Hudbay security in Guatemala.
…in solidarity with the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation as they stand up to Hudbay’s efforts to criminalize them as they assert their rights to live off of and protect their land and waters as guardians of their territory.
…to hold Hudbay accountable as its executives, board of directors, and powerful shareholders gather here in Toronto.
…to stand up to corporate impunity and the continued colonization of indigenous territories across Turtle Island and the world!
WHY SUPPORT THE RESISTANCE TO HUDBAY?
Around the world, Hudbay robs Indigenous people of their lands, destroys sensitive ecosystems, supports brutal police and security operations, and sues anyone who tries to resist their mining projects.
The Mathias Colomb Cree Nation has never been consulted by Hudbay or the province of Manitoba regarding Hudbay’s Snow Lake mining operation on their territory and has issued stop work notices to the company. In response to their peaceful gatherings at the mine site, the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation has also been served an injunction, making it illegal for the MCCN people to go on their own territory, which is now considered mining company property. The effect of this injunction is that the MCCN people who live off of the land have been instantly criminalized and considered in contempt of court for continuing to hunt, fish, and protect the land and waters of their own territory.
At the same time, this year, members of Indigenous Mayan Q’eqchi’ communities from Guatemala started a long and groundbreaking process of bringing Hudbay to trial here in this country for brutal shootings and 11 rapes by Hudbay security forces at their former mining project in Guatemala.
I organize with a group called the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network, and we’re really excited to present Mining Resistance: Spring Into Action! This season-long series of events is taking place in Toronto throughout April and May.
As part of Spring Into Action, we’ve planned out A TON of ways to get involved in resisting the destructive actions of Canadian mining companies in Canada and abroad, with events ranging from panel discussions, film screenings, and art exhibits to direct actions, creative protests, and outdoor teach-ins.
April 16: Peter Munk, Barrick Gold, and the U of T: a teach-in
April 18: Presentation (Challenging the Neoliberal Development Paradigm: Women’s
Experiences and Narratives in Guyana and Guatemala) Facebook event
April 19: Transnational Mining and the Repression of Human Rights in Peru (film
screening with special guest Roxana Olivera) Facebook event
April 23: Digging Up the Dirt: How Canadian Foreign Aid Supports the Mining
Industry (panel discussion with special guests)
April 24: Confront Barrick Gold! AGM protest Facebook event
April 27: Council of Canadians Toronto Water Forum
April 28th: Art Build! 1-5pm at the Whippersnapper Gallery
May 1: May Day! We’ll be marching as part of an Environmental Justice
May 2: Goldcorp Annual General Meeting protest
May 10: HudBay Annual General meeting protest
May 11: Allies in Mining Resistance: Gathering and Strategic Planning
We hope to see you out! In solidarity,
For the first time, a Canadian mining company is being brought to court in this country for crimes committed overseas. On the evening before the trial begins, join us as we gather to share stories.
Members of indigenous Mayan Q’eqchi’ communities from El Estor, Guatemala have filed lawsuits in Ontario courts against Canadian mining company HudBay Minerals over brutal shootings and rapes at HudBay’s former mining project in Guatemala.
We will hear from Angelica Choc, one of the claimants, as she describes her struggle to seek justice for the murder of her husband, Adolfo Ich. We will hear from Krysta Williams from the Native Youth Sexual Health Network about indigenous people fighting for reproductive and environmental justice here. Through our stories, poetry, art, and voices we will build connections across the borders that keep us and our movements apart. We will map out the ways colonization affects us all.
Come to listen. Come to connect. Come in solidarity. Come to be part of the resistance.
Sunday, March 3rd, 6pm
@ Beit Zatoun, 612 Markham St. (Bloor and Bathurst)
Snacks and refreshments provided.
Children welcome; childcare available.
Real-time captioning available.
The main event space is wheelchair accessible but unfortunately the bathrooms are down a flight of stairs.
Questions? Anything we can do to make the event accessible to you? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org