Territorio de los Pueblos Huron-Wendat, Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee (Toronto, Canadá) – viernes, 26 de septiembre de 2014 – Decenas de personas asistieron a la conmemoración del 5to aniversario del asesinato de Adolfo Ich Chamán supuestamente perpetrado por las fuerzas de seguridad de Hudbay Minerals. La conmemoración planteó el apoyo a las comunidades indígenas maya q’eqchi’ de la región de Izabal, Guatemala en su demanda contra Hudbay y se realizó paralelamente con una conmemoración en El Estor, donde ultimaron a Ich Chamán.
El ajq’iij Tata Bartolo, guía espiritual maya quiche, llevó a cabo la ceremonia organizada por la Red de Solidaridad Contra la Minería Injusta (MISN por sus siglas en inglés) y la red Rompiendo el Silencio provincias marítimas-Guatemala (RES). Asistieron más que 40 personas a la conmemoración, vestidas de negro, con candelas y fotos de Ich Chamán.
La actividad se inició en la sede principal de Hudbay Minerals (25 York Street, Toronto, Ontario) a las 18h del viernes y tuvo una fuerte carga emotiva y un componente político provocador. “Pensamos que es importante tener ceremonias mayas para honrar la vida de Adolfo Ich Chamán y pedir justicia no solamente en el territorio q’eqchi’ en Guatemala, pero también aquí en Toronto frente a la sede de Hudbay,” indica Caren Weisbart, miembro de RES. Tras la conmemoración, que duró una hora, se realizó una procesión por el centro de la ciudad de Toronto, durante la cual se distribuyeron panfletos denunciando a Hudbay.
Angélica Choc, esposa de Ich Chamán, indicó: “Si mi esposo estuviera aquí hoy día, diría que las comunidades q’eqchi’ son un pueblo milenario. Diría que rechazamos la forma en que la minera ha operado en nuestra comunidad. Que debemos exigir justicia por los daños que nos ha causado. Diría que debemos continuar en la lucha.
Antecedentes: Desde 1960, las comunidades maya q’eqchi’ de la región de Izabal han sufrido a manos de las mineras canadienses propietarias del proyecto de níquel Fénix – asesinatos, desalojos violentos, violaciones, tiroteos, y la criminalización del disentimiento son sólo algunos ejemplos del abuso. El 27 de septiembre del 2009 Ich Chamán, respetado poblador que se pronunciaba abiertamente en contra de la minería, fue violentamente ultimado por las fuerzas de seguridad contratadas en el proyecto minero Fénix de Hudbay Minerals. Residentes de El Estor han presentado tres demandas en Ontario en contra de Hudbay por el asesinato de Ich Chamán, la violación colectiva de once mujeres de la comunidad Lote Ocho, y la parálisis de Germán Chub, causada por arma de fuego.
MISN es un grupo de voluntarios/as basado en Toronto que colabora estrechamente con comunidades afectadas por la industria extractiva con objeto de apoyar la autodeterminación de las comunidades, educar a la población canadiense, y responsabilizar a las empresas.
RES es una red de solidaridad fundada en 1988 para apoyar al pueblo guatemalteco en su lucha por la justicia política, social y económica.
Toronto, Ontario – GUILTY. That was the verdict rendered by jurors this morning in a people’s trial against the Canadian mining company HudBay Minerals outside the building where their shareholders were meeting behind closed doors. The testimonies delivered in the people’s trial were verbatim statements from claimants in ongoing lawsuits against HudBay brought by Guatemalans in Ontario courts and an eviction notice issued to the company by the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation in Manitoba. The mock trial convened by the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network involved a 15-foot tall puppet representing HudBay’s CEO David Garofalo along with other larger than life props, including a 4-foot judge’s gavel.
The charges against HudBay concerning its former Fenix mine in Guatemala included the murder of community leader and school teacher Adolfo Ich, the gang rape of 11 women in Lote 8 during a forced eviction, and the shooting of German Chub Choc who was left paralyzed. One testimony the jury heard was from Angelica Choc, the widow of Adolfo Ich. Part of her statement read: “It is very painful to remember such shocking tragedy. The days since my husband was killed have been very hard. There has been no justice. The man who killed Adolfo still has not faced the courts. And the mining company, Hudbay, has not been held accountable. My five children have lost a father; I have lost my husband; and our community has lost a leader. We need justice for these losses.”
