MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Guatemala Mayans seek answers to killing near mine

Published by MAC on 2005-04-06

Guatemala Mayans seek answers to killing near mine

06 Apr 2005


Guatemala City - Guatemalan Indian leaders demanded a full investigation on Tuesday into the fatal shooting in March of a peasant farmer by a security guard from a U.S. gold mining project.

In a paid newspaper advertisement, nearly 200 Mayan mayors demanded a thorough probe and compensation for the death of Alvaro Sanchez, killed in March near U.S.-based Glamis Gold's Marlin property in the San Marcos region.

The statement also called for investigations into the killings of other Mayan highlanders in recent clashes with the police.

"Up until now the investigations have stalled and the correct procedures have not been followed," Carlos Garcia, a Mayan mayor in Totonicapan, said by telephone.

Glamis Gold acknowledged the security guard shot the farmer, but Marlin project manager Tim Miller said the killing was the result of a personal dispute and was not related to the mine. The human rights group Rights in Action and Glamis' Miller say it appeared the guard shot Sanchez with a handgun owned by his employer, U.S. security firm Golan Group, which protects the mine.

Local authorities said they have launched an investigation into Sanchez's death, but declined to give further details.

The guard has not been seen since the shooting.

The World Bank-backed Marlin gold and silver mine, due to start production later this year, has met vehement opposition in recent months as it is seen as a symbol of foreign intervention, alleged environmental threat and danger to the agrarian way of life.

In 1996, Guatemala emerged from a 36-year civil war fought mainly in the highlands as leftist insurgents tried to convince poor Indians to challenge army rule. Scars left by the war run deep, and mistrust of outsiders is so widespread that only recently have a few foreign companies considered investing in the region.

Local criticism peaked in January when a villager was shot dead in the town of San Miguel Ixtahuacan, near the mine, as police and soldiers helped escort equipment through road blockades set up by Mayan peasant highlanders.

Rights group Amnesty International said on Tuesday it was worried about the safety of several Mayan leaders opposed to the mine, after a vehicle used by one of them was burned. Five letters threatening him with death were left at the car, Amnesty said.

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