MAC: Mines and Communities

Mexico: REMA-Chiapas demands investigation into ex-mayor

Published by MAC on 2013-04-09
Source: REMA-Chiapas

Mexico: REMA-Chiapas demands an investigation into the ex-mayor of Chicomuselo, Chiapas, Julio Cesar Velaquez Calderon

REMA-Chiapas Statement

20 March 2013

Chiapas, México - The Government of the State of Chiapas has criminally prosecuted in recent months several former mayors for embezzlement, criminal association, among other crimes, that have resulted in a financial crisis for the Government of Chiapas. However, former Governor Juan Sabines Guerrero and several former municipal deputies also bear responsibility for this crisis for approving in an irresponsible manner the increasing levels of debt.

Corruption, however, is also evident in the dealings between mining companies and municipal authorities. In this context, REMA (the Mexican Network of People Affected by Mining) Chiapas made public in January of 2010 the corrupt activities of the former mayor of the municipality of Chicomuselo Julio Cesar Velásquez Calderón in connection with Canadian mining company Blackfire. To that end REMA released copies of the cheques that the company gave to the then mayor of Chicomuselo.

Between March, 2008 and April of 2009, Blackfire made payments to Municipal Mayor Julio Cesar Velásquez Calderón totaling 204,022.69 Mexican pesos, as well as paying for airplane tickets for him and his family. The General Manager of Blackfire, Artemio Ávila Cervera, filed a complaint to the Chiapas Congress in July, 2009, accusing the Mayor of having received unofficial payments from Blackfire to ‘reward' him for exercising control over local inhabitants so that they wouldn't ‘take up arms' against the mining project.

In March of 2010, several Canadian organizations requested that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) investigate Blackfire for violating Canada's Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act. On June 30, 2010, REMA and Otros Mundos AC formally asked the General Auditor of the State Congress of Chiapas to investigate the circumstances surrounding these funds, a request that was never responded to.

In September 2010, Blackfire declared before the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre claiming that the company had neither been bribed nor extorted by the Mayor, and that the funds given to Julio Cesar Velásquez Calderón were meant as a contribution towards the town's costs of hosting a local fair. But, "unfortunately", these "charitable donations" had not been used for the "intended purpose". Blackfire officials also explained that cheques made out to the personal accounts of public officials are meant for public purposes . On July 20, 2011 the RCMP raided the offices of Blackfire in Calgary, looking for evidence of potential corrupt practices , whereas in Chiapas, neither the state nor federal (Mexican) governments were pursuing the case.

Given the evidence at hand, that includes material proof as well as the confession by the Canadian mining company Blackfire of having illegally handed over funds, REMA Chiapas demands a thorough and far-reaching investigation into the acts of corruption perpetrated by former Mayor Julio Cesar Velásquez Calderón, and those incurred by any state and federal officials who may have been involved to encourage and cover up the actions of the mayor and the Canadian mining company.



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