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Mining and Indigenous Rights in Guatemala

    June 16, 2017

    Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland is participating in a high level Central American prosperity and security conference in Miami today.

    Amnesty International Canada urges that extreme dangers facing defenders of land, territory and the environment must not be overlooked in discussions she has with her counterparts from the US and Mexico, as well as government official and business leaders from Central America, the United States, Canada and Mexico.

    On June 8, Parliament’s Subcommittee on International Human Rights heard disturbing testimony from community leaders from Honduras and Guatemala regarding threats, attacks and assassinations in response to their peaceful efforts to oppose the negative impacts of resource extraction projects proceeding without due diligence.

    February 10, 2017

    Young activists from Guatemala recently shared with Amnesty International their experiences and motivations for putting their lives on the line to fight for the rights of their communities and the environment.

    On April 27, 2013, Luis Fernando Garcia Monroy was shot and seriously injured alongside his father, Adolfo, outside the entrance to Tahoe Resource’s Escobal silver mine. The BC Court of Appeal has just ruled that the case against Tahoe Resources for the shootings can go ahead in Canada. After the attack and in response to the death of a 16 year old activist in their community, Luis Fernando and his friends started a peaceful resistance group to give youth a voice.

    Here is their story, in their own words.

    February 03, 2017

    Adolfo Garcia (pictured, second from the left), is a quiet, serious middle-aged farmer from Guatemala. Once the Guatemalan government began issuing mining licenses in Santa Rosa, he dedicated his life to protecting the land and water for future generations of farmers and residents of his small town in south-east Guatemala.

    Adolfo has since experienced terrible injustice and violence. During a peaceful protest in 2013, Adolfo, his son, and five other men were shot and gravely injured outside a silver mine owned by Canadian company, Tahoe Resources. Adolfo’s then-teenaged son, Luis Fernando, was shot in the face, requiring extensive and painful reconstructive surgeries to enable him to breathe again. Adolfo and his wife nearly lost their family home to pay for the operations. 

    January 31, 2017

    In a precedent-setting ruling for human rights defenders, British Columbia’s Court of Appeal has ruled that a lawsuit against Tahoe Resources for the violent repression of a peaceful protest in Guatemala in 2013 may advance in Canada. The decision is a victory for seven Guatemalan men who suffered multiple gunshot wounds when they were allegedly shot by company security forces while peacefully protesting outside the entrance to the Escobal silver mine.

    “The ruling sends a clear message that Canadian companies operating abroad can and should be held accountable for allegations of human rights abuses in their operations overseas,” said Tara Scurr, Amnesty International Canada’s Business and Human Rights Campaigner. “For the first time in BC, a parent company will be called to answer for claims that human rights abuses were committed at one of its overseas operations. This is great news for corporate accountability in Canada”.

    November 16, 2016

    (Ottawa/Toronto/Vancouver/Reno/Washington/Guatemala) North American organizations are dismayed and deeply troubled bythe execution-style murder of 22 year-old Jeremy Abraham Barrios Lima, assistant to the director of the Guatemalan Centre for Legal, Environmental and Social Action (CALAS), on Saturday in Guatemala City.
     
    A group of Canadian and US legal, environmental and social justice organizations, and solidarity networks publicly express their condolences for the victim’s mother and two young sisters. In addition, they are profoundly worried about the safety and continued work of CALAS and the mining-affected communities that this organization collaborates with. There is no denying the significance of this brutal murder amidst escalating violence against land and environment defenders, journalists and citizens involved in important environmental and social justice struggles in the country and the region.
     

    September 30, 2015

    By Tara Scurr, Campaigner, Business and Human Rights  

     

    One year ago, Alex Neve and I were sitting in the Hotel Continental in Guatemala City, waiting for reporters to turn up for our press conference. We were about to launch a new Amnesty International report on mining and human rights. We’d been warned by our experienced Guatemalan media handler not to expect many reporters to show up. Imagine our delight when our press conference began and we saw that the room was packed with radio, print and TV reporters, NGOs, and human rights defenders from  communities affected by mining. It was standing room only.

    May 08, 2015

    By Tara Scurr, Amnesty International Canada Business and Human Rights Campaigner

    “We have faith that Amnesty International’s campaigning will inform investors in Tahoe Resources about our suffering in Guatemala.” Resident of San Rafael Las Flores

    When Alex Neve and I visited San Rafael Las Flores, Santa Rosa province, the site of Tahoe’s Escobal mine, in September 2014, it was to present the findings of our report, Mining in Guatemala: Rights at Risk and seek feedback from local grassroots activists. We hoped that community members, activists, legal experts, investors and governments would find it useful in untangling some of the problems with Guatemala’s mining regulatory framework and outline how the government and companies are failing human rights. It was clear from our research that current mining regulations and corporate practices are stoking conflict in Guatemala, leading to serious human rights violations, and that change is desperately needed. 

