Guatemala activist shot after protests against Canadian mining company
In a serious incident last week, unidentified assailants shot at Ms. Yolanda "Yoli" Oquely Veliz, a Guatemalan anti-mining activist from San Jose del Golfo.
She was campaigning against the activities of Canadian company, Radius Gold, and is currently in a serious condition. See: http://www.mimundo.org/2012/06/14/2012-06-guatemalan-female-activist-shot-for-leading-blockade-against-a-canadian-owned-gold-mine/
On May 18, Rights Action circulated an urgent action communiqué addressing the growing tension and threats of repression caused by Radius Gold's attempts to illegally push ahead with its gold mining interests, despite widespread community opposition. Read: http://rightsaction.org/action-content/radius-gold-inc-guatemala-more-mining-related-repression-waiting-happen.
The communiqué includes a link to a 7-minute film (in Spanish) called "OTRA VEZ LA MINA" (Once Again, Mining). To view: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gq5wA0XGrEg.
Guatemala: Anti-mining Activist Shot, Wounded
Amnesty International Urgent Action - UA 170/12 AI Index: AMR 34/003/2012
14 June 2012
A Guatemalan anti-mining activist was shot on 13 June in the town of San José del Golfo, in the department of Guatemala. Other local mining activists may also be at risk.
On 13 June, at around 6.30pm, Yolanda Oquelí was driving home after taking part in a protest outside a mine site in San José del Golfo, in the department of Guatemala, about 35km from the centre of the capital, Guatemala City.
As she approached her house, two men on a motorbike cut across her path and fired at her with a pistol. Yolanda Oquelí was hit by a bullet which lodged close to her liver. Three other bullets hit her vehicle. According to local press/radio/TV, a .38 pistol was used in the attack. Yolanda Oquelí is in hospital in a serious but stable condition.
Yolanda Oquelí is an activist and leader of the organization Northern Front of the Metropolitan Area (Frente Norte del Área Metropolitana, FRENAM) which has been protesting against the negative effects of a mining project in her community.
The mine site is known as El Tambor and covers parts of the municipalities of San Jose del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampic. A protest has been maintained outside the entrance to the mine since March 2012. Those opposing the mine claim that it will pollute the water supply, and that local communities were not consulted about its potential impact.
The mine is operated by Exploraciones Mineras de Guatemala, S.A. (EXMIGUA), a local wholly-owned subsidiary of the Canadian company Radius Gold Inc.
As a result of her work as a human rights defender, since August 2011 Yolanda Oquelí has filed several complaints with the Public Prosecutor's office about threats and harassment against her and other activists, including threatening phone calls, her house being vandalised with paint, and death threats. The most recent complaint was filed on 11 May. An Amnesty International delegation met with Yolanda Oquelí in May 2012.
Please Write Immediately
- Call on the authorities to order an independent, thorough and impartial investigation into the shooting of Yolanda Oquelí and the threats against her, publish the results and bring those responsible to justice.
- Urge them to take immediate steps to provide appropriate protection to Yolanda Oquelí and her family, and to activists working against human rights violations caused by mining operations in the area of San José del Golfo.
Otto Pérez Molina
Presidente de la República
6ª Avenida 4-41, Zona 1
Puera del Centro
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Salutation: Dear President / Estimado Sr. Presidente
Minister of the Interior:
Mauricio López Bonilla
Ministro de Gobernación
6ª Avenida 13-71, Zona 1
Ciudad de Guatemala
Fax: 011 502 2413 8888 (You may need to dial ext. 2290)
Salutation: Dear Minister / Estimado Sr. Ministro
Please send a copy to:
His Excellency Georges de la Roche Plihal
Ambassador for the Republic of Guatemala
130 Albert Street, Suite 1010
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5G4
Fax: (613) 233-0135
Environmental organization MADRESELVA:
6a avenida 2-60 zona 2
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Human rights defenders working on economic, social and cultural rights in Guatemala are often targeted because of their work to protect human rights. Those activists focusing on extractive industries, such as mining, have been subjected to physical attacks and harassment, as documented by Amnesty International.
In December 2011, Amnesty International issued an Urgent Action on behalf of the communities in the Santa Rosa department, southern Guatemala, threatened by a mining project. Local communities have not been consulted about the plans. (See UA 352/11, AMR 34/016/2011).
