Tuesday, December 20, 2011

International Civil Society Organizations Call for Justice for the Murder of Adolfo Ich Chaman

Guatemala City, Guatemala – Tuesday, December 13, 2011 – 27 organizations and networks from Europe and North America have signed on to a letter calling on the Guatemalan government to fully investigate the murder of Adolfo Ich Chaman in El Estor, Guatemala. He was reportedly killed on September 27, 2009 by private security employed by Compañía Guatemalteca de Níquel (CGN).

The organizations, based in numerous countries including Canada, USA, Austria and France, also specifically ask that the Guatemalan government carry out the arrest warrant for Mynor Padilla Gonzales, who reportedly shot Adolfo Ich Chaman in the neck. The warrant was issued shortly after the murder but no action has been taken. Earlier this year, company officials confirmed that Mr. Padilla Gonzales continued to be on paid leave from his work as head of security for CGN. At the time of the incident, CGN was a subsidiary of the Canadian company HudBay Minerals Inc., which sold its interest in the Fenix Project in September 2011 to Russian-owned Solway Investment Group.

Adolfo Ich Chaman was a respected Maya Q'eqchi' community leader and an open critic of human rights violations and environmental damage caused by corporate mining activities in his community particularly in relation to the Fenix mining project. Jackie McVicar, of the Canadian-based Breaking the Silence Network, noted, "We are very concerned with the lack of advancement in this case. It’s been two years since Adolfo Ich was killed, and there has been no justice for his murder."

The open letter asking for a criminal investigation in Guatemala follows a lawsuit that was launched last year in Canadian courts by Mr. Ich Chaman’s widow, Angelica Choc, against HudBay Minerals for the murder of her husband. In December 2010, Ms. Choc announced that she is suing Hudbay Minerals and its subsidiaries in Canadian courts to seek reparations for the death of her husband.

The organizations who have signed on to this letter express solidarity and concern for the safety of the family of Mr. Adolfo Ich Chaman. They also express solidarity with the Maya Q'eqchi' community of El Estor and all those human rights defenders who defend their land, land rights, and the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


Hi Friends! We are working to update and beautify our blog which we hope will be more user friendly and full of information about our work in Guatemala and the Maritimes. We are also looking for original pieces - articles, reflections, photos, photo-essays, etc. If you are interested in posting something, please be in touch! btsguatemala@gmail.com

Happy Holidays to you all! May the struggle for justice and peace guide you in 2012!

Breaking the Silence

Friday, November 11, 2011


Dear Breaking the Silence Friends,

We thank you for your support and once again seek your aid in order to nurture and deepen Breaking the Silence’s solidarity work with Guatemala. As you know, BTS has been working with Guatemalan partners and friends for 20 years. In this time of economic imbalance and poverty, more than ever before we want to ensure that our critical support is maintained. In this, the work of the BTS Coordinators in the Maritimes and Guatemala is critical! We are seeking to raise $200,000 over the next three years to support the work of Jackie McVicar in Guatemala and Wyanne Sandler in the Maritimes.

Over the past 20 years, BTS has:
  • Developed lasting relationships with our Guatemalan grassroots partners.
  • Participated in human rights accompaniment. BTS continues to strongly support human rights accompaniment in Guatemala. Accompaniment training will be held in June 2011. We are pleased to have three accompaniers in Guatemala at the present time, with more departing soon.
  • Hosted more than 60 Guatemalan visitors/speaking tours in Canada.
  • Held numerous public education events throughout the Maritime.
  • Sent 18 BTS delegations and 60 interns to Guatemala.
  • Acted on and responded to numerous Urgent Actions affecting partners and related organizations in Guatemala.
  • Supported the development of Breaking the Silence Coffee in partnership with the CCDA and Just Us! Coffee (over 30,000 lbs. of coffee over 8 years).
  • Carried out advocacy and lobbying in Canada around concerns of Guatemalan communities and organizations, including mining, maquilas and free trade.
BTS members talk about why our work is important:

· As a health care worker in an emergency department, I use values I learned in Guatemala every day. Justice and injustice in Guatemala doesn't happen randomly; health inequalities in Canada don't happen randomly.—Aaron Bates

· Being involved with Breaking the Silence is losing your sense of ego. This is a generational struggle, this is hundreds of years. In BTS's work, the small things quickly fit into the big picture.—Jeff Carolin

· Being with people in a transformative journey changes us. BTS has created a space where we can be together and help each other in political action & resistance, in love & creativity, in our deepening relationships with friends in Guatemala & here.—Wyanne Sandler

BTS needs ongoing support:
Our work depends on the time and energy of hundreds of BTS volunteers. Over the years, the volume and scope of BTS’s work has greatly increased. To continue this incredibly effective work, our many volunteer efforts require the support of our Coordinators in the Maritimes and in Guatemala. With such a large network of volunteer support, the organization and direction our Coordinators provide is invaluable in maintaining our strong, grounded and energetic initiatives.

How you can contribute? Over the next three years, we need to raise $200,000 to provide decent, living wages to our Coordinators and to support our ongoing work. Your charitable donation (along with grants we are seeking from organizations, churches, unions, and foundations) will help ensure the continuation of BTS solidarity work in the coming years.

We want to thank our institutional donors who have given us significant funding in 2010-11, the United Church of Canada, the Congregation of Notre Dame, the Public Service Alliance of Canada and Just Us! Coffee Roasters. We deeply appreciate this vote of confidence. We also encourage you to strongly support Breaking the Silence coffee, as well as all Just Us! products.

Whether you are a past delegation member, intern, accompanier or Breaking the Silence Network friend, we ask that you consider an ongoing pledge or a one-time donation. If you have already donated, we sincerely thank you. We would also like to ask you to consider increasing your monthly or yearly donation. We know that you, as BTS members and friends, vary in your ability to give. We want to assure you that we greatly appreciate both large and small donations and pledges. Such a monthly pledge might, for example, be the equivalent to a few cups of coffee (Breaking the Silence coffee, of course!)

Your donation, however big or small, will help the BTS network to respond to urgent human rights and development challenges alongside our Guatemalan partners. Your gift will help to ensure that our work—firmly grounded in principles of solidarity and social justice—will continue to be effective and sustainable for years to come. Please fill out the accompanying donation form today. Your gift is eligible for a charitable tax receipt. Donations made in the name of a friend or family member also make a great gift! If you do not feel comfortable mailing the donation form, please call 1-800-218-2220 with your credit card information stating that you are pledging to the BTS Coordinators Fund.

