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Tag Archives: Guatemala

The Marlin Mine and Women’s Resistance

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Latin American Advocacy Blog

nancy mcc Nancy and Crisanta

Español  By Nancy Sabas, the Connecting Peoples Coordinator for MCC Guatemala/El Salvador, originally from Honduras.

Was it you who sent the miners?
They violate the womb of Mother Earth
They take the gold, destroying the hills.
One gram of blood is worth more than a thousand kilos of gold.
What about my people?
And you, my God, where are you hiding?
Fear paralyzes us
My people are sold and they do not realize it.

-Portion of a song written by the Parish of San Miguel Ixtahuacán.


A few weeks ago, I organized a learning tour for North American participants to discuss the mining industry in Guatemala, On the tour, we visited the department of San Marcos and surrounding communities that deal with this problem.

Mining operations in Guatemala are not a recent issue. In 1998, two years after the signing of the peace agreement following a…

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Poor Guatemalans Are Taking On North American Mining Companies—and Have the Bullet Wounds to Prove It

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Tahoe On Trial

Jimmy Tobias, The Nation, January 14, 2015

As nonviolent protests have spread throughout the country, the right-wing government and the mines’ security operations have responded with force.

A bullet is lodged near Yolanda Oquelí’s liver. It’s been there since June 13, 2012, when two masked men on a motorcycle fired a barrage of bullets into her car as she drove home on a dusty mountain road after attending a protest with friends and neighbors. A ball of hot lead brushed her stomach and barely missed her spine. After the gunmen fled, she was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery.

For the full article, click here.

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Goodbye “Monsanto Law” in Guatemala

The “Law for the Protection of Vegetables” was quickly passed in Guatemalan Congress in June 2014, with little debate and, per experts, virtually no technical testimony as to the potential impact of the legislation.  Popularly know as the “Monsanto Law”, LPV allowed for the patent of the genetic material of seeds and plants.  A movement of indigenous, campesino, and environmental rights groups were quick to protest the law, leading Congress to overturn it in early September. The legislation is significant, as it points to how CAFTA (Central America Free Trade Agreement) privileges multinational profits over local producers.

Amnesty International publishes report on human rights and mining projects in Guatemala

Source:  Amnesty International

19 September 2014

Guatemala stokes conflict around mining by failing to consult communities

Sign outside a silver mine in San Rafael Las Flores, Guatemala.

Sign outside a silver mine in San Rafael Las Flores, Guatemala. © Private

“We’re concerned that the violence seen in the past will continue if a fair and balanced consultation process is not introduced.”
Amnesty International’s Erika Guevara Rosas

The Guatemalan government is fuelling the fires of conflict by failing to consult local communities before awarding mining licences to companies, effectively raising the risk of bloodshed and bulldozing over the rights of its people, said Amnesty International today.

The report, Mining in Guatemala: Rights at Risk, published today, exposes significant gaps in protection for communities affected by mining projects. New legislation put forward by the Guatemalan government not only fails to address widespread concerns among Indigenous and rural communities about a lack of consultation, but includes measures that may exacerbate existing tensions.

“The proposed legislation effectively side-steps the concerns of communities. It does not address the issue of consultation in any meaningful way. If enacted it would essentially mean that communities’ views and concerns continue to be ignored. This is a significant missed opportunity,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director of Amnesty International.

Reforms to the Mining Law are currently before Congress having been drafted in 2012. However, the proposed reforms will simply replicate the current loopholes allowing just 10 days for challenges to licence applications, exacerbating the problem of lack of consultation.

Tensions over a lack of fair process and proper consultation have previously led to violent confrontations, with protesters clashing with security guards and police over the proposed mine site.

International human rights standards require that those potentially affected by mining projects must be consulted and adequately informed, and that projects on Indigenous peoples’ land should only proceed with their free, prior and informed consent.

“Analyzing the implications of any mining project takes time, and 10 days to respond to a licence application is not realistic for communities who might be affected and therefore need to examine the proposal carefully,” said Erika Guevara Rosas.