Another piece of testimony in the people’s trial was an eviction notice from the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation (MCCN) rejecting extractive activities on their traditional, treaty, and reserve territory. The MCCN has issued several stop work and eviction notices to HudBay, most recently this past February, and has offered to work together with the government of Manitoba in good faith to resolve the conflict. That offer continues to be ignored.
Jennifer Mills from the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network said, “HudBay Minerals has done everything it can to avoid its day in court here and in Guatemala. While we continue to support the communities pushing forward these processes, we felt we had to bring the charges to light here in front of their AGM where they can’t ignore us.”
Back in March, the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network and Breaking the Silence launched a call for solidarity with Q’eqchi’ communities in Guatemala who have been resisting violence from Canadian mining companies (most recently Hudbay Minerals) for over 50 years. The signed solidarity statement was to be delivered to claimants as the trial against Mynor Padilla was set to begin, representing an important step towards justice for the the communities who have been actively defending their territory, their lives and their communities through their resistance against the mining project.
On April 3rd, we announced that the criminal trial against Mynor Padilla, former head of security for the mining project, for the murder of Aldofo Ich Chamán and the shooting of seven others was being postponed. Victims and family members pointed out that the legal process to bring Padilla to justice has already been prolonged and impeded extensively. “They are misleading us and trying to exhaust us in our pursuit of justice,” stated Angelica Choc, the wife of Adolfo Ich.
Two weeks ago, the criminal trial against former head of security for Hudbay Minerals was delayed once again – this time until September. This trial represents one way community members are seeking justice for the countless acts of violence that Q’eqchi’ communities have faced – and continue to face – at the hands of Canadian mining companies. We decided that it was important to bring this powerful act of international solidarity to the claimants now, to support them through this drawn-out process.
And so, we delivered this petition with over 1500 signatures from 27 different countries, alongside hundreds of messages of support from around the world (all translated into Spanish) to German Chub and Angelica Choc in her home, steps away from where her husband was murdered by Hudbay’s former head of security. Both were deeply touched and wished to extend their gratitude to everyone who supported this action, who have spoken out against human rights abuses committed by Canada’s Hudbay Minerals, and who continue to stand in solidarity with them in this struggle.
However, international solidarity in this case is far from over. Now, more than ever, it’s crucial that we work to hold Hudbay accountable!
Tomorrow, May 8th, many of us will be gathering outside Hudbay’s headquarters in Toronto while Hudbay shareholders meet for the company’s Annual General Meeting. While the closed-door meetings take place inside, CEO David Garofalo – represented by a 15-foot puppet! – will stand accused in a people’s trial of crimes committed against Indigenous Maya Q’eqchi communities in Guatemala, and for violating the inherent land rights of the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation in Manitoba, Canada. For those who are in Toronto, we invite you to please join us in solidarity with these affected communities, and help us serve justice to these corporate criminals.
More info on the event here: http://mininginjusticesn.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/may-8th-hudbay-agm/
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/757394004304839/
And to stay in touch with this and other struggles and solidarity efforts from around the world, please sign up for our email newsletters:
– Breaking the Silence – http://www.breakingthesilenceblog.com/
– Mining Injustice Solidarity Network – http://www.solidarityresponse.net/
Public Memorial Held in Toronto After Assassination of Teenage Activist Resisting Goldcorp/Tahoe Resources Mine in Guatemala
On May 1st, as Goldcorp announced the year’s profits at their annual shareholder meeting in Vancouver, more somber events were happening in Toronto and in Guatemala to hold the same company accountable for the murder of 16-year-old mining resistance activist, Merilyn Topacio Reynoso Pacheco.
In Toronto, over 60 people gathered on Adelaide Street in front of Goldcorp’s offices for a memorial to honour Topacio’s life and to denounce the violent and cowardly act that killed her. At the same time, Topacio’s family, friends and community members were gathering in Guatemala to commemorate her activism and leadership, and to demand justice for her death.
