Friday, July 18, 2008

URGENT ACTION:Crackdown on Local Citizens Opposing Goldcorp's "Marlin" Mine Escalates in San Marcos, Guatemala

Nine New Arrest Warrants Issued Against Eight Women and One Man; Community Leaders Receive Death Threats

Urgent Action

Death Threats and Persecution Following Power Disruption to Marlin Mine in San Marcos, Guatemala

Rights Action is extremely concerned for the safety of communities in
resistance to the Goldcorp gold and silver mine, the Marlin Project,
in municipalities of San Miguel Ixtahaucan and Sipakapa in the
department of San Marcos, Guatemala.

They are currently subject to greatly increased death threats, in
particular Javier de Leon and Mario Tema. Though both have been
subject to constant threats and intimidation, over the past few days
the level of threats has increased.

Mario Tema is a community leader in Sipakapa who has been key in
coordinating and legally defending the 2005 community consultation
that overwhelming rejected the presence of the mine in the area. In
the past week five people have warned him of a plot to kill him, and
mine workers have blamed him for resistance actions in San Miguel
Ixtahuacan to which he has no relation.

Javier de Leon is a community leader in San Miguel Ixtahuacan who has
been active in defending traditional Mam authority structures, and in
promoting a community consultation planned to occur in San Miguel
Ixtahuacan this year. Javier has been told he has been sentenced to

We are also extremely concerned for the safety of Gregoria Crifanta
Perez Bamaca, Crifanta Fernandez Perez, Patrocinia Mateo Mejia,
Catalina Perez Hernandez, Olga Bamaca Gonzales, Maria Diaz, Crifanta
Yoc, Marta Perez, and Fernando Bamaca all Mam Maya villager of Agel,
who are currently subject to arrest warrants that have derive from
their legitimate defense of their rights, emblematic of the manner in
which the Guatemalan justice system has been manipulated to promote
the unjust prosecution of communities seeking to defend their rights
from economically and politically influential interests.

In 2004, when the Marlin Project was initiating its presence in San
Marcos, mine representatives approached indigenous Mayan farmers
asking them to grant right of way for electrical lines they planned to
build to supply energy to the mines processing plant. Those who signed
the right of way did not understand what they were signing, they did
not understand that the intention was to install the type of line they
ended up installing, the document was written in Spanish, and they
were addressed in Spanish, a language some of them minimally
understand. In addition, the land which they farm is communal
indigenous land, which due to this special status has special rights
and guarantees against these kinds of activities, rights which have
not been respected by the Guatemalan government or the transnational
corporations with interest in the area, including the World Bank which
funded the project.

In 2005 the company came to install high tension energy lines and
large posts in their lands. The villagers repeatedly and constantly
protested that they did not want the installations in their yards and
that they had not agreed to this. The presence of the lines has been a
source of constant protest by the villagers as the high tension lines
run directly above their homes and represent an imminent threat to
their safety and health.

Rather then protecting the fundamental rights of the villagers, the
Guatemalan government on January 9 and 10, 2008 sent riot police to
force the entry electrical workers in to the yards of the villagers.
When villagers objected to the unwarranted intrusion into their
properties, children, women and men were subject to a violent response
by the police. The community denounced the actions in the District
Attorneys office but has received no response.

Approximately two weeks ago the energy lines were damages and no
longer allowed passage of energy to the mines processing center. The
Company is accusing the women of the actions and they have been
charged with Aggravated Usurpation. The alterations in the flow of
energy have apparently affected the capacity of the mine to operate,
and reportedly operations were suspended July 1.

According to reports in communities surrounding the mine, mine
directors or managers have told the employees that the community
leaders are responsible for the suspension of the work because they
give bad advice to the communities, and have suggested that leaders
should be attacked or killed, particularly focusing on Javier de Leon,
Mario Tema and the Agel villagers.

Earlier this year Javier de Leon was subject to a series of threats.
In March 2008 the Casa del Pueblo / Town Hall, a traditional Mam
authority structure which brings together Mam mayors from all 65
villages that compose San Miguel Ixtahuacan, began planning a
community consultation in reference to the Marlin Mine. Javier de Leon
was President of the Casa del Pueblo in 2007 and as outgoing president
is an advisor this year. Several meetings of the Casa del Pueblo were
attended by mine employees. On March 12, the as Javier walked to his
home after a meeting of the Casa, a motorcyclist attempted to run him
down. On March 29 the same person who drove the motorcycle threatened
to kill Javier, and then motioned to take a gun from his belt. On
March 30, the second consultation planning meeting held by the Casa,
which was attended by members of the mine security force. In the late
afternoon following that meeting, Maquivel community members report
that a car with tinted windows entered the village, stopped a car in
which Javier often rides, at which point an occupant of the car
pointed a gun to the head of the sixteen year old boy driving the
Maquivel truck. The armed man asked if Javier de Leon was in the car,
that they were looking for him. The villagers then noted that several
armed men were in the car.

