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Monthly Archives: March 2014

Take Action!: call for solidarity with Q’eqchi’ communities as they continue their 50 year struggle against Canadian mining companies

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Under-Mining Guate

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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!

Please help us to reach 1000 signatures and to let these communities know that people around the world are paying attention, and are standing in solidarity with them in their long journey towards justice, towards the reclaiming of their territory, towards safety, peace and self-determination for their communities.
We have just over a week left to get almost 700 signatures! Please consider signing this solidarity statement and sharing it far and wide!
Here´s…

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Peace Brigades International: 30 Years of Non-Violent Accompaniment in Guatemala

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Peace Brigades International (PBI) recently celebrated the 30 year anniversary of the PBI – Guatemala Project. PBI helps create political space by providing non-violent accompaniment to human rights defenders and civil society activists who are threatened due to their work for social justice, human rights, and peace.

The following documentary (in Spanish) was produced for the anniversary.  It not only tells the story of Peace Brigades, but also documents the courageous struggle of Guatemalan activists to transform their country.  It is important to note that much of PBI’s current work in Guatemala involves accompanying activists who are threatened due to their work on community land rights and environmental justice. PBI also recently opened a team in Honduras, where the human rights situation is in a critical state.

Take Action for Justice in Guatemala

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The recent School of Americas Watch delegation to Guatemala heard testimony of increasing militarization in the country, as well as the criminalization of human rights defenders.  We were able to visit the detention center in Huehuetenango and meet with 3 activists (Mynor Lopez, Rogelio Velasquez, and Saul Mendez) who are currently imprisoned due to their opposition to the construction of a transnational-owned dam in their community.

School of Americas Watch, Barillas, Guatemala, political prisoners, Cambalam dam,

Saul Mendez and Rogelio Velasquez with Fr. Roy Bourgeois of SOA Watch. Photo Credit: J Mulherin.

For more on the struggle for land and water rights in Barillas, Huehuetenango, read this article, by Ken Jones, an activist with School of the Americas Watch.

SOA Watch has set up the following online Urgent Action calling on U.S. and Guatemalan authorities to act on the above issues.  Please  click on the link below to be directed to the Urgent Action site.

Honduras Urgent Action: Attack on Indigenous Leader

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Honduras has been the site of an inspiring resistance movement that formed in response to the 2009 coup.  The response by the state, as well as by corporations with links to the wealthy oligarchy, has been violent and repressive.  In Rio Blanco, indigenous activists fighting the construction of a dam in their community have been attacked, arrested, and threatened.  For details on the most recent violent attack, and information on how to do activist follow-up, please read the following post by Rights Action.

Source: Rights Action.

Honduras Repression: Machete Attack on COPINH’s Maria Santos Dominguez, Her Husband And Son

Monday, March 10, 2014

Maria Santos Dominguez, COPINH, Rio Blanco, Agua Zarca

Since 1998, Rights Action has supported and worked with COPINH.  We thank-you for your on-going support, as we maintain our long-term commitment to amazing community based organizations in Honduras.

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Date: 6 Mar 2014
From: Brigitte Gynther

On March 5, people tried to kill Maria Santos, seriously attacking her, her 12-year old son Paulo, and her husband Roque, with machetes.  Maria is a vocal leader in the struggle in Rio Blanco and member of the Indigenous Council.  Maria has received numerous death threats because of her vocal opposition to the Agua Zarca Dam.

Around midday, she was on her way home from making food at the school when 7 people who were hiding in wait came out, surrounded her and attacked her with machetes, rocks, and sticks.  Her husband had been calling her as she walked home because of the constant threats she received, and when he heard she was surrounded, he and her son ran out.

Her husband pled with them not to kill her and when her son ran to try to help his mom, the people attacked her 12-year old son as well, cutting off his right ear and part of his face.  His cranium is fractured.  They also attacked her husband who was also seriously injured.  All three are in the hospital.

Maria is a strong member of COPINH Rio Blanco resistance, despite receiving death threats including threats from the people who attacked her yesterday.

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Urgent Action For Rio Blanco

Please send letters to your own elected politicians in the USA and Canada, expecting them to respond to you.  Feel free to use, edit this sample letter prepared by a German-based Honduras Delegation.

Contact:

Dear XXX,

I am writing to express my deep concern at the fresh escalation in violence in the Río Blanco community, Intibucá Department.  On March 5, the human rights defender María Santos Domínguez was attacked by seven people with machetes, stones and sticks in the Río Blanco region as she was on her way home.  Her husband, Santos Roque Domínguez, and her 12-year-old son, Paulo Domínguez, were also attacked and seriously injured.  The three members of COPINH (Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras) are in a serious condition.