In friendship,

BTS Fundraising Committee:

Kathryn Anderson, Marie Claire Brisbois, Sheena Cameron, Janelle Frail, Bonnie Pero, Moira Peters, Jackie Race

Name: ______________________________
Address: ____________________________________________________
Phone number or E-mail: _________________________________________
Monthly Donation: __$50 __$30 __$20 __$10 _____other
One-time Donation: __$1000 __$500 __$300 __$200 _____other
Payment Method: __Credit Card __Cheque*
Credit Card Type: __Visa __Mastercard
Credit Card Number: _____________________________________________________
Credit Card Expiry Date: __________________________________________________

*cheque: For monthly donations, please include a voided cheque OR for one-time donations, please make cheques payable to Tatamagouche Centre with BTS Staffing Campaign on the memo line.

*cheques are preferable as we receive a greater portion of the donation.

Online donations can be made at www.tatcentre/donate (please write: “BTS Staffing Campaign” in comments section of donation page)

Donations to Breaking the Silence are charitable and you will receive a tax receipt at the end of the year.

Please mail this donation form to:
Tatamagouche Centre
RR#3, Tatamagouche NS
B0K 1V0

Your donation will support the work of Breaking the Silence.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Electing for Forgetting the Past - Guatemalan Elections 2011

As many of you know, the final round of the elections in Guatemala took place on
November 6, 2011. Tension was high leading up to this date given that the two
contenders, Manuel Baldizon and Otto Perez Molina, represent right-wing interests the former calling for the return of the death penalty. In the case of Perez Molina, he is well-known for his leadership in the Guatemalan intelligence branch of the army during the mid 90s and was on the CIA payroll. Before this, during the height of the violence 1982-1983), he operated the military base in Nebaj, Quiche. There are several allegations against him regarding the detainment, torture and disappearance of several people, some of whom Breaking the Silence, through their work with the Coordination of International Accompaniment in Guatemala (ACOGUATE) have accompanied over the past several years as part of the genocide cases. Also, at the beginning of this year, a case was filed against him regarding the illegal detainment, torture, disappearance and murder of Efrain Bámaca, a guerilla commander whose disappearance and murder remains in impunity.

Two hours after the polls closed throughout the country, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (Tribunal Suprema Electoral – TSE) called the vote in favour of former General Otto Perez Molina with 56% of the votes. It is important to note that voter turn out was under 50%. In other words, 50% of registered voters (there are 7,000,000 registered voters in Guatemala from a total national population of 14,000,000) or just over 3,000,000 people voted. To put it in a different way, 17% of the total population of Guatemala voted. Voter turn out in the second round is often much lower given the costs of travelling to voting centres and the fact that local mayors and congress are already elected during the first round. Despite the fact that since the previous elections, efforts have been made by the TSE to decentralize voting centres so that people who live in villages do not have to travel
long distances to vote, the recent rains that once again washed out roads and caused large-scale structural damage also destroyed many schools and community centres originally slated to be used as voting centres. As a result, many people had to travel into the larger municipal centres in order to cast their vote.

The first round of votes held on September 11thwere characterized by high levels of
violence, intimidation and allegations of fraud at the local, municipal level. As a result, five municipalities had to re-initiate their vote for mayor during the second round. According to the official press, this repetition was carried out with measured calmness throughout the five regions. I spoke with people in San Lucas Toliman where our partners, the Comite Campesino del Altiplano (CCDA) are located and they said things were fairly calm. Partido Patriota, the party of Otto Perez Molina, won the mayoral vote there which was what the agitators of the previous round wanted.

Manuel Baldizon´s party, Lider, won in the majority of departments with Partido Patriota winning only 7 highly populated departments including the department of Guatemala. It will be important to watch what happens in the departments where Lider won over the next couple of months although some analysts argue that the support for Lider would have been less if the party was up against the National Unity for Hope (Unidad Nacional de Esperanza - UNE) which currently holds the presidency under Alvaro Colom, as opposed to Partido Patriota. Also, it is interesting to note that Baldizon did not give his official speech on election night. Normally, both candidates give their final speeches following the declaration of the winner of the elections. Balidzon cast his vote in the northern department of Peten and indicated that he was going to return to the capital to wait for the
results - which he never did. According to the pattern in Guatemala, the candidate who comes in second in the elections is often elected president four years later so this will not be the last we see of right-wing candidate Baldizon.

One of the municipalities where the municipal elections were repeated was Chinique,
Quiche. As a TV reporter was coming back from the town after covering the elections,
he arrived in Santa Cruz del Quiche, the site of the main military barracks of the Quiche region, an area where over two thirds of the massacres took place during the violence. At 5am, he and his camera man were attacked by body guards of Congressman Mario Rivera originally from Rios Montt´s political party, the Guatemalan Republican Front (Frente Republicano Guatemalteco – FRG and currently with UNE. The recent news coverage about this attack is more focused on his recuperation and the fact that his wounds were not serious enough to file charges against the body guards than questions about the motives behind the attack or Mario Rivera´s involvement.

In terms of the capital city, there was a notable increase in ‘security’ forces in the form of the police and army presence. The ‘combined forces’ (police and military ‘fuerzas combinadas’) were peppered throughout the capital on the days leading up to the elections and especially on election day. Reports from friends of BTS who travelled around the city, indicated that the streets were ominously quiet.

During its elections coverage, TV news reiterated that the TSE was extremely efficient taking less than two hours to count the majority of the votes. They failed to mention or even allude to the plethora of complaints that were emitted following the first round where it took an entire week to post finalized figures. It is clear that the media is painting a picture of organized, ‘democratic’ Guatemala with their new peace president who signed the peace accords in 1996. They have referred to him as ‘el presidente de la paz’ (the peace president); however, they continue to refer to him as General Perez Molina as opposed to ‘President Elect’ which is the typical way of addressing someone after they have been elected president and before they officially take office. Nonetheless, today, two days after the elections, Perez Molina is also being referred to in local newspapers as President Elect.

Meanwhile, current president Alvaro Colom, who will be carrying out government
transition meetings with Otto Perez Molina over the next few weeks, just announced in an interview in the news daily El Periodico that he will continue to support his political party, UNE, but will be turning his attention to work on ‘regional security’ issues. Following these elections, the UNE has lost significant political control over important regions where resource extraction, hydroelectric, African palm and other lucrative commercial industries are highly contested and, profitable.