These threats are not to be taken lightly. On March 13, 2005 a Marlin
mine security guard killed, in front of multiple witnesses, Alvaro
Benigno Sanchez, whose family had actively protested the mine, as he
left an evening church service. This murder was never prosecuted. In
January of 2005 Guatemalan Riot Police killed Raul Castro Bocel with
gunfire during a protest blocking the passage in the highway of mining
equipment in Solola. This extrajudicial execution has never been
prosecuted. In April or May of 2007, Byron Bamaca Perez and his nephew
Marco Tulio Vasquez, who worked as cooks for a company subcontracted
to dig the tunnel associated with the mine, disappeared when sent to
on an errand for the company. Marco Tulio Vasquez had participated in
anti mining protests prior to employment with the mine. Despite months
of inquiries, the company has provided the families with no
information as to their whereabouts. On June 15, 2007 the decapitated
body of Pedro Miguel Cinto, an elderly man who lived in front of the
mines entrance was found by a child pasturing sheep. His head found in
a neighboring department. He and his family had been active against
the mine. When justice authorities found the man's head they
communicated the find through the mining company to the family, an act
which was perceived to be a threat and a warning to those who dared to
protest the mine.

In addition to the extreme violence and complete impunity with which
it occurs, the company has a history of the use of malicious
prosecution to intimidate resistance to the mine. On January 9, 2007,
a group of villagers who live around the mine visited the mine office
to request dialog about the extreme harms the communities neighboring
the mine suffer as a result of its activities. Entire communities were
displaced to make room for the mine, selling land through coercion and
deceit. The communities surrounding the mine have had large cracks
appear in their concrete blocks homes as a result of the constant
explosions that cause the earth to quake. The same explosions raise
enormous amounts of dust that cause respiratory problems.

Rather then respond to the request they were escorted from the mine
office by company security forces. The security forces then followed
them down the road and attacked them a few kilometers away. The men
defended themselves as best they could and escaped what appeared to be
a kidnapping attempt. When the villagers heard of what happened, they
responded in a protests that lasted 10 days.

While the State took no action against the mine security for the
attack on the community representatives, seven of the community
representatives were violently arrested in the homes in pre dawn hours
on February 13. Though the five of the seven were acquitted and two
received sentences they are currently appealing to the Constitutional
Court, all were subject to great hardship and personal expense in the

The manner in which the District Attorneys office prosecuted this
case demonstrates undue bias in favor of the mining company and
discrimination against the indigenous farmers. The charges that five
of the seven faced, and four of the five offenses the remaining two
faced, were charges considered to be minor offenses, offenses which
the Guatemalan justice system encourages the District Attorney to
resolve through alternative non judicial mechanisms, such as
negotiation, especially when, as in this case, the supposed offenders
have no prior record of offenses and there are related special
conditions that aggravated the situation. The attack on the community
representatives by mine security that incited the protest was never

Another example of malicious prosecution is the case of the Italian
Chemist Flaviano Bianchini, who published a report in late 2006
documenting extremely high levels of contamination in the Tzala River.
Following the report he was subject to s series of death threats, and
then a lawsuit by Glamis Gold, the then owner of the Montana
Exploradora Marlin mine.

In addition to the damages the communities were denouncing during the
January 2007 protests, they have suffered the following damages as a
result of the mines operation. The wells and springs have dried up as
a result of a drop in the water table resulting from the enormous
amounts of water the mine pump to process the gold. The company is
releasing water that has been used with cyanide and arsenic in
processing the gold into the air and river systems. The population
surrounding the mine are suffering from strange skin conditions which
in other areas affected by gold mine have been the first sign of
contamination of their bodies by heavy metals that later provoke
nervous system disorders and other grave illnesses. On July 10, 2008
twenty two mine neighbors visited the National Institute of
Dermatology in Guatemala City for exams of skin conditions that began
to appear approximately 5 months ago, but could not afford to purchase
medicines to relieve the symptoms.

LAST WEEK nine arrest warrants were issued for community members in
the municipality of San Miguel Ixtahuacán, department of San Marcos,
Guatemala in an attempt to criminalize and eliminate local resistance
to the Marlin mine, a gold and silver extraction operation in the

The arrest warrants charge eight women and one man with "aggravated
usurpation" for damage done to an electric line feeding into the mine,
which runs through the properties of various community members. On
June 13th, one community member and mother of six blocked the electric
line running through her property after months of attempting to
convince the company remove the electric post from her land. The post
and the electric line were believed to present a threat to the safety
of her home and demonstrate the arrogance with which the mining
company continues to invade territory against the wishes of the
population. Within days, this act of resistance was used by the
company to seek the arrests of eight other community members who have
been involved in denouncing of Canadian mining company Goldcorp Inc.
and its 100% foreign- owned Guatemalan subsidiary Montana Exploradora
for damages and human rights violations caused by the Marlin mine.