In February 2011, protesters against the Marlin mine in north-western Guatemala were attacked. One protester, Aniceto López, was taken to the office of the local mayor, where he has said he was beaten and threatened with death for speaking out against the mine. (See UA 57/11, AMR 34/002/2011).
In July 2010, Deodora Hernández, a grassroots activist who had been protesting against the allegedly negative effects of mining in San Marcos department, in north-western Guatemala, was shot at close range in her own home by two unknown men. She had spoken out to defend her community's right to water amidst fears that mining operations have affected the local water supply. (See UA 163/10 Index: AMR 34/008/2010).
The Guatemalan authorities' failure to ensure meaningful consultation of local communities prior to the granting of mineral exploration or exploitation licences has been noted in recent years. The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of Indigenous Peoples noted after a visit to Guatemala in June 2010 that he had received allegations that on many occasions the Guatemalan government had granted licences for the exploitation of natural resources in Indigenous territories without the necessary consultations with local Indigenous Peoples.
Impact assessments should seek to identify and address adverse human rights impacts on the basis of consultation with those potentially affected. They should be made available far enough in advance to allow those potentially affected a careful examination of its contents, in a manner and through means that fully respect the principles of accessibility of information and non-discrimination so that the local community can participate effectively and give their free, prior and informed consent.
Under international law, including the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), voted for by Guatemala, and the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No. 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries, ratified by Guatemala in 1996, Guatemala has a duty to consult Indigenous Peoples concerning investment projects. This includes projects involving the exploration or exploitation of natural resources in their territories.
In addition, under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Guatemala is a party, countries must ensure the right of all individuals and communities to participate in decisions that affect the realization of their human rights. For participation to be meaningful, people must be informed far enough in advance of the relevant decision-making process, and informed in a manner and in ways that fully respect the principles of accessibility of information and non-discrimination.
Yolanda Oquelí, leader of the resistence against gold mining in San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc, victim of an attempt on her life with a firearm
Communique from MadreSelva Ecological Collective (Unofficial translation by NISGUA)
13 June 2012
On the afternoon of Wednesday, June 13, 2012, Yolanda Oquelí-leader of the resistance against gold mining in San Pedro Ayampuc and San José del Golfo-was fired upon as she travelled in her vehicle from the protest in La Puya to her house in San José del Golfo.
Yolanda, along with other leaders of the anti-mining movement in the north metropolitan area, had been receiving intimidation and threats by functionaries of the Servicios Mineros de Centro América S.A. company, which operates in San José del Golfo with the participation of Colonel Arias Méndez.
This company works to divide and threaten the population of the two municipalities in which there has formed a strong resistance to the Progreso VII Derivada gold mining project.
Yolanda Oquelí was attacked with gunfire when unknown individuals travelling on a motorcycle crossed her path near the cemetery of San José del Golfo. Days before, Yolanda and other anti-mining leaders formally presented before the Public Ministry a series of denunciations of intimidation, threats and criminalization for exercising their right to peaceful resistance.
In the face of this reprehensible crime WE DECLARE
• It is unacceptable that the government support and tolerate mining companies that attempt to impose their projects via threats, intimidation and violence against women and men who exercise their legitimate right to peaceful and legal resistance against extractive activities that threaten life, physical and moral health, the right to a healthy and safe environment and the human right to water.
• We demand that the authorities of the justice system investigate immediately this despicable attack against Yolanda Oquelí, that they identify the intellectual and material authors of this act and that these individuals be sanctioned according to their responsibility for this criminal action.
• We demand that the executive government put an end to its policy of giving our territory and and natural resources over to mining companies without carrying out the required free, prior and informed consultation of the affected populations regarding the consequences that these kinds of projects bring, as mandated by the Municipal Code and ILO Convention 169. The persistence of the firm hand government in using authoritarian measures to impose these extractive projects is carrying our country to a situation of repressive violence that is absolutely unacceptable.
• We demand that the organisms of government see to the respect of human rights and that immediate measures be taken to effectively protect and guarantee the life of the leader and human rights defender Yolana Oquelí.
• We demand that measures be taken to protect the representatives of the communities of San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc who remain camped outside the installations of the Minera Progreso VII Derivada project (la Puya), as they are exercising their rights as recognized in ARTICLE 45 of the Constitution of the Republic of Guatemala.