“We’re concerned that the violence seen in the past will continue if a fair and balanced consultation process is not introduced. We are also aware that the rights of Indigenous peoples are not being respected,” said Erika Guevara Rosas.

In many cases, the authorities have failed to thoroughly investigate the death and injury of those protesting against mining projects.

On 13 June 2012, activist Yolanda Oquelí was shot and seriously injured by two unknown assailants. She was returning from a protest over mining when two men on a motorbike cut across her path and fired at her with a pistol. She was hit by one bullet which lodged close to her liver. She survived the attack and went into hiding with her family.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ordered the Guatemalan government to provide protection to Yolanda Oquelí and her family. Although the Public Ministry opened an investigation into the attack, to date no one has been brought to justice.

“The violence and repression that has taken root around mining in Guatemala cannot continue. The Guatemalan government must ensure that they implement and respect legislation to facilitate dialogue and decision-making between mining companies, state authorities and affected people. Communities must be provided with full and objective information about the benefits and risks of mining in a clear and culturally appropriate manner,” said Erika Guevara Rosas.

“We are also calling on the home governments of foreign-owned mining companies in Guatemala to monitor and hold their companies to account for the human rights impact of their activities, wherever they operate.”

Additional information

Many of the high-profile companies currently operating in Guatemala are subsidiaries of Canadian companies.

Guatemala is still struggling to deal with the legacy of past human rights abuses from the internal armed conflict (1960-1996) when over 200,000 people were killed, including an estimated 40,000 who were forcibly “disappeared”.

Today, Indigenous peoples remain economically and socially marginalised. Land tenure is a particular problem, with Indigenous communities bearing the brunt of acute inequality in the distribution of land.

In Guatemala approximately 30 per cent of the population lives in extreme poverty.

Amnesty International is presenting the report Mining in Guatemala: Rights at risk in Guatemala City today with a delegation comprised of Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada, Sebastian Elgueta, Central America Researcher, and Tara Scurr, Amnesty International Canada’s Business and Human Rights Campaigner.

Remembering an Archive Hero

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The National Security Archive is an independent U.S. NGO that founded in 1985 by journalists and scholars to check rising government secrecy. The Archive has been instrumental in uncovering “classified” govt info on U.S. covert activities, policies abroad and at home. They have also done a great deal of work on Guatemala, including analysis and dissemination of the secret National Police Archive.

Following is a post to the National Security Archive’s UNREDACTED blog – a wonderful blog that I highly recommend to anyone interested in U.S. foreign policy – about William Worthy, a founder of their institution.


William Worthy and Premier Zhou Enlai in Beijing in 1957. Credit Boston Globe Staff William Worthy and Premier Zhou Enlai in Beijing in 1957. Credit Boston Globe Staff

William Worthy, a foreign correspondent who travelled to –and reported from– locations the US government did not want him to go, died this month at the age of 92.

Worthy traveled to places like the Soviet Union, Cuba, and China because he believed Americans “have a right to know what’s going on in the world in their name,” and it would be difficult to exaggerate his contributions both to investigative journalism and the founding of the National Security Archive.

Worthy’s intrepid reporting made him the subject of a landmark federal case concerning travel rights. He is perhaps most famous for his 1961 arrest after returning to the US from Cuba where he interviewed Fidel Castro. Upon return he was arrested, not for illegally traveling to Cuba, but for re-entering the US without a passport, which the…

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Amnesty International: Guatemala slipping back into impunity on anniversary of overturned genocide conviction

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Source: Amnesty International

20 May 2014

Guatemala slipping back into impunity on anniversary of overturned genocide conviction

 A year ago today Guatemala’s Constitutional Court annulled the conviction of former President General Efraín Ríos Montt for crimes against humanity and genocide.A year ago today Guatemala’s Constitutional Court annulled the conviction of former President General Efraín Ríos Montt for crimes against humanity and genocide.


The fight for justice for victims of crimes against humanity and genocide, from Guatemala’s past conflict is being seriously undermined, Amnesty International said today.

 A year ago today Guatemala’s Constitutional Court annulled the conviction of former President General Efraín Ríos Montt for crimes against humanity and genocide committed in the 1980s. Since then key judicial figures have been replaced or sanctioned, and resolutions passed that further erode the chances of victims of the past conflict seeing justice.

