MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Guatemalan murders put Canadian company in frame

Published by MAC on 2009-10-05

Barely three weeks following the assassination of the son of a well-known anti-mining activist, two Indigenous leaders were also murdered, and more than a dozen wounded, as they sought to defend their land in Guatemala.

Nineteen-year old Walter Mendez Valazquez was shot dead on September 7th. In May 2009, his father, Arturo, had spoken out against Canada's Goldcorp at the company's annual general meeting. The year before, Arturo received an anonymous letter threatening to kill a member of his family.

On September 27 and 28th, attacks were levelled against Qeqchi leaders fighting a nickel mine owned by Hudbay of Canada.

Initial reports implicate the company's security force in at least some of the shootings.

[Comment by Nostromo Research: Hudbay is one of the most polluting companies operating on Canadian soil. In April 2009, following months of internal turmoil at Hudbay, UK-listed Vedanta Resources acquired 9.5% of Hudbay's equity. At the time, some analysts speculated that this might presage a takeover bid by the infamous British company for its almost as-notorious Canadian counterpart.]

Recent killings linked to Canadian-owned nickel mine in Guatemala

The Dominion (Canada)

30 September 2009

Two Qeqchi leaders were shot and killed and over a dozen wounded this week near the site of a shuttered nickel mine in Guatemala.

The first shooting took place on Sunday, September 27 on land claimed by the community of Las Nubes, which Compañia Guatemalteca de Niquel (CGN), a subsidiary of Manitoba's HudBay Minerals, also claims to own.

Early reports indicated CGN's private security guards opened fire while attempting to remove families from their land. Adolfo Ichi Chamán, a teacher and community leader, was killed by gunshot, at least eight more wounded by bullets fired from an AK-47.

Prensa Libre, Guatemala's leading newspaper, reported that during Chamán's funeral service yesterday, thousands of people marched through the streets of El Estor, demanding that the company and the local police chief withdraw from the area within 24 hours.

HudBay released a lengthy statement yesterday claiming that there were no evictions, but instead that "protestors" went on a rampage, attacking government vehicles, a local police station (where they allegedly stole automatic weapons), destroying a hospital built by a coalition of US NGOs, and wounding five employees.

Hudbay goes on to make the absurd claim that the protesters proceeded to open fire on each other.

Liezel Hill of Mining Weekly went on to parrot the company's version of events, as did the CanadianPress and Reuters.

One day after the murder of Chamán, men armed with machine guns opened fire on a mini-bus carrying Indigenous educators and leaders from the El Estor region to Cobán. One man, Martin Choc, was killed, and at least nine more wounded.

These killings are a flare up in a tense area, where the track record of Canadian mining companies includes forced displacement over multiple generations, co-operation with the army, and the burning of homes belonging to Indigenous people.

Shortly after a series of violent evictions that took place on nearby lands in 2007, Skye Resources (later acquired by Hudbay) representatives went on the record and lied through their teeth to defend their actions.

The English-language corporate media has repeatedly turned a blind eye to recent and past events unfolding in El Estor. This kind of reporting facilitates corporate lies and deceit, plain and simple.

Lies and deceit are just what HudBay needs, not only to avoid an international outcry over the recent killings, but also to spin a mining project that is not likely to produce any nickel at all.

 


A Planned Hit

Son of man who spoke out at Goldcorp AGM assassinated in Guatemala

by Dawn Paley, The Dominion

22 September 2009

In May of 2009, Arturo Mendez visited Vancouver. He stood before shareholders of Goldcorp Inc and denounced the company for their refusal to obey community demands that they end their operation in Mayan territory.

Three months later, Arturo Mendez lost his son. On September 7, 2009, after working in the corn fields all day, Walter Mendez Velazquez, 19, was killed by a bullet in his thorax.

Velazquez lived in a small Mayan village named Colotenango, in the department of
Huehuetenango.

Before his assassination, he was interning with CEIBA, a community development organization, and learning agricultural skills. Colotenango is a town of primarily Mayan Mam families.

It's also one of dozens of cities to have voted against open pit mining in a community
referendum , also known as a "Consulta".

Velazquez's father Arturo Mendez is a high profile member of the community, known for his leadership and outspoken rejection of mining.

According to CEIBA, Arturo Mendez received a letter threatening to kill a member of his family in 2008.

In a communique denouncing the death of Mendez Velazquez, a coalition of Mayan organizations specified that they "demand respect of the more than 25 popular referendums carried out in Indigenous communities, which makes clearest the rejection of open pit mining; and an end to the persecution of leaders who struggle for their legitimate human rights."

At press time, police have not identified a suspect and there is no proven connection to Goldcorp.

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