Non-violent resistance movement “La Puya”, who have been peacefully protesting the construction of a mine in their community, were again subject to intimidation and harassment when approximately 300 National Police (PNC), as well as a truckload of soldiers, arrived at their encampment.
Due to the overwhelming unity and non-violent resistance of the community, the PNC eventually left area. However, the situation remains tense, with concerns about further intimidation and violence.
The community encampment “La Puya” at San José del Golfo, Guatemala recently celebrated 2 years of peaceful resistance. They have utilized a number of non-violent tactics, including the peaceful blockade of the road leading to the proposed mine site, mass mobilization of community members, and linkage with environmental and solidarity groups. La Puya been an inspiration for other environmental justice movements in Guatemala and has been lauded by international groups; in 2012, two communities that have participated in the resistance movement ” La Puya”, San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc, were awarded the Alice Zachmann Human Rights Defender Award in recognition of their struggle for justice.
Working within a national climate of impunity and increasing militarization, activists with La Puya have faced police harassment, threats by ex-military personnel employed by the mine project, arrests and lengthy legal battles on trumped-up charges. In 2012, Yolanda Oquelí was shot by unknown assailants, in an act which is widely believed to be related to her leadership in the movement.
In February, I had the privilege of visiting La Puya as part of the School of Americas Watch delegation. During the visit, community members spoke eloquently about the reasons for their opposition to the mine, which include concerns about health and environmental effects. See my re-post of Richard Ring’s article here.
In late February, members of La Puya celebrated when the company contracted to provide heavy machinery cut their ties with the project and removed their equipment. Sadly, KCA and its local subsidiary, EXMINGUA, have now contracted with a new company, who attempted to move in equipment on April 9. They were escorted by the National Police (PNC), per an order by the Ministry of the Interior. When the community arrived en masse to oppose the entrance of the equipment into the area, approximately 300 PNC arrived, many dressed in riot gear. A representative of EXMINGUA arrived and made a number of false and inflammatory statements to the press about the members of La Puya. Eventually, the contractor left and the non-violent encampment was not destroyed, however, police presence continues in the area. There are concerns that an eviction and arrests may be imminent.
As quoted in an article written by Benjamin Reeves and published in VICE, KCA has all intentions of continuing with the project and is considering suing the Guatemalan state. Ryan Adams, a representative for KCA, was interviewed for the article and commented that he “is in regular communication with President Perez Molina and the president supported the project.” Adams also reported, per the article, that KCA “had a big law group out of D.C.” send a letter to the Guatemalan mining minister, explaining that KCA is suing the government for “inaction” by the National Police. “They can’t afford this lawsuit”, Adams stated.
The Network for People in Solidarity with Guatemala (NISGUA) and the Guatemalan Human Rights Commission (GHRC) have sent out an Urgent Action, asking that the human rights of the people at La Puya are respected by the Guatemalan government and the mining company.
Call and email Kappes Cassiday and Associates CEO, Dan Kappes, and the Ministry of the Interior in Guatemala now:
- Express your concern for the safety of the men, women and children in peaceful resistance;
- Demand an end to intimidation and harassment by police and private security, and respect for human rights;
- Urge respect for the ongoing dialogue and No to eviction of La Puya.
Ministry of the Interior
Minister Mauricio López Bonilla – firstname.lastname@example.org
Guatemala Phone (011) 502-2413-8888