For those who can speak Spanish, there is an excellent website albedrio.org that will no doubt be coming out with several analytical essays from about the elections. Authors to look out for include: Gustavo Porras, Marielos Monzon, Sandino Asturias, Claudia Samayoa (who visited BTS at the 2011 AGM) among others.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Update from Intern Laura Fanjoy following Rainy Season in Guatemala

I had the opportunity to visit Salvador Xolhuitz this week, the CCDA-affiliated community that was most affected by the recent rains. The members of the community showed me the damages suffered on their property, and requested that I put together an article for their English-speaking friends to convey the impact of the damages and their concerns for the future.

The people of Salvador Xolhuitz have been through their fair share of struggles, since gaining access to their finca (plantation) through the government's land fund in 2004. They have worked to build their community, overcome internal conflict and attempt to meet the annual payments required to pay off their debt. Despite all of these challenges, residents are grateful for the land they now live and work on, and are determined to make their story a successful one.

Just as the rainy season was drawing to an end, the residents of Salvador Xolhuitz were presented with another challenge. After days of heavy rain, the earth gave way, and their finca suffered numerous landslides. Thankfully, there were no injuries or deaths, since the lanslides occured in the part of their property designated for production. The result however, is the loss .352 hectares of productive land, in the middle their harvest. Their losses are principally banana trees, coffee and trees used for wood. It is estimated that the cost of the damages is over Q 800,000.00 or $101,105.81 Canadian dollars.

The effects of the landslides would be devestating to any community, but in Salvador Xolhuitz there is an additional challenge, their debt. Altogether, Salvador Xolhuitz owes Q 2,740,123.28 (345,883.97 Canadian dollars) for the land they bought through the land fund in 2004. This figure represents an immense challenge, considering that each benefactor earns approximately Q 20 ($2.50 Canadian) a day[1]. As interest accumulates on their debt, benefactors find themselves further and further away from paying off the finca, with their payment plan to expire in 2016.

Guatemala's land fund was founded in the 1996 Peace Accords for the purpose of addressing the unequal access to land that plagues Guatemala. The land fund adheres to a market-based approach to land reform, which means that it serves as an intermediary between groups of campesinos interested in accessing land, and landowners interested in selling their property. Unfortunately, this program has failed to alleviate the problem of landlessness, as only 253 communities have succeeded in buying land since the land fund began its operations in 1998. Among land fund benefactors, the majority live in conditions of poverty, due to the poor quality of land accessed. It is common for fincas bought through the land fund to be remote, lacking infraestructure such as roads, potable water and electricity, and to have been long abandoned with land that is no longer productive. Since the creation of the land fund provoked a surge in demand for land, with few landowners willing to sell, the land accessed is often overvalued, leaving benefactors with a large debt. As the result of this situation, it is predicted that 139 of the 253 communities that accessed land through the land fund, will be unable to pay off their debt, and therefore are at risk of loosing their land. To date, three communities have lost their land after finding themselves unable to repay their debt.

Despite being among the 139 communities at risk of loosing their land, the residents of Salvador Xolhuitz are fortunate. The land they accessed is of good quality, and they have been able to build a school, install electricity and enjoy access to water. Since accessing the finca, they have had several good harvests, but have so far not been able pay the full amount outlined in their annual debt payments. Now, having lost approximately half of their coffee harvest, as well as other crops, they find themselves worrying about making ends meet, nevertheless fulfilling their debt payment. The damages suffered to the finca are yet to be acknowledged by the land fund, which has failed to provide any assistance to the community.

Aside from the land fund, the government has also failed to provide assitance to the community of Salvador Xolhuitz or other small producers affected by the rains. Unfortunately, when natural disasters strike Guatemala, emergency relief is often channeled through the government, where it rarely reaches campesinos. It is for this reason that the residents of Salvador Xolhuitz have turned to the CCDA their international partners, in this time of need.

In my conversations with the governing council for the community of Salvador Xolhuitz, I was told that any help received would be directed replanting lost crops and repairing damages, all of which will help them make this year's debt payment. Residents expressed their frusteration, that they have been forced to turn to organizations such as the CCDA and international partners for assistance, in times where it is the government's responsibility to come to their aid.

Donations can be sent to CoDevelopment Canada at #260 2747 EastHastings St., Vancouver, BC, V5K 1Z8. Any donation over $20 will receive a tax receipt. In order to ensure that your contribution is directed to the CCDA, please write "CCDA relief" on the memo line of your cheque. For more infomration, please write:

I (Laura) would be happy to answer any questions. I can be reached at l_fanjoy@hotmail.com. Please pass this information along to your communities!

[1] This figure is based on an estimation of their daily wages, using the approximate annual income of the finca divided by beneficiaries and days worked.

Please see attached for some pictures and a video I took during my visit.

Take care,


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Take Canadian Action against Guatemalan War Crimes

Some of you may know that the Guatemalan community of Las Dos Erres was massacred on December 7th, 1982. Some of you may have even followed the efforts of survivors to seek justice and guarantee historic memory. What you may not know, however, is that Jorge Vinicio Sosa Orantes - a former elite military office and one of the suspected perpetrators of the massacre - was arrested in Canada earlier this year.

Instead of facing charges of crimes against humanity, he has judged fit for extradition to the United States where he is wanted on the charge of immigration fraud. We can’t let this happen. It is worth noting that both Sosa Orantes and one of the survivors have Canadian citizenship.

Collaborating with various organizations, including: Breaking the Silence, Projet Accompagnement Québec-Guatemala, Lawyers without Borders Canada, Canadian Centre for International Justice, and Acoguate, we have created a website with further information on the case and a request to take action.

In English : http://lasdoserres.wordpress.com/

In French: http://lasdoserresfr.wordpress.com/

We encourage you to check it out, inform yourselves, and sign and send the letter under the “Take Action” section, to demand than an investigation be conducted in Canada under the War Crimes Act regarding Sosa Orantes’ alleged participation in this massacre.

* * *

16 sept. 2011

Certains d'entre vous savent que la communauté guatémaltèque de Las Dos Erres a été massacrée le 7 déc. 1982. Certains sont aussi au courant des efforts déployés par les survivants en défense de la mémoire historique et de la justice. Ce que vous ne savez peut-être pas, c'est que Jorge Vinicio Sosa Orantes, un ancien membre de l'unité de combat connu sous le nom de Kaibiles et un des présumés responsables du massacre, a été arrêté au Canada en janvier.

Au lieu de répondre à des accusations de crime contre l'humanité, il a été jugé apte à l'extradition vers les États-Unis où il est recherché pour fraude dans une demande d'immigration. C'est inacceptable. En plus, Sosa Orantes ainsi qu'un des survivants ont maintenant la citoyenneté canadienne.