Topacio was assassinated by unknown gunmen on April 13th in Mataquescuintla, Jalapa, Guatemala. Her father, Edwin Alexander Reynoso who accompanied her at the time, was also shot and remains in critical condition. Both Topacio and her father were active in the resistance against Canadian company Tahoe Resources’ Escobal mine, in San Rafael las Flores, Santa Rosa. Topacio, along with her work as the Youth Coordinator of the Resistance in Mataquescuintla, was also a poet and musician.
Canadian company Goldcorp owns a 40% share in the Escobal mining project which Topacio and her father have been resisting in defense of their community’s right to prior consultation, self-determination and human rights. At her funeral, Topacio’s mother promised: “The resistance doesn’t end here, my love.”
“One of the ways we can honour Topacio’s life and her mother’s promise is to stand here today and denounce Goldcorp for their responsibility in this act of violence, as well as in all of the violations of human rights and environmental rights that community members have faced since the mine opened in their region,” said Rachel Small, a member of the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN).
Attendees heard some of Topacio’s poetry, her favourite music, and speakers who shared messages of solidarity and a commitment to continue to support this struggle. Candles, flowers, and a large painted banner that said “Rest in Power, Topacio” filled the busy downtown corner as people expressed their collective sadness, anger, and determination, as well as a moment of silence.
As the memorial was taking place, 36 international human rights, environmental justice, and solidarity organizations delivered a letter to Guatemala’s Attorney General, Claudia Paz y Paz, demanding justice for the attacks against Alex and Topacio Reynoso. “We condemn this violent attack and call on your office to conduct a full and impartial investigation to ensure that that those responsible are brought to justice,” the letter states.
The document also identifies other incidents of violence and injustice that have occurred in communities surrounding the mine, including two occasions when police violently evicted a peaceful, legitimate, and legally located encampment outside the mine. The former head of security for the mine is currently facing charges for shooting peaceful protestors during one of these instances.After the memorial, participants joined in the annual May Day march through Toronto streets, sharing with hundreds of people the message that Canadian mining companies must be held accountable for their actions. In solidarity with the international M4 movement, many dipped their hands in red paint symbolizing the destruction of health and the environment brought about by Goldcorp’s mines.
More images by Allan Lissner:
Late on Sunday night, Alex Reynoso and Merilyn Topacio Reynoso, father and daughter activists involved in the resistance against Canadian company Tahoe Resources’ Escobal Mine in Guatemala, were attacked by unknown suspects. Alex and Topacio were on their way home to Matequescuintla after attending an activity in a nearby community. Topacio, who was sixteen years old, was shot and killed; Alex was severely wounded and remains in intensive care.
When I spent time in communities around this mining project in February and March I heard countless stories of activists who had received death threats, who had been attacked, and who have been forced to live in a constant state of fear in their own homes and communities (I’ll be sharing these as videos and articles in the coming weeks). While details of the attack against Alex and Topacio remain unclear, this incident clearly forms part of this larger pattern of recent violent acts and intimidation.
The acts of violence that took place on Sunday are the worst and most heartbreaking types of reminders of what the impacts of these mining projects truly look like, and of why solidarity work with communities who are resisting Canadian mining companies, and with all those who defend their right to life and territory is vital.
Rest in power, Topacio.
Below is a statement shared via NISGUA from a number of Guatemalan Communities in Resistance.