• "The people have the legitimate right to resistance in protection and defense of the rights and guarantees recognized in the Constitution."
This peaceful resistance is being exercised by men, women, children, Catholics, Protestants, laypeople, indigenous and campesino population, business-owners, farmers and intellectuals who at no time have been consulted regarding the installation of mining projects. The people in resistance against this kind of projects identify clearly the risks that mining represents for sustaining a dignified life.
• We repudiate the violence against Yoli and the communities in resistance that have stood out for their courage and steadfastness in defense of life, water and territory. We stand in solidarity with the family of Yoli and with the courageous people of San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc who are setting an example of dignity with their peaceful and legal struggle against the authoritarian imposition of the government and the mining companies.
We are all Yolanda!
We are all La Puya!
Guatemala, Tueday, June 13, 2012.
MadreSelva Ecological Collective
Hudbay must account for legacy of damage, injury, death and on-going suffering in Guatemala
Open letter to Hudbay Minerals
14 June 2012
Hudbay Minerals Inc.
Board of directors, Shareholders, Investors
25 York St., Suite 800
Toronto, ON M5J 2V5
T: 416 362-8181
TO: Hudbay directors, board members, investors and shareholders,
Greetings to you all, as you meet in Toronto at Hudbay's annual shareholder meeting on June 14, to assess Hudbay's financial performance. From Hudbay's home page, one reads:
"Hudbay is committed to producing strong investor returns and creating better futures for communities and employees by finding, building and operating successful mines." (http://www.hudbayminerals.com/)
Hudbay did not "create better futures for communities" in Guatemala. Rather, Hudbay left a legacy of damage, injury, death and on-going suffering in Guatemala that have not been addressed or remedied.
We call on Hudbay directors, members of the board, shareholders and investors to initiate a transparent and public process to provide full reparations to indigenous Mayan Qeqchi families and communities harmed directly and indirectly by Hudbay's (and Skye Resources) nickel mining attempts, 2004-2011.
Timeline- Illegal Evictions, Violence and Destruction
From 2004-2008, Skye Resources attempted to revive the nickel mining operation that INCO (International Nickel Company) initiated in the 1960s, and briefly operated in the late 70s, early 80s.
In 1999, the United Nations "Truth Commission" in Guatemala determined that INCO - in partnership with the Guatemalan military - committed very serious human rights violations against the local Mayan Qeqchi population. INCO was never held accountable, anywhere, for the harms and damages it caused. The victims of those abuses received no justice or remedy for their harms and violations.
Now, over 30 years later, some of today's victims of illegal, forced "evictions" (burning entire villages to the ground) and other acts of repression are the children of the INCO caused repression 30 years ago.
In 2008, Hudbay purchased Skye Resources. Between them, Hudbay and Skye (via their Guatemalan subsidiary company CGN - Guatemalan Nickel Company) were directly and indirectly involved with illegal "evictions" (burnings of entire villages), and with acts of violence and repression that resulted in the death of a well-known community leader and teacher (Adolfo Ich), in the wounding of many, and in the gang rape of 11 women in the remote village of Lote 8.
Gratuitous "Evictions", Destruction and Brutality
The following villages were "evicted" (destroyed and burned to the ground in whole or in part) in 2006-2007: Comunidad la Revolucion; Comunidad Quebrada Seca la Paz; Comunidad Chacpayla Lote 8; Comunidad Las Nubes Lote 16; Barrio la Union (El Estor); Barrio el Chupon (El Estor); Comunidad Agua Caliente Lote 9.
Some of these villages were "evicted" as many as 3 times. In one village, Lote 8, 11 women were gang-raped by private security guards in the hire of Skye (via CGN), and Guatemalan soldiers and police.
In each of these "evictions", the villagers - indigenous Mayan Qeqchi people living in this region for generations, if not hundreds of years before INCO arrived in the 1960s - returned to their lands and re-built their small huts from scratch. They live today on these lands. They are still referred to as "illegal squatters".
To add insult to injury, most of the communities "evicted" are located on the lowlands, by Lake Izabal, where there are no nickel ore deposits. The nickel ore is found in the mountain range along the north side of Lake Izabal. Not only did Skye have no legal justification to carry out these "evictions" (burnings and destruction), but also they had no mining reason to burn and destroy the villages on the lowlands.