En collaboration avec Breaking the Silence, Projet Accompagnement Québec-Guatemala, Avocats sans frontières Canada, le Centre canadian pour la Justice internationale, et Acoguate, nous avons créé un site contenant plus d'information sur le cas et une requête d'action.

En français: http://lasdoserresfr.wordpress.com/

En anglais: http://lasdoserres.wordpress.com/

Nous vous encourageons à le parcourir, à vous informer, et à signer et envoyer la lettre sous l'onglet "Agissez" pour exiger qu'une enquête soit menée au Canada, sous la Loi des Crimes de guerre, sur la participation présumée de Sosa Orantes au massacre.


Monday, August 29, 2011

The alliance between the indigenous peoples and trade unions in Latin America

ITUC Bulletin:

Discrimination, feudal exploitation, poverty, isolation, forced labour…the indigenous
peoples of Latin America are marginalised and with trade union support
denounce the pillage of their ancestral lands.
Reports about the Marlin gold mine in Guatemala and the El Chaco region in
Paraguay. Testimony from Brazil. The trade union priority is the implementation
of ILO Conventions 168 and 29, particularly in relation to international trade

For complete report, see: http://www.ituc-csi.org/IMG/pdf/VS_indigenesEN.pdf

Friday, August 12, 2011

Four Detained in Rabinal for the Massacre of 268 campesinos

On Wednesday night and yesterday afternoon, security forces captured three members of the defunct Civil Defense Patrols implicated in the massacre of 268 peasants in the community of Plan de Sanchez in Rabinal, Baja Verapaz, on July 18, 1982.


The detained were identified as ex-military commissioner Lucas Tecu, 56 years old, and Civil Defense Patrollers, Mario Julian Acoj, 54; Eusebio Grave Galeano, 56; and Santos Rosales Garcia, 70.

The first two were detained last Wednesday at the entrance of the community of Pacux, near zone 3 of Rabinal, and Grave Galeano y Rosales Garcia were apprehended in the community of Conculito in the same municipality.

To The Preventative Jail

They were all sent to the Preventative Jail in zone 18 of Guatemala City and today they will give their first declaration in court.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office has accused them of assassination and crimes against humanity. These are the first detentions for this massacre.

The Facts

The massacre occurred during the de facto regime of General Jose Efrain Rio Montt (1982-1983). The criminal process was slowed for several years given the amnesty that the military of the time enjoyed.

The survivors submitted a petition to the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights in 1996, which in 2004 ordered monetary and non-monetary compensation and symbolic compensation to families of the victims.

The military’s harassment of the community began at the beginning of July 1982, when a helicopter flew over the community and fired nearby, said Maria Lajuj, a survivor of the massacre.

In the early morning of July 18 of that year, the army fired bombs at the community from the military base which was located near the soccer field in Rabinal.

Since it was a market day, there were people traveling towards the town of Rabinal; the explosions alerted community members and they took refuge in the ravines, but the soldiers returned in the afternoon and executed them.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Guatemala Las Dos Erres civil war massacre trial begins

Guatemala Las Dos Erres civil war massacre trial begins

From left, in front row, Daniel Martinez, Carlos Carias, Manuel Pop and Reyes Collin wait in court during their trial in Guatemala City (25 July 2011)The four suspects (front row) deny having been involved in the massacre

BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-14285665

Four former Guatemalan soldiers are standing trial for the massacre of more than 220 people during the country's civil war.

The men are accused of being part of a Guatemalan counter-insurgency unit that carried out the massacre in the village of Las Dos Erres in 1982.

All four have denied the charges.

One local human rights group has called the trial "historic", saying it is the first of its kind to involve former soldiers.

The group, CALDH, has said the trial marks "the opening of the historical debate in our country".

At least 200,000 people - mainly from the indigenous Maya population - were killed during the country's 36-year civil war, which ended in 1996.

In 1999, a UN-backed commission estimated 93% of the killings were carried out by the security forces, who said they were targeting left-wing guerrillas.

The accused - Carlos Antonio Carias, Manuel Pop, Reyes Collin and Daniel Martinez - were part of the Guatemalan special forces, known as the Kaibiles.

A unit of Kaibiles entered the village of Las Dos Erres in the northern department of Peten in December 1982, during the time of the military ruler, General Efrain Rios Montt.

The military suspected the villagers of supporting or harbouring left-wing guerrillas.

Over a period of three days, the Kaibiles interrogated and then killed the inhabitants, including children, women and the elderly.

Many inhabitants were raped and beaten, before they were shot or bludgeoned to death. The victims' bodies were thrown down a well.

Fight for justice

Estimates vary as to the exact number of villagers killed.

In 2001, then Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo acknowledged that 226 people were killed and that the state bore responsibility for the massacre.

He awarded the relatives of those killed $1.8m (£1.1m) in compensation.

But relatives say the real total of victims is over 250.

They have been fighting for justice for years. The case was first investigated in 1994.

But, until now, no-one has been prosecuted.

The Guatemalan authorities have been under pressure to prosecute those responsible for human rights violations committed during the civil war.

And in 2009, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that the state must act in the case of the Las Dos Erres massacre.

Another soldier suspected of involvement in the massacre - Pedro Pimentel Rios - was deported from the United States earlier this month, but has yet to face trial.

Several other suspects are still at large.

Guatemala tries soldiers on massacre charges

Aljazeera English: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/americas/2011/07/201172644624981484.html

Four officers accused of killing 201 people in the second massacre trial related to country's 36-year civil war.

[From left to right] Daniel Martinez, Carlos Carias, Manuel Pop and Reyes Collin have all pleaded not guilty [AFP]

"That day, at 5pm, people arrived to tell me that there had been a problem [in Dos Erres], and since it was not my jurisdiction I couldn't help them," said Carias, who was second lieutenant at the time in command of an area 10km from Dos Erres.

The trial of four former Guatemalan soldiers, charged with taking part in a 1982 massacre of hundreds of civilians during the country's 36-year civil war, has begun in the Guatemalan capital.

The defendents, three of whom had been members of an elite security force known as "kaibiles", pleaded innocent on Monday in a Guatemala City court to killing 201 men, women and children, in the village of Dos Erres.

Daniel Martinez, Carlos Carias, Manuel Pop and Reyes Collin said they were not in the village and were stationed elsewhere the day it was stormed by government troops who killed at least 250 people in total there, according to court filings.

"I directed them to other villages to seek help."

Raping and killing

During the atrocity, the soldiers allegedly raped and killed women and young girls, among others, and threw the bodies of victims down a well.