Out of the ongoing repression and criminalization of peaceful communities, resistances across Guatemala have united to denounce the reality in which they live and demand respect for their human rights..Communities in Resistance from San Juan Sacatepéquez, San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc, San Rafael Las Flores and Mataquescuintala, the Xinca Parliament, Communities of Monte Olivo, the Coordination and National Convergence Maya Waqib’Kej and the Indigenous, Peasant and Popular March express that:.The current government headed by President of the Republic Otto Pérez Molina has increased violence in order to comply with commitments made with the oligarchy and transnational companies. The acts of terror, repression and criminalization during his administration can only be compared to the military violence enacted during the counterinsurgency war against our people. Said repression is directed toward pacific social struggles that indigenous peoples and social organizations maintain in defense of territory..This policy serves the diverse interests of transnational companies behind the mining extractive industry, hydroelectric dams and monoculture crops. This past year, community leaders, women, men, youth, small children, and social leaders have been subject to many human rights violations, including states of siege, provocations, intimidations, threats, legal persecutions, illegal detentions, abductions and even assassinations of community leaders..In order to carry out this repression, the government has made available all state agencies to protect the interests of transnational companies, ignoring the first principle of its mandate which is to protect and guarantee life to the people of Guatemala, with the common good being its supreme goal..Communities like Monte Olivo in Cobán, Alta Verapaz; Sierra de las Minas in El Estor, Izabal; San José del Golfo; San Pedro Ayampuc; San Rafael las Flores; Mataquescuintla; San Juan Sacatepéquez; San Miguel Ixtahuacán; Sipacapa, San Marcos; Santa Cruz Quiché; and Santa Cruz Barillas, Huehuetenango represent some of the communities that are persecuted and attacked..The 12 communities of San Juan Sacatepéquez, since 2006, continue their strong struggle in defense of territory against the arrival of the cement company in their communities without their consent, as indicated by law. The company, [Cementos Progresos], threatens to construct a highway to connect the cement factory to the InterAmerican Highway…..The Xinca People have been subject to all human rights violations described above. In 2013, a state of siege was established in the department of Jalapa, affecting the indigenous communities of Santa María Xalapan and Mataquescuintla, and the municipalities of Casillas and San Rafael las Flores in the department of Santa Rosa. This type of measure, similar to those in Santa Cruz Barillas, Huehuetenango and San Juan Sacatepéquez, demonstrates diverse human rights violations to men, women and children…..San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc, last March 2, commemorated the second anniversary of the “La Puya” peaceful opposition, an example of resistance, struggle and love in search of the defense of water, life and territory..Recently, the La Puya peaceful resistance was subject to new attacks and confrontations by the mining company, with intimidations and under the protective arm of the National Civil Police (PNC). The community members, who have exercised their legitimate right to pacific social protest in defense of territory, continue to fear eviction by the PNC…..The community “Ninth of February” in the region of Monte Olivo in Cobán, Alta Verapaz, this past April 8, was witness to a new attack on community leaders by large-scale farmer Sandino Ponce and his armed security guard, who wounded five men, one boy and a pregnant woman…..The Campesino Unity Committee (CUC) has suffered a series of attacks that total 44 assassinations amongst members of its organization between 2000 and 2014. Since 2011, assassinations, threats, forced evictions, criminalization, detentions and imprisonment have increased. Smear campaigns, defamation and slander join these techniques that try to delegitimize 36 years of struggle…..Before this reality of repression in which each of the above-mentioned communities lives, we DEMAND:.
- That the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office, the High Commissioner’s Human Rights Office, CICIG, including the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States, speak out and demand of the Guatemalan state that it fulfill its obligation to guarantee the right to life, physical integrity and other fundamental rights to the Guatemalan people, before this new repressive attack by clandestine groups and private security companies that generate abductions, death threats, assassinations, threats and intimidations against our communities.
- That the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office monitor, accompany and protect the physical integrity and life of the families that find themselves threatened and persecuted, and also protect human rights defenders and those who defend Mother Earth.
- That the government of Guatemala immediately withdraw National Army forces from the communities in resistance, we especially demand withdrawal from Santa Maria Xalapan and San Juan Sacatepéquez.
- The closure of extractive industry companies and the termination of turning over national territory to the hands of transnational companies.