María Domínguez is the Organization Coordinator of the Río Blanco Indigenous Council.  She and her family are actively involved in the peaceful resistance to the Agua Zarca hydroelectric scheme.  According to COPINH, those responsible for the violent attack are supporters of the dam, and have threatened the family several times in the past, on one occasion destroying their crops.

For over a year, the indigenous population of the Río Blanco district have been peacefully opposing the Agua Zarca Dam Project, arguing that it violates their right to prior consultation under ILO Convention 169. Honduras ratified the Convention in 1995 and voted in favor of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007.

The Agua Zarca Dam Project, opposed by most of the inhabitants affected, has been the cause of frequent human rights violations and attacks on opponents of the project by state security forces and employees of DESA (Desarrollos Energéticos S.A.), the company responsible for the project.

In July 2013, an army soldier murdered Tomas García, a community leader, during a peaceful protest.  All the attacks and threats to the scheme’s opponents have so far gone unpunished.

In the light of this latest attack on opponents of the hydroelectric scheme in Río Blanco, I urge you to contact Honduran regime officials and demand:

  • the adoption of effective measures to guarantee the security and physical and psychological integrity of the Domínguez family and the members of the Lenca communities who have expressed their opposition to the Agua Zarca hydroelectric scheme on the Gualcarque River.
  • an independent investigation into the violent crimes committed on March 5, 2014 in Río Blanco, Intibucá department, with the results of the investigation made public and those responsible brought to justice.
  • that the case of Tomás García, murdered by a soldier in 2013, and other attacks on Lenca members of COPINH in Río Blanco do not go unpunished.
  • that the Honduran State guarantee that indigenous peoples affected by projects such as Agua Zarca are subject to prior, free and informed consultation.  According to the information received, this has not been the case with Río Blanco where, for example, the environmental impact assessment study was not published and the results of various cabildos abiertos (open community forums), such as the one on October 10, 2011, were not taken into account.  Instead, community members opposing the hydroelectric scheme have reported being the targets of acts of intimidation, threats, surveillance and physical attacks.

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More Info In Honduras:

PROAH (International Honduras Accompaniment Project): http://proah.wordpress.com/

Written by:

Rights Action (info@rightsaction.org)

What to do?:

Americans / Canadians:  Keep on, keep on, keep on … sending copies of this information, and your own letters, to your politicians (MPs, Congress members and Senators) and media.  Since the June 2009 military coup, that ousted the last democratically elected government, Honduras has become the ‘Murder Capital of the world’.  Repression has reached the levels of the worst years of the 1980s.

Since 2009, the U.S. and Canadian governments have legitimized a succession of illegitimate and repressive regimes. North American companies and investors, and “development” banks (World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank) have increased business activities in African palm production, sweatshops, “model cities”, tourism and mining. The Honduran regime remains in power due in large part to its political, economic and military relations with the U.S. and Canada and the “development” banks. Across Honduras, community based organizations in the pro-democracy movement need considerably more human rights accompaniment, funding, media attention on the harms and violations and education and activism in Canada and the U.S.

  • Please re-publish and re-post this article, citing author and source
  • Donate to support: victim and survivor, founded human rights organizations, and indigenous and campesino organizations.
  • Create your own email and mail lists and re-distribute our information.

Lessons in Resistance From La Puya, Guatemala

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Rich Ring, who I met while participating in the SOA Watch delegation to Guatemala, wrote this thoughtful piece about our visit to La Puya, as well as U.S. activism.  I added the photos.

March 10, 2014

Source: Counterpunch

Push Harder

Lessons in Resistance From La Puya, Guatemala

by RICHARD RING

Last week our delegation from School of Americas Watch headed north out of Guatemala City, to San José del Golfo, for a visit to the encampment calling itself “La Puya”. Its the dry season in Guate now, lapuyaand we wound our way down into ever hotter and drier terrain, with bare brown fields and leafless palo verde trees with giant orange flowers. Not long after the pavement ended and the road turned to dust, we saw the sign — “Comunidad en Resistencia”.

The space looked thrown together. A few improvised dwellings, cook shacks, and tarpaulins propped up for shade lined both sides of the road at the turn-off to a proposed  gold mine.  And yet they’ve been here, holding back a transnational mining corporation, the police, and the Guatemalan government, for nearly two years. Their story, as told to us by Antonio Reyes and other leaders, has lessons that may serve us well up north.

