MAC: Mines and Communities

Guatemala: Community statement on recent violence at San Rafael Las Flores

Published by MAC on 2012-09-24
Source: CALAS, Madre Selva, CODIDENA, CIEL

Community statement on recent violence at San Rafael Las Flores

Joint Communiqué

19 September 2012

The Committee for Life and against Mining in San Rafael Las Flores, the Diocese Council for the Defence of Nature of Santa Rosa - CODIDENA, the Indigenous Xinca Parliament, the Centre for Legal, Environmental and Social Action - CALAS, and the Ecologist Collective MadreSelva, report that the following took place on the 17th and 18th of September 2012 in the territories of Mataquescuintla, Jalapa and San Rafael Las Flores, Santa Rosa:


1. In the morning of Monday September 17th, workers of the San Rafael Mining Company, backed up by members of the company's private security detail equipped with anti-riot gear, attack dogs, tear gas launchers, and rubber bullet guns, and accompanied by members of the National Civil Police (PNC by its initials in Spanish), arrived at the community of Morales, in Mataquescuintla, to connect a high voltage line to service the infrastructure associated with the San Rafael mine.

2. As a result, more than 500 residents gathered, including men, women and children, demanding that the company workers leave the area with their equipment and security guards, given that the electrical connection had been previously challenged by residents who are demanding a prior, free and informed consultation process over the mine project.

3. The reaction of the residents obliged the installation of the electrical line to be suspended. In the presence of the Human Rights Prosecutor's Office (PDH), the Vice President's Office for Human Rights (COPREDEH), the Judge for Peace (Jueza de Paz), the Municipal Mayors of Nueva Santa Rosa and Casillas, the parish priest of Mataquescuintla, CALAS and CODIDENA, a pact was written up stating the peaceful solution to the differences. At the time of signing the pact, however, taking advantage of the late hour and sun going down, provocateurs in service of the mine began to throw stones against neighbours and the authorities, partially damaging two vehicles belonging to the mining company and leading the group of residents to disperse.

4. The residents, indignant about this new abuse of the San Rafael mine, decided to march from the community of Morales in Mataquescuintla toward the principal entrance of the mine, located in the territory of San Rafael. Upon arriving, the residents in a peaceful act of resistance formed a blockade at the entrance of the mine, at the crossroads that run from San Rafael Las Flores to the community of El Fusío. The blockade never crossed onto lands belonging to the San Rafael mine, but kept to the public road and on private property where they had the authorization of the landowner. As a result, the information published in the national media saying that they had invaded company lands is false.

5. According to witnesses, none of the people participating in the blockade entered onto company lands. As a result, it's impossible that the fire set within the mine site, which was heavily guarded, could have been set without the complicity of the private security guards.

6. Around three in the afternoon, the peaceful blockade was attacked without warning by members of the mine's private security group, the National Civil Police and the army, who fired tear gas, fire arms, and rubber bullets. Members of the private security launched an attack from the interior of the mine site with attack dogs, the PNC manoeuvred to corner the unarmed population against the members of the army positioned opposite the blockade.

The repressive deployment shared characteristics with military counter-insurgency operations that we believed were in the past, with their treachery, brutality and cowardice that characterized the actions of the national army.

7. This cowardly attack of repressive public and private force occurred against a peaceful civilian group that was exercising their constitutional right to protest, among which women with children in arms, elders, and small children were present. The people in the protest had set up a kitchen area and were cooking food for everyone, demonstrating their peaceful intent.

8. The residents of Santa Rosa have opposed the mine since it went into construction, which is being imposed without adequate information and consultation about the social and environmental impacts that would affect the water and life of the residents of the valley of Santa Rosa.

This legal and peaceful resistance is being demonstrated through legal acts of opposition that have been brought before the Ministry of Mines and Energy, through peaceful marches from the town to the mine installations, demonstrations in front of the Canadian Embassy, visits to the offices of the Ministry of Mines and Energy and the Ministry of the Environment, forums with mayoral candidates, meeting with elected mayors, all in the framework of the "Flower Revolution" (Revolución de las Flores, which plays on the name of San Rafael Las Flores), a peaceful movement.

Three community consultation processes have taken place in Nueva Santa Rosa, Santa Rosa de Lima and Casillas, in which a majority have voted against mining.

9. Meanwhile, the residents of San Rafael have requested a consultation to be carried out based upon the municipal code, which was boycotted by lawyers from the mining company and by the Municipal Mayor Leonel Morales Pozuelos and his council, who are now, it turns out, directly responsible for this conflict and its consequences given their servile attitude to the mining company and acting against the demands of the people of San Rafael.

10. At the very moment that we are drafting this communiqué, we have been informed that in the urban centres of San Rafael and Mataquescuintla, two helicopters of the national army are flying overhead, using the same sort of fear tactics as during the time of the internal armed conflict. Once again the national army is attacking the civilian population militarily and psychologically in defence of the interests of foreign companies.

We denounce:

The acts of criminalization against community leaders that are acting in the legitimate defence of their territories and rights against the spurious interests of extractive industry companies, national and foreign, that are taking advantage of the weakness of national laws and of corrupt officials to access the natural wealth of our country.

That this kind of provocation is systematically being used by national and foreign companies to promote extractive projects that threaten our natural wealth and territories in flagrant violation of the rights of the peoples, as has been previously demonstrated in the cases of Santa Cruz Barillas and San José de Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc.

We alert the central government to not suspend constitutional protections once again in the case of the residents of Santa Rosa, such as took place with residents in Santa Cruz Barillas.

We demand:

Of the President of the Republic, the National Congress, the Supreme Court of Justice, the General Attorney of the Public Ministry, the army and national police:

1. That the above mentioned incidents be fully investigated

2. That the residents of Santa Rosa and Jalapa not be criminalized for their just struggle

3. That the mining company and the company's private security outfit be punished for the provocation that it mounted

4. That the Ministry of Energy and Mines attend to and resolve - according to the rights and the many expressions of opposition presented by residents of San Rafael Las Flores - that the exploration licence of the mine be definitively cancelled and that under no circumstances would the extraction licence be issued for the San Rafael mine

5. That the will of the residents of the valley of Santa Rosa be respected, who through the community consultation process have expressed their overwhelming opposition to the mining activities taking place on their territories

6. That a state of siege not be used to criminalize and subject to judicial processes the leaders of Santa Rosa who have been struggling in defence of life, nature and territory in benefit of future generations

7. That the more than thirty detained people be released

We request:

1. That the international community be alerted to these human rights violations in San Rafael Las Flores and Jalapa

2. That the Human Rights Prosecutor remain vigilant to protect the human rights of communities, peoples, leaders and social organizations

3. That social, Indigenous, peasant farmer, union, women, environmental, and youth movements be alerted to these recent developments in Santa Rosa and remain in solidarity and support of this just and exemplary struggle

Guatemala, September 19, 2012

Committee for Life and against Mining in San Rafael Las Flores,
Diocese Council for the Defence of Nature of Santa Rosa - CODIDENA,
Indigenous Xinca Parliament,
Centre for Legal, Environmental and Social Action - CALAS,
Ecologist Collective MadreSelva



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