Dozens of bodies were exhumed from the well in the 1990s and the remains from 171 victims were recovered in total. At least 67 children under the age of 12 were among the dead.

Prosecutors say soldiers entered Dos Erres in 1982 looking for missing weapons that guerilla groups operating in the region had stolen from the soldiers days earlier.

They did not find the weapons but accused farmers in the village of collaborating with the rebels.

Witnesses say villagers were tortured and robbed by the soldiers as part of a "scorched earth" campaign to eliminate communities supporting opposition groups at the height of Guatemala's longest civil war in history.

'Hungry for meat'

Cesar Ibanez, one of the witnesses, testified in the court proceeding that one soldier had sliced off a piece of flesh from a wounded villager's rib after his superior had told the soldier he was "hungry for meat".

From 1960 to 1996, more than 200,000 people were killed or disappeared as a military dictatorship fought to quell a popular uprising across the country, according to UN figures. Entire villages were exterminated in the conflict.

This is Guatemala's second massacre trial related to the civil war.

The first trial ended in a 2004 guilty verdict against an officer and 13 soldiers, but the verdict was overturned on appeal.

Also on Monday, a judge announced that a former National Police official has been accused of carrying out an enforced disappearance during the civil war and was jailed Sunday night.

Former chief of the 6th Commando, Pedro Garcia Arredondo, is accused in the disappearance of Edgar Saenz, Judge Veronica Galicia said.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


By Fernando Suazo, Rebelion, voselsoberano.com, July 12, 2011

(Translation for Rights Action by Rosalind Gill, RGill@glendon.yorku.ca)

Once again, Guatemala’s reputation on the world stage has been stained by an abject crime. This time it was Facundo Cabral who fell victim to our long and tragic saga of domestic crime. Cabral, a famous Argentinean citizen of the world – “I am not from here, neither am I from there”, “I have no age, no future” – had been a faithful friend during our uprisings in the seventies.

And while this bloody deed is being investigated, and the media competes to provide us with the latest details on the murder, it is time for us to look into the distance at the dark horizon that caused this murder and so many other crimes in our country.

It has only been two and a half weeks since the International Conference of Support for the Central American Security Strategy was held. The objective of this conference was to find ways to combat organized crime. During the conference, even the normally submissive presidents of the region spoke to Hilary Clinton in a manner that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago, or even a few months ago: The Mexican president dared to say what everyone in that country knows very well, even the birds, that 70% of the vehicles, aircraft, arms and munitions that kill our people are sold in the United States.

The Guatemalan president surprised us by saying that 83% of the drugs that pass through the region are consumed in the United States, and the remaining 17% in Europe. The presidents of Costa Rica and El Salvador stated firmly that drug trafficking would not exist without the enormous demand in the United States. The president of Colombia pointed out that the presence of drug trafficking mortally corrupts a democracy and eliminates many of the best professionals and civil servants in the country (I don’t know if he actually said the ‘mediocre’, which is the majority, that are corrupted by it).

It is clear that the United States must take responsibility for the situation – even Clinton recognized that her country is part of the problem — “We are accelerating our police patrols to find transnational organized crime networks ...” (we assume she meant within her country, but US imperialist diplomacy would, of course, not allow her to say so precisely).

There is no doubt that our region is the most violent part of the continent, and although it has no declared wars, it is one of the most violent areas of the world. According to the UNDP, the homicide rate in Central America is 33.3 per 100,000 inhabitants. Could this have anything to do with our imperialist neighbour to the north?

“Organized crime, basically derived from drug trafficking, is the most serious threat to the Guatemalan State. (…) It has infiltrated it and subordinated it over the last ten years, since Guatemala was convinced by the US to finance Reagan’s anti-communist policy in Central America.” This quote from journalist José Rubén Zamora refers to the eighties and the imperialist National Security Doctrine. (el Periódico, 27/06/11).

In the meantime, Guatemalans are shamed on the international stage because of the tragic death of a visitor from Argentina who sang such meaningful songs as: “My boss, poor guy, thinks I’m the one who’s poor …”

The word shame is on the lips of many people these days. Others, who take a more commercial point of view, point out that this crime will harm our tourist industry. And here we are, vacillating between shame and exposure of the fact that our beauty has been sacked, alienated and corrupted.

But is shame what we are really experiencing? I think it is more indignation or rage that the Guatemalan state has not fulfilled in any way its obligations because it has been taken over by transnational powers.

This is an old story in Guatemala: both inside and outside power groups have forced us into shameful situations that would never have arisen without their influence: When I was teaching our history to high school students, I would tell them of the strong emergence of indigenous communities in the sixties and seventies, when they began to seek development and affirmation as members of this society; I would also introduce the armed conflict and the bloody deeds of civil defence patrols set up by the army. Inevitably, some one would ask the question: “But how could those cruel patrol members be the same people who just a few weeks before had been working in solidarity for the development of their communities?”

Yes indeed, they were the same people. But the counter-insurgency war created life-and- death situations in which, as one of the students remarked – “you either had to go against your own people, or die”.

And from that corruption comes shame, self-denial, guilt and repression of sensitivity to people. Then the ground is prepared for power politics and patronage and for the influence of perverse religious groups. And this is still the case in our Guatemala today.

This is why I say that it is indignation rather than shame that we are experiencing. Rubén Zamora said: “In other words, the basic US strategy to combat drug trafficking by containing and reducing the supply of drugs has been a failure. Drug usage has not declined, drug distribution has increased and diversified and “laundered” money has gone from 2% of the world economy in 1998, according to the IMF, to10% of the world GDP, according to recent estimations. The money has gone from being laundered in remote fiscal paradises to taking its place in New York and London.”

Let other people feel shame – we should be outraged.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Farewell to the Legendary Alfonso Bauer Paiz

The legendary Guatemalan lawyer and political activist, Alfonso Bauer Paiz, passed away at the age of 93 due to heart failure on Sunday, July 10th, 2011. Revered as an exemplary citizen and the last of an outstanding generation, Bauer Paiz held several official posts during the revolutionary governments of the so-called Guatemalan Spring between 1944 and 1954. Exiled for many years after the U.S.-led coup d’état in 1954 turned the country into a violent downward spiral that led to an eventual genocide, Bauer Paiz participated in the Latin American revolutionary processes in Chile, Cuba, Nicaragua, and eventually aided Guatemalan refugees in Mexico. Before his burial, the man lovingly known as “Don Ponchito” was paraded for one last time along the streets of Guatemala’s historic center.

