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Archive for the ‘Social movements’ Category

Violence Mars Peaceful Protest of Guatemala’s Marlin Mine

Posted by americasprogram on March 11, 2011

Indigenous activists from San Miguel Ixtahuacan demanding the closure of Goldcorp's Marlin Mine

The recent beating and intimidation of indigenous activists protesting the ongoing operation of the Marlin Mine in Guatemala’s Western Highlands is only the most recent stain in the mine’s short but troubled history. On Feb. 28, following a day-long blockade of one the mine’s main supply routes attended by 200 residents of San Miguel Ixtahuacan municipality, a bus carrying protesters was stopped by mine workers and community members of San Jose Ixcaniche. According to Amnesty International’s report on the incident, the protesters were forced off the bus and beaten and robbed. Protesters Miguel Bamaca and Aniceto Lopez were singled out and Lopez was reportedly taken to the mayor’s office where he was further beaten, stripped of the documents he was carrying and threatened with murder, the Amnesty report stated.  

What the activists were protesting was the failure of the Guatemalan government to comply with a May 20, 2010 request from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to suspend the mine’s operations, which is wholly owned by the Canadian firm Goldcorp, one of the largest mining companies in the world. The request was made after the IACHR received petitions from numerous affected Indigenous communities expressing concern about the mine’s potential  environmental impacts. In June of 2010, the government stated that they would comply with the request but have yet to do so. A 2010 study by Physician’s for Human Rights found that residents living near the mine had elevated levels of toxins including arsenic and lead. The study also stated that, because the mine has only been operating since 2005, those levels are likely to increase.

Also at issue in the conflict is the failure of the Guatemalan government to uphold its obligations under the International Labour Organization’s Convention 169, which mandates that signatory countries consult affected indigenous communities before approving development projects. In the absence of government consultation prior to the opening of the Marlin Mine and other projects, indigenous communities have been holding non-binding consultas populares, or community consultations, to express popular will with regard to industrial development projects. The first consultation, held in June of 2005 in Sipakapa, San Marcos, firmly rejected the Marlin development. According to a 2007 MiningWatch Canada article, numerous communities affected by other developments, such as hydroelectric projects, subsequently adopted the consultation model to express their disapproval. The Front in Defense of San Miguel Ixtahuacan (FREDEMI) and the Association for the Integral Development of San Migual Ixtahuacan (ADISMI), the groups which organized the Marlin protest, are continuing to press the Guatemalan government to comply with the order to shut down the mine.




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Repression of Campesino Organization in Venustiano Carranza, Chiapas

Posted by americasprogram on November 23, 2009

Emiliano Zapata Campesino Organization

Seventeen members of the Emiliano Zapata Campesino Organization-Carranza Region (OCEZ-RC) have been occupying the offices of the UN located in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas since Oct. 30. They have refused to leave and are demanding the release of three of the organization’s leaders: José Manuel Hernández Martínez (Chema), José Manuel de la Torre and Roselio de la Cruz González. The three men, residents of the community of 28 de Junio in the municipality of Venustiano Carranza, Chiapas, were detained earlier that month by the Federal Attorney General’s Office.

The OCEZ-RC has a long history of fighting for campesino rights, especially the right to land.  Chiapas—one of the poorest states in Mexico—was by all accounts forgotten by the Mexican Revolution of 1910 and the land reform that resulted. Since the beginning of the 1980’s, the OCEZ has been moderately successful in occupying underused lands throughout the state and then gaining legal title for its small farmer members. This long and at times bloody conflict over land rights most recently came to a head last July when the OCEZ-RC occupied some 500 hectares.

José Manuel Hernández Martínez (Chema)

Two and a half months later, on Sep. 30, the leader of the organization, José Manuel Hernández Martínez, was arrested and charged with damage to property, robbery and invading territory. In the past, he has also been accused of being a leader of the EPR, a Mexican guerrilla group, which both he and other members of the OCEZ-RC have denied. A month later, on Oct. 24, two more leaders of the OCEZ-RC were arrested and accused of being members of a drug and arms trafficking organization known as Los Pelones.

Several national and international human rights organizations have called for investigations into claims made by the detained OCEZ-RC members of torture and forced confessions. The arrests of the three OCEZ-RC leaders do not represent a new or isolated incident in Chiapas, but is set against the background of an increasingly hostile environment for human rights defenders and social movements. The sit-in at the UN offices in San Cristobal is accompanied by a contingent of approximately 150 members and supporters of the OCEZ-RC that are engaged in a sit-in in the plaza of the San Cristobal cathedral. In addition to demands for the release of the OCEZ leaders, the group has demanded the cancellation of 11 arrest warrants for other members of the organization.

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OCEZ-RC Demonstration in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas

On Nov. 9, the OCEZ-RC held a press conference with the National Front of Struggle for Socialism (FNLS) announcing a new “National Campaign to Denounce and Reject the Criminalization of Popular Sturggles”. The campaign will continue until Dec. 15 and calls attention to the nationwide issue of the criminalization of social protest in Mexico.

For More Information (In Spanish):

Communiqué from the OCEZ-RC (29/10/09)

“National Campaign to Denounce and Reject the Criminalization of Popular Sturggles” (FNLS)

Urgent Action: The communities of Laguna Verde and 28de Junio, municipality of Venustiano Caranza, harassed and threatened by police. (Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, 25/10/09)

Mexico should carry out investigation into the torture of two campesinos. (Amnesty International-Mexico, 29/10/09)

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