    April 07, 2015


    Source: Amnesty International Canada – MiningWatch Canada - Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA)

    (Guatemala City/Ottawa/Vancouver)

    Wiretap transcripts ordered by Guatemala’s Public Prosecutor of Tahoe Resources’ former head of security, Alberto Rotondo, in connection with an April 27, 2013 shooting outside its Escobal mine provide strong evidence that he targeted peaceful protesters, tried to cover up the crime and flee the country. The Public Prosecutor ordered the telephone intercepts roughly two weeks before this incident occurred, in apparent connection with suspicions over earlier violence at the mine site. The intercepts were originally presented in a public hearing in Guatemala in May 2013 at which Rotondo was charged with assault and obstruction of justice.

    September 29, 2014
    Local women from the La Puya resistance in Guatemala attempt to persuade the Police officers to retreat.

    by Tara Scurr, Business & Human Rights Campaigner, Amnesty International Canada
    - from Guatemala City

    “It’s been hard, because it’s not easy to bear being spat at in the face, being pushed and shoved, the tear gas, the tussles with the police, and we women having to throw ourselves on the ground. That is tough. It’s tough and it’s not easy to bear it, but we do it because we believe in our struggle and in asserting our rights.” - Yolanda Oquelí

    Yolanda Oquelí, a leader from San Jose del Golfo in Guatemala, shared those words with me last year, describing her community’s ongoing struggle to compel the Guatemalan government to respect their rights in the context of a Canadian-initiated mining project.

    September 19, 2014
    Photo: Local leader Yolanda Oquelí, who suffered an assassination attempt on June 2012 due to her involvement, warns the Guatemalan government will be held responsible for any blood spilled.

    Released 08:30 (CST) 19 September 2014

    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.

    Download 'Mining in Guatemala: Rights at risk' here

    October 22, 2013

    People who have been harmed by Canadian mining, oil and gas companies overseas may soon be able to bring their cases to Canada.

    Today, 23 Canadian organizations and their international allies issued a call to action to Members of Parliament, and all Canadians, to ensure that victims of Canadian corporate abuse abroad can access justice in Canada.

    The call to action addresses two key barriers to justice: weak out-of-court mechanisms, and obstacles to suing in Canadian courts.

    “It is time for Canada to create a mandatory extractive- sector Ombudsman and to legislate access to courts for people who are harmed by the overseas operations of Canadian oil, mining and gas companies,” said Emily Dwyer, Coordinator of the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (CNCA).

    Canada’s voluntary Extractive-Sector CSR Counsellor has proved hopelessly ineffective since the Office was established in 2009.

    May 08, 2013
    In advance of the Annual General Meeting of Tahoe Resources to be held on 9 May, 2013 in Vancouver, Amnesty International urges the company to acknowledge mounting human rights concerns associated with its Escobal Silver Mine project in Guatemala.  Amnesty International further calls on the company’s investors to recognize the impact on human rights of the Escobal project and, in turn, insist that the company take immediate corrective action consistent with international human rights standards.
    February 27, 2013

    On 14 February 2013, Amnesty International Canada was granted leave to intervene in an important and precedent-setting corporate accountability case.

    The case is being brought against Canadian company HudBay Minerals and its subsidiaries, involving allegations of gross human rights violations that took place in Guatemala in 2007 and 2009. Maya-Q’eqchi’ villagers from eastern Guatemala claim that security personnel employed by HudBay’s local subsidiary shot and killed school-teacher and anti-mining activist Adolfo Ich Chamán, shot and paralyzed youth German Chub Choc, and gang-raped 11 Maya-Q’eqchi’ women.

    The defendant companies brought motions to dismiss the plaintiffs’ claims, on the basis that a parent company can never owe a duty of care to those who may be murdered, harmed or raped by security personnel employed by the company’s subsidiary in a foreign country. Originally, the defendants had also claimed that these lawsuits could not be heard in Canada, but they recently and unexpectedly dropped this argument.

    January 17, 2013

    Authorities in Guatemala are putting the lives of women at risk by systematically failing to protect them and ensure those responsible for the hundreds of killings that take place each year face justice, Amnesty International said today after it emerged two young girls and two women had been brutally slain.

    On 16 January, the bodies of the two girls were found in a street in Guatemala City. Two other women were also found dead, in separate locations.

    Around 560 women were murdered in Guatemala in 2012, 631 in 2011 and 695 in 2010, according to official figures.

    Less than 4 per cent of all homicide cases result in perpetrators being convicted. Guatemala’s congress passed a law in 2008 that typified various crimes of violence against women and established special tribunals and sentencing guidelines, but this has not stemmed the violence.

    “There is no let-up in the cases of killings of women and girls recorded every month, despite the national scandal this has become for Guatemala,” said Sebastian Elgueta, Guatemala researcher at Amnesty International.

    Take Action

     

    Host your own photo exhibition

    Throughout 2013, Amnesty International Canada is touring a photo exhibition called “Canadian Mining in Central America: Development or Myth”.
    For a limited time, members of Amnesty International Canada (action circles and local groups) can host this powerful photo exhibition in their own community. If you are interested, your role would be to find an exhibition space and promote your event. Amnesty will supply you with the photos and other accompanying materials.
    Several Amnesty International Canada groups have already hosted the exhibit this year. For more information about this amazing opportunity, please contact evelez@amnesty.ca
    To view the photos online, click here.
    All photos are copyright James Rodriguez www.mimundo.org

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