To see the complete photoessay by James Rodriguez click here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Outrage over the Murder of Protest Singer Facundo Cabral

Guatemalans from all sectors of society expressed their outrage over the murder of Argentinean protest singer Facundo Cabral. Mr. Cabral was gunned down in Guatemala City on Saturday, July 9th, after performing two concerts in the country. The primary hypothesis claims the assassination was in fact directed at Henry Fariña, Nicaraguan promoter who brought Cabral to Central America. (1) Nevertheless, Nobel Peace Prize recipient and presidential candidate Rigoberta Menchú assures Cabral “was murdered because of his political ideas and powerful music.” (2)

Cllick here to view the entire photo essay by James Rodriguez

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Today, June 28, 20011, three human rights defenders presented a formal report of torture, or “Allegation Letter”, to Professor Juan Mendez, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture. The letter alleges that General Otto Perez Molina, now a leading presidential candidate in Guatemala, was directly involved in the systematic use of torture and acts of genocide during the long civil war in Guatemala. Specifically, he was on the ground and in command in the Ixil triangle in 1982 during the village by village massacre campaign, and he was directly responsible for the long term torture and disappearance of prisoner of war Efrain Bamaca Velasquez. Protesters in Washington D.C. recently demanded the cancelation of his visa to the United States.

The report is accompanied by 1982 film footage[1] showing the then- Major Perez Molina being interviewed by journalist Allan Nairn in the Ixil triangle. The battered bodies of several prisoners lie nearby on the ground. Although Perez Molina was using a different name, he is identifiable by his voice and features. He is also well remembered in the Ixil . The video may be viewed at: http://www.youtube.com/verify_age?next_url=http%3A//www.youtube.com/watch%3Fv%3DIEN9OBmLdcE. According to the U.N. sponsored Truth Commission report, “Memoria de Silencio”, the army carried out daily acts of torture, genocide and terror in the Ixil region, and razed between 70 and 90% of the villages there. Perez Molina currently presents himself as a reformist and “peace candidate for peace”.

Otto Perez Molina was also the National Director of military intelligence (D-2) on March 12, 1992, when Efrain Bamaca, a Mayan resistance leader, was captured alive and taken to the Santa Ana Berlin military base. According to evidence cited in the Allegation Letter, a high level intelligence meeting was held at the same base that day, and the officers decided to subject Bamaca to a secret intelligence program for valuable prisoners of war. This consisted of long term torture in order to break the prisoner psychologically and force him or her to collaborate with the D-2 forces. Bamaca was severely tortured for more than 2 years: always in D-2 compounds, under orders of the D-2, and by D-2 specialists. He was also transported throughout the country by the D-2, and twice detained by a secret D-2 death squad based in the Capital at the notorious “La Isla”. The letter alleges that Perez Molina was the key intellectual author of this and similar war crimes cases. U.S. declassified documents confirm that the D-2 systematically tortured all prisoners of war, then either executed them or forced them to collaborate. In 1993 the CIA reported 300 such prisoners . See attached memorandum re Bamaca case.

The Allegation Letter requests an investigation into General Perez Molina’s responsibility for such war crimes, and was presented by the following human rights defenders: Annie Bird, Co- Director, Rights Action, annie@rightsaction.org 202-680-3002, Jennifer K. Harbury, Human Rights Attorney, jharbury@gmail.com 512-751-5852Kelsey A. Jones, Director, Guatemala Human Rights Commission-USA, kajones@ghrc-usa.org 202-529-6599



(By Annie Bird, Rights Action July 5, 2011)

Early this morning, July 5, Carlos Amador, a local teacher who holds the position of Secretary of the Valle de Siria Environmental Committee, and Marlon Hernandez, a teacher who holds the position of President of the Community Committee of El Terrero were arrested as they walked to work.

(Since 2004, Rights Action has supported and worked with the Valle de Siria Environmental Committee)

A total of eighteen arrest warrants have been issued against community human rights defenders and environmentalists from the Valle de Siria Environmental Committee and the Community Committee of El Terrero, apparently in the interest of facilitating access to gold deposits for the Goldcorp Inc gold mining company.


The community leaders have been charged with Obstruction of a Management Plan by judge Ingrid Quiroz in the Talanga Court. They were given conditional release until their trial scheduled to begin August 2.

The President and a Representative of the Valle de Siria Environmental Committee, Martin Erato and Marco Tulio Martinez, also are subject to arrest warrants, as are most members of the Community Committee (Patronato) of El Terrero.

During the day, members of the communities affected by Goldcorp Inc's concession poured into Talanga in a show of support, including six more Community Committee members with arrest warrants who voluntarily presented themselves before the judge.


This process is clearly a case of criminalization of human rights defenders, yet another example of how the Honduran justice system is engaged in flagrant violations of fundamental rights and due process.

The Public Prosecutor requested the arrest without having first undertaken sufficient investigation into the land rights of the two groups in conflict. Today leaders of the five communities affected are presenting fraud charges against the family who created a false title to the land in conflict.


The arrests stem from a conflict over a forested mountain known as Cerro La Terracita in the municipality of El Porvenir, department of Francisco Morazan, Honduras, an area communally owned for 250 years.

(Goldcorp Inc began operating its "San Martin" in the neighboring municipality. Goldcorp has a concession, illegally gotten according to many Honduras, to mine in El Porvenir as well, but never were able to operate their mine there due to the peaceful opposition of the local population).

On April 7, 2010, lumberers attempted to enter the communal forests, and were blocked by area residents who hold title over the land. Approximately 800 hectares of forests protect the spring that is the source of drinking water for between 15,000 and 20,000 people, inhabitants of the villages of Pueblo Nuevo, Guayovillas, Pedronal, Terrero, and Escanito. For many years the communities have been requesting that the Institute for Environmental Conservation declare the area a protected area.

The mountain forms part of a 1,870 hectare communal land title pertaining to the villages, a title that dates back to the early 1800s. However, since the Canadian gold company Goldcorp obtained its concession to the subsoil mineral rights in the mountain, residents of El Porvenir report that Goldcorp developed close ties to a family originally from the villages, the Raudales Urrutia family, who have for many years lived in Tegucigalpa and the town center of El Porvenir.

According to reports, approximately three years ago the Raudales Urrtia family, through fraudulent processes, obtained an illegitimate title over the land and obtained a permit for a management plan from the Institute for Forestry Development. Area residents report that the intention of the permit is to clear cut the forest. This would then facilitate exploitation later by Goldcorp since environmental permits would be easier to obtain for the already deforested mountain.


