Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Political Statement in Mark of Oxlajuj B'ak'tun

"In defense of LIFE and territory"

(Original in Spanish here)
Authorities of the Maya People of Western Guatemala, joined together as the Council, declare:

Oxlajuj B'ak'tun is the time to strengthen ancestral wisdom and the practice and never-ending search for balance; it's a moment in which we must transcend, raise the consciousness of human beings and recognize ourselves as such in order to reach a collective understanding. This means we must ensure that human beings be "truly human in balance with the cosmos and Mother Earth", through interweaving and respect between cultures and the valuing of identity in every community. Lacking this, the link between the individual and their own reality is already impossible.

It is offensive for the Maya people to see the economic power and government institutions promote the FOLKLORIZATION of Oxlajuj B'ak'tun, commodifying this important event, creating a political image out of tourist promotion and the presentation of spectacles, in a way that does not appropriately interpret the Maya cosmovision.

It is shameful on the part of the Guatemalan government to make the international community believe it is promoting the Maya culture, when it continues to develop an aggressive policy of appropriation of our natural resources. This manifests itself in hundreds of concessions and imposed mining projects, hydroelectric dams, oil extraction, monoculture crops for transnational companies, all in the name of false development as a method of domination and racism in Guatemala.

In exercising of our collective rights as regulated by the ILO Convention 169 and the Declaration by the United Nations on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples, the response of the state has been the criminalization of social struggles and repression against our communities and leaders. 

The attacks against our communities includes May 1st in Santa Cruz Barillas, the massacre on October 4th in Totonicapán, which obligate us to continue our process of reforming and strengthening our own authorities and institutions. We will continue to promote the correct application of the norms and principals regulated by the ILO Convention 169 and the Declaration by the United Nations on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples. At the start of this new era, native peoples should move from submission to effective participation as historic political actors. 

The Presidential reform to the Constitution of the Republic and reforms to the mining law and laws governing teacher education, are initiatives by the government that do not favor our communities. Instead, they represent setbacks to the victories of social struggles because they are meant to consolidate the economic model of accumulation based on agro-business; mining, oil, and hydroelectric exploitation and the privatization of public services, only benefiting a limited number of families who have historically exploited and repressed our communities.
Therefore, we resort to our principals and ancestral ways of making decisions, and, in Council we agree upon the following:

To call on all Maya nations and peoples that coexist in Guatemala, to exercise our right to free determination, through the reconstruction and strengthening of our nationalities and Peoples, to construct a political and social order based on relationships of understanding and mutual respect; and, an economic model based on the principals, values, and practices of our cosmovision.

To no longer permit the use of our symbols to name military and police operations, much less to name projects that attack our harmony and communities' life; we commit to restore our ancestral political centers in order to develop the next generation's political thought.

1. To articulately promote political and legal processes which demand of the Government the effective implementation of the ILO Convention 169 and the Declaration by the United Nations on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples, in all national legislation.

2. Our acknowledgement of the world's ancestral civilizations that have left their mark on history and the chronology of time and should be part of our inspiration and aspirations to transform political and social relations.

3. To the scientists of the world, who should look to the past and to the present because the ancestral legacies continue to be relevant. We call on all to not use the cycles of time marked by our calendar in a subjective, or apocalyptic way.

Western Guatemala, November 30, 2012

Monday, December 17, 2012

Across Guatemala: Communities Continue to Defend Their Right to Life

In September of this year NISGUA reported on the series of violent attacks against community members in San Rafael Las Flores, Santa Rosa and Mataquescuintla, Jalapa who were peacefully resisting the advancement of the Escobal silver mine project. The Escobal mine is operated by Minería San Rafael S.A. a Guatemalan subsidiary of Canada’s Tahoe Resources. Tahoe Resources acquired the Escobal project from Goldcorp in 2010. The founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of Tahoe Resources, Kevin McArthur, was CEO of Glamis Gold and Goldcorp until 2008. The attacks, carried out by the National Police, military and private security, were in response to the communities’ ongoing defense of two popular referendums carried out in July of 2011, during which an overwhelming majority of residents voted NO to chemical mineral mining on their territories and YES to life.   

In a third popular referendum carried out on November 11th, 96% of residents of the municipality of Mataquescuintla, Jalapa, voted against mining exploration and exploitation on their territories. The community, with the support from the mayor, moved forward with the vote despite the November 8th decision by the Constitutional Court suspending the municipal authority to carry out the referendum.  

Just eight days after the referendum a group of community members blocked vehicles transporting powerful explosives to the mine to denounce the lack of respect for the consultation process. As a result of the action, five vehicles, including one truck owned by the Minería San Rafael, caught fire and a number of explosives went missing. In actions on par with President Molina’s previous responses to matters of social conflict, the government responded in force to the alleged robbery of the explosives, mobilizing 35 units of the National Police and dozens of soldiers. Indigenous and feminist organizations denounced the excessive use of force, as well as the lack of respect for the popular referendums and the inability of the government to effectively address the social conflict caused by the mining operations.  

The Escobal project, however, is just one of a number of Canadian-owned mines recently denounced by community, human rights and environmental organizations.

In late November five people from communities near El Estor, Izabal traveled to Canada to file three separate, but related lawsuits against HudBay Minerals Inc., which include the murder of Adolfo Ich Chamán, the shooting of German Chub, and the rape of 11 women from the community of Lote Ocho. Hudbay sold the Fenix Mining Project in 2011; however, mine security personnel committed the alleged crimes in 2007 and 2009, well before the project was sold. For more information on the lawsuits against Hudbay visit: or see the previous NISGUA blog post on the case.