Beginning in 2000, the locals started noticing foreigners in the fields around San Jose de Golfo and neighboring San Pedro Ayampuc. With all the transparency one can expect from the resource extraction industry, these workers said they were testing the soil, towards the end of improving agriculture. In fact they were prospectors from Radius Gold, a Canadian corporation. In the following years the company began buying up land from some locals, under the pretext of establishing a pineapple plantation.  By 2010, the company had begun to establish small exploratory pits, and the community started to realize what was up. On March 2, 2012, they blocked the entrance road to the area of the mine, preventing the heavy equipment from entering. They have been there ever since, standing guard in rotating 24 hr shifts.
La Puya, Guatemala, Mining

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Guatemala: Q’eqchi’ dam opponents arrested despite murder of children

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Mining and Indigenous Rights Organizing: Delegation Report

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SOA Watch, Guatemala, AJR, human rights, genocide

SOA Watch Delegation Meets with the Association for Justice and Reconciliation (AJR). Author: closethesoa

Two maps hang in the Nebaj, Quiché office of the Asociación para la Justicia y Reconciliación (AJR). The first details the scores of massacres that occurred in the Ixil region  during  Guatemala’s genocidal civil war. On the opposite wall, hangs another map: “Mining and Hydroelectric Projects”.  Numerous dots cover the map, providing a striking visual representation of the dramatic increase in such projects over the last decade.

AJR was a plaintiff in the Rios Montt trial year, having fought for many years to see justice for the genocidal violence conducted against their Mayan Ixil communities. In a meeting with the School of Americas Watch (SOAW) delegation to Guatemala last month, AJR members shared their reaction to the annulment of the trial.  “They want to silence us because we oppose mining and hydroelectric projects on our lands”, one member expressed. Again, the Mayan people are facing racism, repression, and violence, and international actors, again in the form of transnational corporations, are involved.

community consultations, Guatemala, mining, indigenous rights

Map of Community Consultations in Guatemala, 2005-2012. Author: Resistencia de los Pueblos.

Insights from Bishop Ramazzini 

To learn more about the impact of extractive industries, the delegation met with Bishop Álvaro Leonel Ramazzini, well-known for his years of work in human rights.  He has been the Bishop of Huehuetenango diocese since 2012.  Previously, he was Bishop of the San Marcos diocese, where he was an outspoken critic of the Marlin Mine operated by transnational Goldcorp. The bishop has stated in multiple outlets that the Marlin Mine is illegal and poses a direct threat to the environment, including the local community’s water supply. For more on this, read this interview.

Per Bishop Ramazzini, the current Guatemalan mining law is weak on regulation, oversight, and environmental protections, but highly favorable to transnational corporations.  Mining companies are required to pay a scant 1% in royalties to the state,  cyanide is permitted for use in mining operations, and the community’s right to reject the exploitation of their lands is not respected.  Community divisions have occurred as as result of the entrance of transnational projects into local areas.

Despite the seriousness of the human rights and environmental justice issues related to these projects – including criminalization of activists who oppose them – the bishop cited the impressive growth of indigenous community organizing as a positive development. Communities in Huhuetenango have conducted 28 consultations to date, and nearly all have resulted in a “no” vote to mining and hydroelectric projects.  He also highlighted the central role of women in these activist efforts.

ILO 169 – International protections for indigenous rights

Women in Resistance, La Puya, Guatemala, mining.

Women in Resistance, La Puya mine site. Author:J. Mulherin.

How are these mining and hydroelectric projects “illegal”, when the Guatemalan constitution gives the government legal authority for the “rational exploitation” of the “subsoil”? The answer lies in an international treaty to which Guatemala is a signatory, International Labor Organization (ILO) 169, the Indigenous and Tribal Convention. ILO 169 requires that indigenous peoples be consulted, as well as allowed participation in decision-making, regarding policies and projects which affect them.

A large portion – if not an outright majority – of past and proposed projects are in rural, Mayan communities. More than 62 consultations have been conducted throughout Guatemala yet, to date, the government has not respected IL0 169, imposing the projects against communities’ wishes. This issue, as well as the criminalization of activists, has led to the perception that the Guatemalan government has sided with transnational corporations over the rights of its citizens.

Indigenous groups, solidarity and human rights organizations, have mobilized to pressure the Guatemalan government to ensure that indigenous rights via ILO 169 are respected. For more information, read this article in Americas Quarterly.

Follow-up:

In a follow-up post, I’ll talk about the SOA Watch delegation’s visit to the Asamblea de Pueblos de Huhuetenango por La Defensa del Territorio in Huehuetenango (ADH).  ADH has been active in the struggle of residents of Barillas, Huehuetenango against the construction of a hydroelectric dam in their community. Barillas has faced violence, arrests on unfounded charges, and a state of siege as a result of opposition to the dam.

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