Since the Raudales Urrtia family began asserting ownership over the communal lands, they have maintained a private security force of six or seven heavily armed guards in the town of El Porvenir, who enter the villages heavily armed in vehicles with the obvious intention of intimidating and terrifying the population to facilitate appropriation of the lands.

On April 13, 2010, 15 heavily armed police arrived at the middle school where Carlos Amador, a teacher and 7-year member of the Valle de Siria Environmental Committee, works. They approached the school with guns raised in attack position. When they were unable to find Carlos, the police next went to his house which they also approached with raised guns and interrogated his two minor daughters as to his whereabouts, and left a citation to appear before police investigators.

Carlos Amador responded to the citation, but instead of asking questions related to the conflict over the La Terracita forest, the district attorney questioned him about the work of the Environmental Committee, asking questions like, "who are the leaders of the committee", "where do they live", "when does the committee meet", etc.

The conflict in La Terracita began shortly after Goldcorp's March 18, 2010 announcement to the press that its mine Closure Plan had been approved. Goldcorp, having completed exploitation of their first tract, the Palo Alto y Tajo la Rosa concessions, is anxious to begin exploitation of neighboring concessions, such La Terracita.

On request, Rights Action can provide substantial documentation and film links of serious health and environmental harms caused by Goldcorp's open-pit, cyanide heap leach mine.


The controversial closure plan was rejected by neighbors as it did not take adequate measures to clean up the heavy metals, such as cyanide, arsenic and mercury, among others, which have been demonstrated to exceed internationally established standards in Valle de Siria water system, and in the bodies of the residents.

The Closure Plan had not been accepted by the administration of then President Manuel Zelaya, which in April of 2009 created an inter-institutional commission to examine the plan and the impact of Goldcorp's operations in the region.

This measure followed a moratorium that banned the exploitation of mining concessions using certain techniques, such as those employed by Goldcorp, that the Zelaya administration enacted through a presidential decree in 2007.

Challenged by mining companies, in a 2008 ruling by the Supreme Court supported the Presidential Decree, finding sections of the 1998 General Mining Law, approved in the havoc following Hurricane Mitch, to be unconstitutional. This highly unpopular law had ushered in a fire sale of mining concessions in the late 1990s, early 2000s.

A new and fair mining law is seriously needed to define the all the procedures and guidelines that mining companies must follow if they want to exploit concessions they hold.

On April 27, 2009 President Manuel Zelaya proposed a mining law that banned open pit mining and the use of certain heavy metals, such as cyanide, in the refining process. This law would have made impossible expansion plans by mining companies, such as Goldcorp.


All discussions of the type of fair-minded mining law reforms that were needed came to a crashing halt, the day after the June 28, 2009 military coup ousted President Zelaya's government.

Though many expected the military backed coup regime to pass their own version of a new mining law - one that would be expected to greatly favour international companies and investors, to date this has not happened. It is possible that the interests that back a new mining law may be waiting for the ratification of the Canada - Honduras free trade agreement, expected to be enacted any day.


Ever since Goldcorp acquired its 'concession', and particularly since it began mining operations in 2000, and health and environmental harms began to be documented, a myriad of legal actions have been presented against mining interests in Honduras, yet virtually only the constitutional challenge has been ruled upon.

The Environmental Committee alone has advanced at least 25 legal actions related to Goldcorp's operation.

In 2000, criminal contamination charges resulted in arrest warrants against a Canadian Simon Ridgeway, legal representative for Entre Mares, the local company that owns the San Martin mine, a company now subsidiary to Goldcorp. The arrest warrant was never carried out, and in a similar way the investigation or prosecution of many other charges has never advanced.


Carlos Amador and Marlon Hernandez are thankfully released. This is due in no small part to a huge national and international response to these illegal detentions.

However, the trumped up charges are pending against them, and 16 other local community members.

Stay tuned, Keep educated, Stay involved.

Thank-you / Gracias a la vida

* * *



Rights Action is a not-for-profit organization, with tax charitable status in Canada and the USA. We fund and work with community-based development, environmental, disaster relief and human rights projects and organizations fighting to eliminate the underlying causes of poverty, impunity and environmental destruction in Guatemala and Honduras, as well as in Chiapas [Mexico] and El Salvador.


for the Valle de Siria Environmental Defense Committee, and other community-based organizations working for the re-founding of Honduras, for community-controlled development, environmental justice, human rights & justice in Honduras, make check payable to "Rights Action" and mail to:

UNITED STATES: Box 50887, Washington DC, 20091-0887

CANADA: 552 - 351 Queen St. E, Toronto ON, M5A-1T8

CREDIT-CARD DONATIONS: http://rightsaction.org/contributions.htm

DONATIONS OF STOCK: info@rightsaction.org

* * * * *


Contact us to plan educational presentations in your community, school, place of worship, home (info@rightsaction.org)


Form your own group and/ or join one of our educational delegation-seminars to learn first hand about community development, human rights and environmental struggles (info@rightsaction.org)


email and mail lists and re-distribute our information


www.democracynow.org / www.upsidedownworld.org / www.dominionpaper.ca


Eduardo Galeano's "Open Veins of Latin America"; Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States"; James Loewen's "Lies My Teacher Told Me"; Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine"; Paolo Freire's "Pedagogy of the Oppressed"; Dr Seuss's "Horton Hears A Who"


Annie Bird, annie@rightsaction.org, Grahame Russell, info@rightsaction.org, Karen Spring, spring.kj@gmail.com

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Register for the BTS Interns' Reunion

Friends, a few of you who we know for sure are attending the Reunion (and you are quite a few!) have registered, but many of you have not. Please do so, as once we have a good number, we will send out a questionnaire to get some feedback from you re plans.

If you can pay a significant amount of your fee of $165 now, so much the better. But, if not, please still register. You can register online at the TC Website, www.tatacentre.ca.

The Intern Reunion schedule begins Friday, July 1st:4:30-5:30: Registration (Come earlier if you wish!), 5:30 Supper. We finish July 3rd with Sunday lunch.

We have BTS bursaries available of up to $100 per person. Maximum total $ available is $1000. First come, first served. Please contact me, not Tatamagouche Centre, re bursaries.

Also you can reduce your costs by about $40 by camping. First come, first served, as we have only a limited number of camping spaces available.

Hasta pronto!


Tuesday, May 31, 2011


The enormity of transforming an unjust, unequal global economic system

By Grahame Russell, May 2011

Not surprisingly, Goldcorp Inc. did not agree, at its annual general meeting in Vancouver (May 18, 2011), to a shareholder’s resolution to suspend the “Marlin” mine in Guatemala, as ordered by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights.