- That international human rights organizations, indigenous organizations, peasant organizations, women’s organizations, unions and solidarity groups not be surprised by defamation campaigns and slander. These campaign principally aim to criminalize communities and organizations in order to delegitimize them and facilitate their criminal prosecution..In these moments, in which we are once again living massacres, abductions, assassinations, states of prevention and states of siege, similar to wartime but with elements of criminalization and criminal prosecution, we demand launching a visibilization campaign of what happens in our country and more importantly, a campaign of permanent solidarity..12 Communities in Resistance from San Juan SacatepéquezCommunities in Resistance from San José del Golfo and San Pedro AyampucXinca ParliamentIndigenous, Peasant and Popular MarchCoordination and National Convergence Maya Waqib’Kej
April 3, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Puerto Barrios, Guatemala – Indigenous Maya Q’eqchi’ victims of a September 2009 violent attack outside a then-Canadian owned nickel mine were once again disheartened when it was announced today that the criminal trial of Mynor Padilla, former head of security for the Compañía Guatemalteco de Níquel (CGN), was postponed. Padilla’s trial for the murder of Aldofo Ich Chamán and the shooting of seven others on September 27, 2009 was set to open on April 4th but has been postponed until April 24th. An administrative error was cited as the reason for postponing the opening of the trial. Victims and family members point out that the legal process to bring Padilla to justice has already been prolonged and impeded extensively. “They are misleading us and trying to exhaust us in our pursuit of justice,” stated Angelica Choc, the wife of Adolfo Ich.
“In the four and a half years since the violent events of September 2009 took place, victims, witnesses, and family members have struggled through a long and frustrating series of legal processes in order to have justice served,” said Jackie McVicar, of the Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Solidarity Network (BTS). “We are deeply concerned by this delay as it represents one further act of impunity in this case. At the same time, we see primarily Canadian mining companies swiftly accessing the justice system when it is convenient for them, as we have seen in Santa Rosa and Jalapa near Tahoe Resources Escobal silver mine, where there have been over 100 trumped up complaints against community members – none of which lead to criminal convictions due to lack of evidence,” she continues. “We call upon the court to prevent further delays and ensure that this important trial can begin,” urges McVicar.
“The crimes that will be considered in this case comprise just a small number of the countless acts of violence Indigenous Q’eqchi’ communities have faced at the hands of Canadian mining companies operating on their territory over the past five decades,” said Rachel Small of the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN). MISN and the Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Solidarity Network initiated a campaign to support those working for justice in these cases. The solidarity statement, which was signed by over 1300 people from 25 countries supports the victims of these violent crimes and their families. It reads: “We stand in solidarity alongside all victims of violence carried out by mining companies in the region, the Maya Q’eqchi’ community of El Estor, and all those who defend their land, communities, and the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Know that we stand with you today, tomorrow, and in the struggles to come.”
At the time of the attack in 2009, Mynor Padilla was the head of security for the mine, under the ownership of Canadian company Hudbay Minerals and its local subsidiary CGN. He has been accused of the murder of Aldofo Ich Chamán, a respected Maya Q’eqchi’ community leader, father of six, and an open critic of human rights violations and environmental damage caused by corporate mining activities. Padilla will also be tried for the shooting of seven others the same day that Ich Chaman was murdered, near El Estor, Izabal. Haroldo Cucul Cucul, German Chub Coc, Alejandro Chuc, Ricardo Acte Coc, Samuel Coc Chub, Alfredo Tzi Ich, and Luciano Choc all were victims of gunshot wounds. One man, German Chub, lives with a number of serious medical conditions as a result of the shooting, including a collapsed lung and a spinal cord injury that has left him paraplegic.
In a series of separate civil cases being heard in Canada, Hudbay Minerals and CGN are being tried for these shootings and the murder of Ich Chamán. In addition, the company is being tried for the gang-rape of 11 women in 2007 in a nearby community during a violent land eviction.
Representatives from communities across Guatemala that have faced violence at the hands of Canadian mining companies have committed to traveling to Puerto Barrios when the trial opens in order to be present to show their solidarity for those seeking justice. “People from across Guatemala are speaking out against the violence in their community since the arrival of mining companies that have started working without consent. Unfortunately, this isn’t the only place where violent attacks have happened, but is part of a trend of violence and repression surrounding Canadian mines, at the hands of private security hired by the companies,” laments McVicar. In April 2013, six unarmed men who were peacefully protesting outside Tahoe Resources’ Escobal silver mine were shot. Two of the men suffered serious injuries and this incident lead to the arrest of Alberto Rotondo, also the then-head of security of the company.