On September 27, 2009, private security guards, in the hire of HudBay (via its Guatemalan subsidiary) opened fire and used other violence against local villagers. One man - Adolfo Ich, a widely known and respected community leader and local teacher - was the victim of a targeted killing, and more villagers were wounded: Haroldo Cucul, barrio La Union; German Chub Choc, barrio La Union; Alejandro Acte, comunidad Las Nubes; Ricardo Acte, comunidad Las Nubes; Samuel Coc, comunidad Las Nubes; Alfredo Tzi, barrio El Chupon; Luciano Ical, barrio El Chupon; Santos Caal Beb, barrio La Union.
The suffering of some of these victims continues today, particularly that of German Chub, now paralyzed from the chest down, wheel-chair bound, a bullet still lodged dangerously close to his spine, and suffering on-going health complications. (Victim of a crime, German has received no formal compensation whatsoever. With funds from caring North American donors, Rights Action is regularly channeling emergency relief, humanitarian funds, just to help keep German barely healthy, and surviving. He is not remotely close to having his life-long health and economic survival needs resolved.)
Lawsuits in Canada
Civil suits have been filed against Hudbay in Canada for: the death of Adolfo Ich, the gang rape of 11 women in Lote 8, and the shooting-paralyzing of German Chub. Rights Action is supporting the victims' right to have justice done in Canada, knowing that all the major corporate decisions were taken in Canada and that there is no chance whatsoever of justice in Guatemalan courts.
Yet, the destruction, injuries and suffering go beyond these cases.
An end to Denial and Impunity
It is time for Hudbay directors, members of the board, shareholders and investors to stop denying what happened in Guatemala, to stop hiding behind the wall of impunity constructed by the governments of Canada and Guatemala, and do the right thing.
The Mayan Qeqchi people and communities of the nickel mining region deserve a complete and public acknowledgement of what they have suffered and they need and deserve to be compensated and remedied for all they have suffered and that was destroyed.
Maria Cuc Choc, Angelica Choc, Raul Caal Coc ... of the El Estor Committee in Defense of Mayan Qeqchi Communities and Rights
Grahame Russell (and Annie Bird) ... of the Canadian Rights Action Foundation
(Grahame Russell is a non-practicing Canadian lawyer, author, Adjunct Professor at the University of Northern British Columbia and, since 1995, co-director of Rights Action (USA), along with Annie Bird, and director of the Canadian Rights Action Foundation.
Radius Gold Updates on Recent Events at the Tambor Joint Venture, Guatemala
Radius Gold statement
20 June 2012
VANCOUVER - Radius Gold Inc. would like to comment on recent events near the Tambor gold mine development project in the municipalities of San Jose del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc in southern Guatemala. Radius's joint venture partner, Kappes Cassiday and Associates, of Reno, is the project operator and is constructing a small gold mine at the site.
On June 13, a local activist, Yolanda Oqueli Veliz, was shot and wounded by -as yet- unidentified attackers. Local police are investigating the incident. Radius wishes Ms. Veliz a speedy and full recovery and categorically condemns the shooting. Further, Radius's management urges all stakeholders and community members around the Tambor project to refrain from the use of violence as a means to settle disputes.
Simon Ridgway, the Chairman of Radius, commented: "We're in disbelief over the shooting. We have no idea what the shooting is related to and the circumstances are under investigation by the police, but regardless of the cause, nothing can be achieved by violence and we utterly condemn it. We've been in touch with the local and national authorities to see what we can do to assist in the investigation of the incident, and we've also been speaking to the Canadian embassy in Guatemala City to keep them updated."
The Company has recently become aware of various inflammatory articles on the internet directly linking it to the shooting of Ms. Veliz. Any such assertions are ridiculous and completely untrue and can only add to the local tensions. Radius has always denounced the use of violence, and the Company and its employees have never engaged in, incited, or supported violence within the communities in which it works.
Radius has been working at Tambor since 2000 with the support of the local community, conducting exploration work without incident, and has engaged with the community and local authorities at every stage in the discovery and development process. The management team has been working in South and Central America for close to 20 years and has always had detailed discussions with the local communities near its projects.
Further updates will be provided as and when Radius is aware of any new developments.
ON BEHALF OF THE BOARD "Ralph Rushton" President