These arrest warrants follow the pattern set during an incident in
2007, when 7 men from San Miguel Ixtahuacán — demanding accountability
and compensation from the mining company for acts of coercive land
appropriation in their communities — were targeted and arrested. Five
of the men were ultimately acquitted, while 2 were sentenced to a
Guatemalan form of "house arrest."

Threats Against Local Leaders

Tensions have increased in recent days in the municipalities of San
Miguel Ixthauacán and Sipakapa as a result of these events. Rumors
have spread throughout the communities that allegedly originated from
the local offices of Montana Exploradora and the company's social
programming organization "Sierra Madre," stating that the mine will
have to halt operations for two to three months due to lack of
electricity. These rumors are contributing to an escalating climate of
tension for human rights defenders and community organizers in the

Mario Tema Bautista, a community leader in Sipakapa who opposes the
mine, has received concerning indirect death threats, whereby he has
been told that some mine workers from the community are planning
attacks against him because of the rumored suspension of mining
operations. Community leaders and human rights defenders in San
Miguel Ixtahuacán have received direct threats from groups of
employees of Montana Exploradora as well.

In addition, organizations of affected community members from San
Miguel Ixtahuacán have recently accepted an invitation from the
company to dialogue; however, only under certain conditions. The
conditions demanded by the local organizations included the suspension
of the nine arrest warrants against their fellow community members,
and the suspension of mining operations in order to create the
necessary conditions for true dialogue. At the time of writing this
urgent action, the company still has not responded. Please join us in
demanding from Goldcorp Inc. and Montana Exploradora that they accept
the communities' conditions and enter into dialogue with community
organizers. (See below for complete conditions.)


The Marlin Mine is a project of Canadian mining giant Goldcorp, which
became the 3rd largest mining company in the world after merging with
U.S.-owned Glamis Gold in recent years. Glamis began constructing the
mine in 2004 with a $45 million loan from the World Bank.

The open-pit, cyanide-leaching gold and silver mine guzzles over
250,000 liters of water an hour- comparable to the amount an average
family in the region uses over the course of 22 years.

The mine is located in Mayan Mam and Mayan Sipakapense territory.

Communities in the area have begun to suffer the adverse consequences
of the mine, which, according to local organizations such as ADISMI
(The Association for Integral Development in San Miguel Ixtahuacán)
and the representative governing body of the communities include:

- loss of water sources (over 40 wells have dried up)

- skin diseases, especially amongst children and the elderly

- death of animals and an increase in miscarriages

- Large cracks in homes creating unsafe living conditions

- Increased militarization, the presence of private security,
and social conflict between communities

- Insufficient compensation for land sold to the company by
community members as well as pressure, threats, and coercion by the
company in the acquisition of this land

In addition to threatening the health and wellbeing of surrounding
communities, the mining company and the Guatemalan government have
violated the rights of indigenous peoples, as declared in the
International Labor Organization Covenant 169, the United Nations
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Guatemalan
Constitution, and Municipal Law. These statutes are meant to secure
the rights of indigenous communities to grant or withhold their free
prior and informed consent for mega-projects on their lands.

In 2005 the municipality of Sipakapa held a community referendum, the
results of which overwhelmingly rejected mining activity on their
territory. The Guatemalan Constitutional Court declared this
referendum valid, but non-binding. The residents of San Miguel
Ixtahuacán were never properly informed or consulted before mining
operations began.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS (faxes, letters, phone calls) as soon as possible
(sample letters below):

- Calling for the government of Guatemala to suspend the arrest
warrants for the nine community defenders from San Miguel Ixtahuacán
and stop the criminalization of protest in the area around the Marlin

- Urging the Guatemalan government to protect threatened
community leaders and human rights defenders in San Miguel Ixtahuacán
and Sipakapa.

- Demanding that Goldcorp Inc. and its subsidiary Montana
Exploradora clarify their plans for operations in the coming months,
in order to quash the rumors that are fueling conflict between
community members, which could lead to violence in the coming days.