Despite grave and ongoing violence, Indigenous communities near the nickel mine in Izabal have been resisting encroachment on their territory by a series of Canadian mining companies for over 50 years. The commencement of the criminal trial against former head of mine security, Mynor Padilla, is an important step towards justice for the communities who have been actively defending their territory, their lives and their communities through their resistance against the mining project. Angelica Choc, the wife of Adolfo Ich, issues a call for unity: “Let all of us who are fighting in defense of our territories unite to demand that justice be served.
Please distribute widely.
For more information, please contact:
In Guatemala: Jackie McVicar, Breaking the Silence: (502) 4824-0637 or firstname.lastname@example.org
In Canada: Monica Gutierrez of the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network: (416)788-1767 or email@example.com
We’ve launched a call for solidarity with Q’eqchi’ communities in Guatemala who have been resisting violence from Canadian mining companies (most recently Hudbay Minerals) for over 50 years. On April 4th they’ll be bringing a landmark criminal case to court in Guatemala and I will be showing up on behalf of the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network and Breaking the Silence to bring the statement of solidarity as well as all signatures and endorsements we’ve gathered to the courthouse!
Murders. Violent forced evictions. Rapes. Land thefts. Shootings. Criminalization of dissent.
Q’eqchi’ communities in the Izabal region of Guatemala have faced an onslaught of these and other abuses over the past five decades at the hands of a series of Canadian mining companies who have owned the Fenix Nickel Project.
On April 4th 2014 a criminal trial will begin in Guatemala to seek justice for some of the countless acts of violence communities have faced – and continue to face – at the hands of these mining companies. On this day, Mynor Padilla, the former Head of Security for the mine, under the ownership of Canadian company Hudbay Minerals and local subsidiary CGN, will be tried for the murder of Aldofo Ich Chamán. Ich Chamán was a respected Maya Q’eqchi’ community leader, father of six, and an open critic of human rights violations and environmental damage caused by corporate mining activities. Padilla will also be tried for the shooting of seven others on the same date, September 27, 2009 near El Estor, Izabal: Haroldo Cucul Cucul, German Chub Coc, Alejandro Chuc, Ricardo Acte Coc, Samuel Coc Chub, Alfredo Tzi Ich, and Luciano Choc. One man, German Chub, lives with a number of grave medical conditions as a result of this shooting, including a collapsed lung and a spinal cord injury that has left him paraplegic.
In a series of separate civil cases being heard in Canada, Hudbay Minerals and CGN are being tried for these shootings and the murder of Ich Chamán, while Hudbay Minerals is additionally being tried for gang-rapes committed in a nearby community during an eviction.
Despite grave and ongoing violence, Indigenous communities in the region have been resisting encroachment on their territory by a series of mining companies for over 50 years. The commencement of the criminal case against former head of mine security, Mynor Padilla, is an important step towards justice for the the communities who have been actively defending their territory, their lives and their communities through their resistance against the mining project.
In the four and a half years since the violent events of September 2009 took place, victims, witnesses, and family members have struggled through a long and frustrating series of legal processes in order to have justice served. They are calling upon allies to join them in solidarity as the criminal trial begins on April 4th. Angelica Choc, the wife of Adolfo Ich, makes the request clear: “Let all of us who are fighting in defense of our territories unite to demand that justice be served.”
We want to make sure everyone involved in this struggle knows that they are not alone.Please sign and endorse this letter as a statement of your solidarity and concern with those harmed during the events of September 27, 2009, and with all other victims of violence carried out by mining companies in the region, the Maya Q’eqchi’ community of El Estor, and all those who defend their land, communities, and the rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The Solidarity Statement:
We also stand in solidarity alongside all other victims of violence carried out by mining companies in the region, the Maya Q’eqchi’ community of El Estor, and all those who defend their land, communities, and the rights of Indigenous Peoples.
We know that today is but one step in the long journey towards justice, towards the reclaiming of your territory, towards safety, peace and self-determination for your communities.
Know that we stand with you today, tomorrow, and in the struggles to come.
In remembrance of all of those who have fallen, and with admiration for the strength and dignity of all of the women and men who have participated in this struggle.
I will be bringing the statement of solidarity as well as all signatures and endorsements to the courthouse as the trial begins on April 4th, 2014.
I had the honour of spending a week in February with communities around El Estor who have been resisting a series of Canadian mining companies – INCO, Skye, and Hudbay – for over four decades.