“Victims of Ríos Montt’s crimes have been fighting for justice for more than three decades and now are again facing numerous obstacles created to deny them that justice,” said Sebastian Elgueta, Guatemala researcher at Amnesty International.

“Guatemala owes a debt of justice to those victims, as well as to the rest of the estimated 200,000 victims of the conflict.”

On 20 May 2013, the conviction of Ríos Montt for his role in the killing, torturing and forced displacement of 1,771 Maya-Ixil indigenous people during his 1982-83 presidency was effectively annulled by Guatemala’s Constitutional Court on a technicality.

Since then the Attorney General who oversaw the prosecution of the original case has been replaced, the presiding judge has been disbarred and the Congress of Guatemala has passed a non-binding resolution declaring that genocide never occurred during the country’s 36 year conflict, which ended in 1996.Last week’s resolution by Congress of Guatemala directly contradicted a 1999 UN investigation, which concluded that genocide and crimes against humanity had occurred. During the 36-year conflict, around four in five victims were from Guatemala’s Indigenous Peoples population with over 600 massacres recorded in Indigenous areas.

“Findings of fact which result from independent investigations and impartial courts cannot be ignored because they make uncomfortable reading for those in positions of power. Such a conclusion may only be reached by a court of justice,” said Sebastian Elgueta.

“Congress should support efforts to hold accountable those alleged to have committed mass human rights atrocities, not strengthen a climate of impunity and discrimination against Indigenous People in Guatemala”.

Congress’s resolution came three months after the Guatemalan Bar Association’s Ethics Tribunal sanctioned the presiding judge Yassmin Barrios for a procedural ruling taken during the 2013 trial of Ríos Montt.

“The Ethics Tribunal decision to sanction the trial judge, punishing the judge for a judicial decision taken during the trial, amounts to an interference with the independence of the judiciary. If it is allowed to stand, it will set a precedent for allowing lawyers to punish judges for decisions that they didn’t agree with,” said Elgueta.

In February this year the Constitutional Court also cut short the period in office of the Attorney General who oversaw the 2013 trial of Ríos Montt. Despite widespread praise for her achievements while in office, Claudia Paz y Paz was not shortlisted for a second term and a new Attorney General has just assumed office.

The curtailment of Claudia Paz y Paz’s period in office and her absence from the final shortlist gave the impression of retaliation for ensuring cases of human rights violations committed during the internal armed conflict were properly investigated and prosecuted.

“Guatemala is currently at a crossroads. The country should not turn back the clock and return to the days when cases of past human rights violations were simply not investigated or prosecuted,” said Sebastian Elgueta.

“Hundreds of thousands of victims of Guatemala’s conflict, including relatives of those killed and disappeared, survivors of massacres and sexual violence, expect the new Attorney General to continue efforts to secure justice”.

Otto Perez Molina, the current President of Guatemala, began his term by ratifying the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, creating a safeguard for future accountability should war crimes ever be committed again in Guatemala.

“The President’s decision to ratify the Rome Statue was welcomed nationally and all over the world. Unless he wants his legacy to be one of impunity for past human rights violations he must show leadership setting the tone for accountability, respect for victims and justice,” said Sebastian Elgueta.

New Report Explores Harmful Impacts of Canadian Mining in Latin America

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Guatemala Human Rights Commission

MarlinMine1 A crater and contaminated rubble — results of the Marlin Mine in Guatemala. Photo by James Rodríguez

A recent report presented to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) explores the growing presence of Canadian mining companies in Latin America, highlighting a series of environmental and social concerns, and raising questions about who should ultimately be held responsible for violations related to Canadian-owned projects. The report, titled The Impact of Canadian Mining in Latin America and Canada’s responsibility [full report in Spanish], was written by a working group made up of six civil society organizations from Latin America and one from the US, with input from twenty-two additional Latin America-based organizations.

Open pit mining is well known to cause serious environmental damage, and the authors draw particular attention to the contamination of rivers and drinking water. The damning report also describes flagrant violations of the right to life…

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