URGENT ACTION: Call for investigation and company departure in response to recurring violence in area of Canadian-owned silver project
On Sunday, March 17, 2013, at around 8 pm, the President of the Xinca Indigenous Parliament and three other Xinca leaders were abducted by a group of heavily armed masked men while on their way home from observing a public referendum on Tahoe’s Escobal mine in El Volcancito, San Rafael Las Flores, in the department of Santa Rosa, Guatemala. This comes only two days after the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, called on the Government of Guatemala to protect human rights defenders.
Two of the abducted Xinca leaders escaped and sounded the alarm. On the morning of Monday, March 18, 2013, the President of the Xinca Parliament’s vehicle was found with multiple bullet holes and Exaltación Marcos Ucelo, one of the four who were kidnapped, was found dead. About four hundred people peacefully gathered in the immediate area in order to protect the scene of the crime while demanding that authorities initiate a proper and full investigation. That evening, President Roberto González Ucelo was found alive.
In response, Interior Minister Mauricio López Bonilla made statements in the press, incorrectly conflating the non-violent community organizing in the municipalities of Mataquescuintla and San Rafael Las Flores with this and other recent violence. His statements are further evidence of ongoing stigmatization and criminalization of human rights defenders in Guatemala.
For more than two years communities in the municipalities of San Rafael Las Flores and Mataquescuintla have been peacefully resisting the development of Tahoe Resources’ Escobal mine. Goldcorp holds 40% of Tahoe Resources shares and most of Tahoe’s current directors and management currently work for Goldcorp, or did previously.
In response to the recent events, we:
- Urge Guatemala’s Attorney General to request that the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) undertake a full and impartial investigation into the violence in the area, in particular the existence of an armed group, and to ensure the protection of the human rights and environmental defenders who are demanding respect for their rights to live in a safe and healthy environment and to free, prior and informed consent over the mine project.
- Call on the Ministry of Energy and Mines and the Ministry of the Environment in Guatemala to reject Tahoe Resources’ request for an exploitation license for the Escobal mine based on the lack of consultation, environmental concerns and conflict in the area.
- Call on Goldcorp and Tahoe Resources to pull out from San Rafael Las Flores given lack of social license for its Escobal project and the prevailing climate of violence that prohibits communities from peacefully conducting public referenda. Its presence in the communities is generating conflict.