I’ll be posting a series of articles and videos from this time over the next few weeks but today, for International Women’s Day, I prepared a short video highlighting the struggle of one woman from the region, Fidelia Caal, and her message to fellow women (and especially allies in Canada) struggling for land, community, and justice.
On March 2nd, I had the pleasure of celebrating an amazing milestone in La Puya alongside at least one thousand others. The day marked two years of fierce peaceful resistance against a mining project by U.S.-owned company Kappes, Cassiday and Associates (formerly owned by Canadian Radius Gold).
Communities have maintained a blockade at the entrance to the mine at the spot named La Puya, located between the municipalities of San Pedro Ayampuc and San José Del Golfo, on the road between the latter town and the village of El Carrizal. This area is situated about 25km from Guatemala City. Nearby communities are concerned that the mining project will cause severe harm to the environment and affect the health and livelihoods of many while providing little local benefit.
[The entrance to the mine, obstructed by a blockade that has been maintained 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for two years.]
The blockade began two years ago, when one woman decided that she had had enough and proceeded to park her car near the entrance to the mine, preventing trucks and mining equipment from entering the site. Other community members quickly joined her protest, transforming the roadblock into a peaceful, community-based resistance movement that became known as La Puya.
[The entrance to the blockade site.]
Over the past two years residents from nearby communities have organized themselves into shifts, ensuring that a peaceful human blockade is maintained 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
In May 2012, 25 trucks with machinery guarded by 40 police patrol cars tried to get into the mine. Families on site at La Puya spread the word and 2000 people from surrounding communities united at the blockade, stopping the entry of all vehicles.
[The blockade is enclosed by banners highlighting community positions regarding the mine and the solidarity of supporting groups from around the world.]
As per the UK-based Guatemala Solidarity Network: “It should be noted here that the water requirements alone in this ‘dry corridor’, some 40,000 gallons per day, will affect a far wider area as the water table is exploited, as indeed will the water contamination leaching back into the soil from tailings etc. The extraction licenses were approved by the then Government’s National Director of Mines shortly before the change of Government at the end of 2011. This person is now the General Manager of KCA’s Guatemala subsidiary, EXMINGUA. This is how politics and business function all over.”
[A large map at the site showcases the numerous mega-projects in operation or development in the region.]
[Early on March 2nd, a resident prepares a giant vat of soup to feed the thousand guests who will come to the blockade to celebrate its second anniversary].
[“The right to defend Mother Earth is our freedom.”]
[A team prepares thousands of tortillas for the visitors who will arrive in the afternoon.]
Around 1,000 people joined a march to commemorate the anniversary and protest future mining plans.
In addition to celebrating two years of resistance, La Puya is celebrating the fact that, just a few days earlier, the contracting company supplying the mining equipment to KCA broke their relationship with the American company which owns the mine and pulled out all machinery permanently.
[A banner carried by a local group of high school students reads: “The life of all living beings is more important than mining. Let us all unite and say NO MORE MINES”]
[Angelica Choc and Anamaria Bac Seb, Q’eqchi women from El Estor and La Revolucion in the department of Izabal, show their solidarity with La Puya as members of allied communities resisting mining incursions on their land.]
[The march moves from the town of San José del Golfo towards the blockade.]
[A welcoming banner quotes from the Guatemalan Constitution: “The resistance of the people is legitimate for the protection and defense of the rights and guarantees designated in the Constitution.”]
[A banner posted reads: “Solidarity from Turtle Island!”]
I was honoured and immensely touched to have been able to participate in the day’s celebration. While leaving I was handed a sheet of paper with the following poem by Otto René Castillo, a Guatemalan poet and revolutionary who was ultimately, in 1967, captured by government forces, tortured, and killed:Nada podrá contra la vida
contra esta avalancha
Contra este rearme del hombre
en sus más nobles estructuras.
contra la fe del pueblo
en la sola potencia de sus manos.
contra la vida.
contra la vida,
contra la vida.
– Otto René Castillo
For more information on the past two years of resistance at La Puya, see this excellent timeline published by the Guatemala Human Rights Commission.
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.