- Urging Goldcorp Inc. and Montana Exploradora to accept the San
Miguel Ixtahuacán affected communities' conditions for negotiations
and enter into dialogue with them on the terms they so clearly lay


Ian Telfer, Chairman of Goldcorp Inc., Kevin MacArthur CEO of Goldcorp
Inc., all directors of Goldcorp Inc.
Goldcorp Inc. Head Office:
Park Place
Suite 3400-666 Burrard Street
Vancouver, B.C. V6C 2X8
Telephone: (604) 696-3000
Facsimile: (604) 696-3001

Montana Exploradora
20 calle 24-60 zona 10,
Ofibodegas Pradera oficina #20
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Telephone: 2385-6647
Facsimile: 2385-6651

Attorney General
Lic. Juan Luis Florido
Fiscal General de la República y Jefe del Ministerio Público
8ª Avenida 10-67, Antiguo Edificio del Banco de los Trabajadores, Zona 1
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Fax: +502 2411 9124; +502 2411 9326
Salutation: Estimado Fiscal/Dear Sir

Human Rights Ombudsman for department of San Marcos, Guatemala
Rudy Castillo
Telephone: 7760-8087
Facsimile: 7760-8087

Head of the Special Prosecutor's Office on Human Rights, Public
Prosecutor's Office
Rosa María Salazar Marroquín
Jefa de la Sección de Derechos Humanos, Ministerio Público
10ª Calle 10-14, Zona 1, Edificio UP, 5º nivel
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Fax: +502 2230 6033 (say "por favor, tono de fax" – business hours
Salutation: Estimada Fiscal/Dear Madam

Sample Letter for Guatemalan government institutions:

Dear _____________,

I am deeply concerned for the safety of Mario Tema Bautista of
Sipakapa and prominent community leaders in the municipality of San
Miguel Ixtahuacán. I am aware that these leaders have experienced
various levels of intimidation, including direct and indirect threats,
due to a rising climate of conflict around the Marlin mine. I am
extremely concerned that these threats are in response to their work
for justice and their efforts to organize for the rights of their

I urge you today to take immediate action to ensure effective
protection for human rights defenders and, in particular, members of
ADISMI and civic leaders in Sipakapa including Mario Tema Bautista.

Human rights defenders have the right to carry out their activities
without any restrictions or fear of reprisals, as set out in the UN
Declaration on the Rights and Responsibilities of Individuals, Groups
and Institutions to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human
Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

To this same end, I express my deepest concern for the arrest warrants
in effect for eight women and one man in San Miguel Ixtahuacan:
Gregoria Crisanta Perez Bamaca, Oliga Bamaca, Crisanta Hernandez,
Patrocinia Mateo Mejia, Crisanta Yoc, Marta Perez, Maria Diaz,
Catalina Perez, and Fernando Bacilio Perez Bamaca. I am concerned that
these arrest warrants have been issued in response to the individuals'
participation in community organizations opposing the Marlin mine and
defending community rights in the face of damages caused by the mine,
and not any real criminal act. I ask that you work to put an end to
the criminalization of protest in the areas surrounding the Marlin

I thank you in advance for your attention and action to protect the
important work of community organizations in San Marcos and all human
rights defenders in Guatemala.


Sample Letter for Goldcorp Inc. and Montana Exploradora (Guatemalan subsidiary)

Dear _______________________

I send this letter expressing my grave concerns for the situation
currently unfolding in San Marcos, Guatemala, where your gold and
silver "Marlin" mine is located.

I understand that 9 community members opposed to your mine have been
criminalized in recent weeks, though they are innocent of any crime.
On June 13th, one community member, a mother of six, blocked the
electric line running through her property. This act followed months
of her attempting to convince your company to remove the electric post
from her land, which she believed presented a danger to her and her
family. Within days, this act was used by Montana Exporadora to
pursue her arrest and the arrests of eight other community members who
have been involved in the denouncing your company for damages and
human rights violations caused by the Marlin mine. This is
unacceptable business behavior.

In addition, rumors have been flying in recent weeks about the
possible suspension of mining operations. These rumors have created
escalating community tensions leading to an increase in death threats
against community leaders who oppose your mine. It is absolutely
irresponsible for your company to let these rumors fester without
clarifying whether mining operations will or will not be suspended, as
unverified rumors could realistically lead to violence in the coming

I urge that you:

* Call for a suspension of the arrest warrants of the 9 community
defenders and a stop to all criminalization of protest in the area
around the Marlin Mine;

* Clarify your plans for operations in the coming months to your
workers and the communities surrounding the Marlin Mine as soon as
possible, thus squelching the rumors that are currently fueling
conflict and could lead to violence in the coming days;

* Accept the San Miguel Ixtachuacán affected communities'
conditions for negotiations that were recently submitted to you and
enter into dialogue with them on these terms.

A failure to act now to stop the criminalization of community members
who oppose your mine and to squelch rumors leading to potential
violence would only serve to bring strongly into question your
company's commitment to human rights and respect for local