MAC: Mines and Communities

Guatemala: Bishop receives death threats/Obispo denuncia amenazas de muerte

Published by MAC on 2008-04-27

Religious Intelligence, UK

14th April 2008-04-27

Rights workers in Guatemala are calling upon the government to protect a Roman Catholic bishop from assassination after a rash of threats. Mgr. Álvaro Ramazzini, Bishop of San Marcos, has been warned that he will be killed unless he withdraws his support for landless peasants who are protesting the issuance of mining permits to a Canadian multinational corporation Goldcorp Inc.

On March 31 a nun was stopped while driving her car through the town of San Marcos and given a note to deliver to the bishop, warning him of the consequences of his actions. Bishop Ramazzini is president of the Roman Catholic Bishops Conference of Guatemala and the Church's representative to the "High Level Commission" formed to coordinate exploitation of the region's natural resources with local communities. He has drawn the ire of landowners for backing the campesinos' land claims in the region.

In January 2005, Guatemalan President Óscar Berger blamed Bishop Ramazzini for riots in San Marcos after police shot a campesino during anti-government protests. President Berger said the bishop was an "authentic leader" who should have controlled the protesters.

Along with other bishops, Ramazzini also played a keu role in the 1996 Peace Accords that ended Guatemala's 36-year-long civil war. He also co-authored a 1998 report detailing human rights abuses. Two days after the report was released the principal author of the report, the Archbishop of Guatemala Juan Gerardi, was bludgeoned to death.

Bishop Ramazzini was a witness in the Gerardi murder case, which saw three army officers and a priest convicted in the murder. In 2005 he testified before the US Congress on rights violations in Guatemala and urged rejection of CAFTA, saying it would serve only to exploit the campesinos, who make up 95% of the population.

In an April 1 letter to current Guatemalan President Álvaro Colom, the International Trade Unions Confederation (ITUC) demands that "the necessary measures be taken to guarantee the safety and physical integrity of Monsignor Álvaro Ramazzini and to ensure that such threats cannot be carried out in a Guatemala where all citizens can freely enjoy their fundamental rights."

Bishop speaks against Canadian mining firm, Death threat follows

By BRENDAN KOLBAY, Catholic News Service, Guatemala City

Week of 21 April 2008

While a Franciscan nun was walking along a road leading to the main highway in Tajumulco, Guatemala, she was approached by a masked man in a car with dark sunglasses. He pressed a gun into her side. The man told the nun, who works in the Diocese of San Marcos, "Tell that good-for-nothing bishop - Ramazzini - that his days are numbered and that he should stop getting involved in things that are none of his business."

He was referring to Bishop Alvaro Ramazzini Imeri of San Marcos, an outspoken critic of environmentally harmful mining practices in his rural Diocese of San Marcos and a defender of human rights. After the incident, the man sped off down the road. The nun, whose identity is being withheld for her protection, was not hurt.

When asked who he thought issued the death threat, Ramazzini declined to speculate.

"This could have come from any number of people who may not be happy with me," he told Catholic News Service April 8.

The bishop is perhaps best known in Guatemala and abroad as a staunch critic of the practices of the Canadian owned gold-mining company, GoldCorp, which operates in his diocese.

The bishop also often denounces - both from the pulpit of the San Marcos cathedral and on his own daily radio program - local drug traffickers who operate with impunity throughout his diocese.

Guatemala is a major transit point for drugs destined for the United States.

In mid-March, the bishop met with Guatemalan legislators to press for reform of the country's mining laws based on a study of the negative environmental and social impact of mining practices.


The study claims that royalties from mining total a mere one per cent of profits earned and that under-regulated mining practices do serious harm to the environment. In 2007, GoldCorp lodged a formal complaint with the Guatemalan government saying that an independent environmental impact study presented by Ramazzini had "false results."

Speaking specifically of GoldCorp, Ramazzini told CNS, "I've always insisted this mine is not good business for Guatemala and that the country is losing much more than it gains."

GoldCorp millions

GoldCorp "is earning millions and millions of dollars and none of it is helping the people of San Marcos," said the bishop.

Asked why the Church should be involved in environmental issues, Ramazzini said: "As a bishop and as a Christian, I can't remain indifferent about these issues, because it's my responsibility to look out not only for the spiritual welfare but also the physical well-being of the people of my diocese. "So this is my responsibility, toward my diocese, before God, before the Church and before my country," he said, "to speak out about these things, even if I have to die for it."

Receiving death threats is not a new experience for the 60-year-old prelate.

In 2006, a man confessed that he had been offered $50,000 to assassinate him. The government immediately provided the bishop with a 24-hour security detail. The Church in Guatemala often has suffered because of its defence of human rights.

Prelate murdered

In 1998, Auxiliary Bishop Juan Gerardi Conedera of Guatemala City, head of the Archbishop's Human Rights Office, was bludgeoned to death in the garage of his residence just two days after he released a comprehensive report on the atrocities committed during Guatemala's 36-year civil war.

Obispo de Iglesia católica guatemalteca denuncia amenazas de muerte

Terra Actualidad - EFE

4 Abril 2008

El obispo de la Iglesia católica guatemalteca Alvaro Ramazzini denunció hoy que ha recibido amenazadas de muerte de origen desconocido. Según Ramazzini, obispo de la Diócesis de San Marcos (oeste), las amenazas de muerte le llegaron a través de una religiosa, no identificada, que fue interceptada por desconocidos.

Estas personas le dijeron a la religiosa que le advirtiera al obispo de que lo iban a matar, expresó el obispo en declaraciones a la radio local Emisoras Unidas. Ramazzini, ex presidente de la Conferencia Episcopal de Guatemala (CEG), es un arduo defensor de los derechos de los más desposeídos, sobre todo de los indígenas de este país centroamericano.

El obispo manifestó que está 'desconcertado' por las amenazas de muerte, porque no había recibido ninguna intimidación desde hace por lo menos dos años. El religioso aseguró que desconoce el origen de las amenazas y la identidad de los autores.

La Central General de Trabajadores de Guatemala (CGTG), una de las principales asociaciones obreras del país, expresó hoy su preocupación por las amenazas de muerte en contra de Ramazzini y pidió a las autoridades investigar su procedencia y capturar a los responsables.

Obispo Álvaro Ramazzini insiste en moratoria

Por Gema Palencia, Guatemala, 13 de abril de 2008

Álvaro Ramazzini, obispo de San Marcos, demanda que el Congreso apruebe de urgencia una moratoria a la Ley de Minería, para que no se autoricen más licencias de explotación hasta que se reforme esa norma.

"Este es el momento para que el Congreso demuestre que quiere hacer las cosas bien", dijo Ramazzini.

El prelado afirmó que, mientras se aprueba la reforma a la Ley de Minería, es importante que no se sigan concediendo licencias de exploración y explotación.

Durante la anterior administración, el entonces presidente, Óscar Berger, prometió que no se autorizarían nuevas licencias de explotación, pero concedió el año último una nueva a Goldcorp, la empresa que gestionó la mina Marlin, en San Marcos.

Alejandro Sinibaldi, presidente de la Comisión de Minería del Congreso, aseguró que esa mesa de trabajo discutirá la moratoria, la próxima semana; si hay consenso, presentarán la iniciativa al pleno, antes de fin de mes.

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