Guatemalan Community Denounces Mine, Police Violence
By Saulo Araujo
May 18th, 2012
Here comes the mine, again. Or in Spanish, Otra Vez la Mina.
In this short video by the same name, the Peasant Unity Committee (CUC) denounces the use of publically funded police forces that are protecting the operations of a private Canadian-owned mining company (Radius Gold Inc.) near Guatemala City. Community leaders are alarmed that public service are being deployed to defend the interests of a mining company. According to testimonies in the video, the government never consulted with local residents about the police operation as required by the International Labor Organization (Convention 169):
1. In applying the provisions of this Convention, governments shall:
(a) consult the peoples concerned, through appropriate procedures and in particular through their representative institutions, whenever consideration is being given to legislative or administrative measures which may affect them directly;
(b) establish means by which these peoples can freely participate, to at least the same extent as other sectors of the population, at all levels of decision-making in elective institutions and administrative and other bodies responsible for policies and programmes which concern them;
(c) establish means for the full development of these peoples' own institutions and initiatives, and in appropriate cases provide the resources necessary for this purpose.
2. The consultations carried out in application of this Convention shall be undertaken, in good faith and in a form appropriate to the circumstances, with the objective of achieving agreement or consent to the proposed measures.
In a recent communique (translated by Rosalind M. Gill for our colleagues in Rights Action), the North Front of the Metropolitan Area Peoples in Resistance (FRENAM) denounces the use of the police against a nonviolent group of residents.
Grassroots International stand in solidarity with the affected community, FRENAM and CUC.
We denounce the mistreatment of our people, who are using their right to peaceful demonstration to protest outside the "Progreso Mine" [property of the EXMINGUA mining company, a subsidiary of the Canadian Radius Gold Inc. company), located in San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc.
This mine does not respect the local community's right to be consulted. With the support of the Ministries of the Environment and of Energy and Mines, they intend to extract Gold and Silver from the mine. The mining operation will have a serious impact on the life, environment and water sources of the municipalities of San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc.
In the morning of May 8, 2012, the community of San José del Golfo was stormed by National Civil Police and Riot Police agents who claimed to be protecting security personnel and property of the EXMINGUA [Radius Gold] mining company. No search warrant or specific order had been emitted for the raid.
They blocked the streets and impeded villagers from moving around. Alarmed by this display of force and concerned about what was happening, villagers came out into the streets.
Using a carefully planned provocation strategy, the police also closed off access to the Progreso mine, to stop villagers from supporting community members who were staging a peaceful protest on the public road across from the entrance to the mine.
With the help of supporters of the mine, the police identified the houses of community leaders and stopped them from leaving their homes. This frightened their families and caused anxiety for those who wanted to help them.
However, villagers insisted on their constitutional rights and tried to negotiate peacefully with police agents. They peacefully broke through police lines and in solidarity, went to help those who were protesting outside the mine.
This act of provocation and abuse of authority on the part of the Guatemalan Government's repressive forces is proof that under the protection of President Otto Pérez Molina and the Minister of Government (Mauricio López Bonilla), mining companies receive special treatment and help from police forces that, instead of protecting the life and legacy of Guatemalans, are protecting the interests and privileges of big business, ignoring the fact that they violate the constitutional and human rights of our people.
* We ask the State of Guatemala to cease repressing the people of San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc. The State and the police have a mandate to defend the life and rights of Guatemalan citizens. They are not supposed to raid communities involved in peaceful protest, especially not to defend the interests and privileges of transnational companies and exploitative businessmen.
* We demand that those who ordered and carried out this operation be sanctioned according to the law.
* We demand that the Government suspend the mining exploitation license in San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc, because this mine is "harmful to the life, environment and peaceful culture of our peoples."
* We demand the right to be consulted on the implementation of projects on our lands, especially in the case of mining projects such as metal mining that have serious impacts on the environment, water supply and the health and life of our peoples.
* We request support from the international community. We ask for observation and vigilance of this repressive act that violates our human and constitutional rights.
* We denounce the threats and illegal practices of the EXMINGUA S.A. [Radius Gold Inc.], mining company. They have tried to aggravate the conflict by manipulating the National Civil Police, its private agents and collaborators into confronting and attacking community members who were defending their rights in a peaceful, legal way.
* We demand respect and protection of the physical integrity of community leaders and villagers who are protesting to defend our collective rights. They should be respected and protected under human rights conventions signed by the State of Guatemala, as Defenders of Human Rights.
We ask the Civil Society, the Human Rights Ombudsman and the UN High Commission, Amnesty International and the whole international community to maintain observation and vigilance and to demand that President Otto Pérez Molina and his Ministry of Government strictly respect the human and constitutional rights of the peoples of San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc.
San José del Golfo
Guatemala, May 8, 2012