Watch this powerful video about why the group traveled to Canada to file their cases.

On December 5th legal representatives of the communities impacted by the Marlin Mine, presented a report to the Guatemalan Public Prosecutor’s Office, which documents 100 accusations of crimes against the environment. The report includes testimonies and photographic evidence documenting the symptoms of environmental contamination including discoloration of hair, skin rashes and animal deaths as a result of the contamination of water sources. Leaders and representatives from affected communities demand that the Public Prosecutor’s Office hold Montana Exploradora, S.A., GoldCorp Inc.’s Guatemalan subsidiary, responsible for the crimes, which include the seizure of water sources and property, industrial contamination of water sources, and the propagation of disease in plants and animals.  

In a demonstration of cross-departmental solidarity, community members from San Marcos, Santa Rosa and Jalapa joined together to collectively denounce the damaging impacts of Canadian owned mines on their respective territories. The protest was organized around the visit to Guatemala of Canada’s Governor General, David Johnston on December 6th, during which he pledged support for the mining operations and promised continued bilateral cooperation and economic investment. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Tensions Continue at La Puya: Community Members in Resistance Threatened with Eviction

Following over nine months of non-violent peaceful resistance to the El Tambor mining project and increased intimidation and threats during the past month, the situation at La Puya escalated last Friday, December 7th, when over 300 National Civil Police (PNC) agents and 50 patrol trucks arrived, threatening to evict the pacific encampment. The El Tambor project is operated by EXMIGUA, the Guatemalan subsidiary of the US Company, Kappes, Cassiday & Associates, who acquired the project from Vancouver-based Radius Gold in August of 2012. Friday morning national and international human rights organizations, including NISGUA, were initially blocked by the PNC from entering the site. With only the press and community members present, anti-riot police fired tear gas bombs and advanced within inches of the population in resistance, consisting mostly of women who had lain down on the ground in protest. Eventually human rights organizations, including the Guatemalan Human Rights Ombudsman (PDH) were allowed to enter the site, effectively halting the advancement of the PNC. 

As the day wore on, the resistance movement learned that the police did not have a legal eviction order, but were instead mobilized under the pretext of ensuring the right to freedom of movement on public roads. The Vice-Minister of Security of the Ministry of the Interior made it clear, however, that the agents were acting exclusively to allow access to the entrance of the El Tambor mine, as the encampment was not blocking traffic on the main road. After tense dialogue between representatives of the resistance, police agents and the Ministry of the Interior, the community members agreed to occupy the opposite side of the road and to allow 15 PNC agents to remain outside the entrance to the mine. Spokespeople for the movement also agreed to move forward with the dialog set to begin on December 20th, in order to encounter a peaceful solution to the conflict. 

Participate in this action to express your concern for the peaceful protesters and demand their protection from eviction. Read the MadreSelva Collective's account of the events here.

The Northern Front of the Metropolitan Area (FRENAM), the movement of community members from San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc, released the following statement in response to the events of the 7th at La Puya:

From the historic communities of San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc

In response to the events that took place at “La Puya” on Friday, December 7th of the current year against the population in Pacific Resistance who are opposing the more than 12 mineral exploitation projects, which have been imposed on us without free, prior and informed consent.

Before national and international public opinion, we inform:
  • That the Pacific Resistance of the communities CONTINUES given that article 45 of the second paragraph of our Constitution states that: PEOPLE’S RESTISTANCE IS LEGITIMATE WHEN DEFENDING AND PROTECTING CONSTITUIONAL RIGHTS AND GUARANTEES.
  • That the imposition of mineral exploitation projects violates the rights consigned in the articles 1, 2, 3, 44, 97, 127 and 128 of our Constitution.  In addition to violating other national laws such as the Municipal Code, as well as International Treaties like Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization.  Additionally, they are contemplating the displacement of our communities.  
  • That the National Police have NOT taken control as some written media outlets reported on December 8, 2012. 
  • We demand a logical, reasonable, technical, and economic explanation of the use of approximately 120 police units, as well as hundreds of agents of the National Police, which were mobilized from various departments of the Republic of Guatemala in order to penetrate and repress our communities who are acting in pacific and legitimate resistance.  
  • We clarify that there was an attack against the population with dozens of tear gas bombs.  This contradicts declarations by officials of the Ministry of the Interior. 
  • That the Population in Pacific Resistance has never obstructed the free movement of the population as declared by officials of the Ministry of the Interior.  What has been “impeded” is the development of mineral exploitation, which would affect our communities, impacts that have been verified by national and international observers.    
  • As a population, we have always and will always be open to dialog in order to find a pacific and definitive solution.  We have demonstrated this during the Indigenous and Campesino March, and with briefs presented on January 17th, 2012 to the Ministry of Energy and Mines and to the Human Rights Ombudsmen.  Likewise, we have initiated contact with the Congressional Commission for Energy and Mines, among other efforts.
  • That the Pacific Resistance is based on the Conviction of the Historic Communities, not the imposition of national or international organizations as the authorities and the mining company have accused.
  • That we will NOT renounce the Right to Life, Justice and our Peace. 
  • That we hold the State of Guatemala, the government of Otto Perez Molina, EXMINGUA, Radius Gold, and KCA (Kappes, Cassiday and Associates) responsible for the direct and indirect consequences triggered by the forced imposition of projects rejected by the historic communities. 

Guatemala, December 11, 2012

Northern Front of the Metropolitan Area (FRENAM)