In defiance of this binding suspension order, Goldcorp continues to mine gold and silver in Guatemala; huge profits continue to flow north to company directors, shareholders and millions of other investors across North America.

Neither government of Guatemala or Canada has done anything to ensure respect for the suspension order. The OAS (Organization of American States) has again shown its weaknesses, doing nothing to insist upon respect for the suspension order.


This is not a failure of education and activism work to put a stop to a long list of environmental and health harms, acts of repression and other human rights violations caused directly or indirectly by Goldcorp’s two open pit/ mountain-top removal, cyanide-leaching mines in Guatemala and Honduras.


Rather, it is a reminder of the enormity of the challenge of ending the impunity and immunity from legal accountability with which mining companies operate around the world and of transforming an often-times unequal and unjust global economic order. This impunity and immunity exist not only for mining companies, but also for many global industries producing fruits, ethanol based bio-fuels, oil and gas, textiles, tourism sites, dams, etc.

Moreover, this impunity and immunity are not narrow legal issues (ie, a lack of enforceable laws); rather, they are broad political, economic and social issues.

Reflecting on a struggle, now 7 years old and counting, to put an end to and hold Goldcorp accountable for harms, repression and other violations at its mines in Honduras and Guatemala, I find two major learning points.

Firstly, this is part of a long-term struggle to transform the often-times unjust and unequal global economic order. Goldcorp is a normal mining company operating in a normal way that brings huge benefit to some, and causes huge suffering to others. It is the very global economic model that needs transformation, with its inherent inequalities and injustices both inside and between nations.

Secondly, this remains an urgent struggle to reform laws in Canada and the USA so that enforceable environmental and human rights standards attach to all corporate and investor activities, whether at home or globally.

Any person or community from around the globe should have the right to file civil suit, or demand criminal proceedings in Canada and the USA if and when their rights and well-being are violated or harmed by Canadian or American corporate or investor actions.

The Goldcorp struggle is just one more example of the need to break the North American wall of impunity and immunity from legal accountability.


While Goldcorp continues its mining operation in San Miguel Ixtahuacan, Guatemala, generating great profits and harms, it is worth high-lighting that this struggle has served to inspire other communities across Guatemala, and elsewhere in Central America, to take actions (holding community based consultations; doing community education work; organizing peaceful resistance; etc) to stop mining in their communities before it starts.


This increasingly well-known struggle serves as a cautionary note and partial deterrent to other companies that, like Goldcorp, would love to operate mines in Guatemala or Honduras where there is little mining oversight intention or capacity, and where the companies leave no more than 1% of profits in country. Almost all the profits flow north, while all the harms, repression and other violations remain in these countries of the global south!


Canada has long marketed the image of “Canada the good”, a peace-maker country giving “aid” to the poor. As Goldcorp and other Canadian mining companies continue to cause harms, repression and other violations in countries across Latin America and the globe, the veneer has been taken off this myth.


This struggle has served not only to better educate Canadians and Americans about what some of our corporations are doing elsewhere, but also of how our own investments are often benefiting from unjust, harmful corporate activities.

Many more Canadians and Americans now know that they are (via pension funds, private funds and even “ethical” funds) invested in Goldcorp - and in a long list of global companies -that can and do cause harms, repression and other violations as part of their corporate operations, and that there is no direct way to hold our investment institutions accountable to even a minimum set of environmental or human rights standards. Over and over, we are reminded that our investment managers have one fundamental responsibility and fiduciary duty – to maximize profits!


Essentially, this struggle to hold Goldcorp accountable has served to educate North Americans that our governments and ourselves, as investors and consumers, are ultimately the enablers and beneficiaries of these often times unjust and harmful corporate and investor activities.


"There are no magic answers, no miraculous methods to overcome the problems we face, just the familiar ones: search for understanding, education, organization, action ... and the kind of commitment that will persist despite the temptations of disillusionment, despite many failures and only limited successes, inspired by the hope of a brighter future."

(Noam Chomsky)

Until we bring about legal, political and economic changes in Canada and the USA, companies and investors from our countries will continue to operate in ways, across the planet, that often benefit from harms, repression and other violations.

Slowly and steadfastly, more and more Canadian and Americans must get involved in this, and similar, global corporate struggles.

Support for local groups:

It remains imperative to directly fund and otherwise support community based groups in the mining affected communities who are leading the work (often at risk of repression) to put an end to the harms and violations. Delegations of concerned North Americans (including politicians, journalists, donors) must continue to visit the families and communities being harmed by mining, to learn from them, and to build direct solidarity alliances and partnerships.

Follow the money:

As stated above, whether we know it or not, most North Americans are invested in Goldcorp and many more companies that directly and indirectly cause harms, repression and violations around the world. North Americans should investigate whether their own pension fund, private investment fund and/or “ethical” fund is invested in Goldcorp (let alone a list of other controversial companies and industries) and then start demanding the implementation of binding environmental and human rights standards to all investor activities.

The votes:

As policy, the governments of Canada and the USA work endlessly to expand North American investor and corporate interests across the planet, more often than not turning a blind eye to harms, repression and other violations that our investments and companies sometimes cause. This makes the harms, repression and violations our issues, and we need to hold our governments accountable to uphold the highest environmental and human rights standards in all of our international dealings.

The message:

Our media usually relegates corporate and investment issues to the business and financial sections of their coverage, more often than not ignoring the environmental and human rights impacts of businesses and investments. Across North America, we need to keep on challenging our media to properly do their jobs.


Thank-you to all organizations and people who are involved in on-going efforts to hold Goldcorp accountable for the harms, repression and other violations it is causing and benefiting from, and who are involved, more broadly, in on-going efforts to create a just and equal global order.

We look forward to continuing this struggle over the years to come with people and organizations in Guatemala, Honduras, Canada and the USA.

Grahame Russell, Rights Action



Thursday, May 19, 2011

Goldcorp Asks Shareholders to Ignore International Consensus to Suspend Operations at its Marlin Mine in Guatemala

May 19, 2011

Jennifer Moore, Latin America Program Coordinator, MiningWatch Canada
Tel: 613-569-3439, jen@miningwatch.ca

Kris Genovese, Senior Attorney, Center for International Environmental Law
Tel: 604-220-4009, kgenovese@ciel.org

Goldcorp Asks Shareholders to Ignore International Consensus to Suspend Operations at its Marlin Mine in Guatemala

Vancouver—After a year in which every major human rights body has called for the suspension of the Marlin mine in Guatemala, on Wednesday Goldcorp asked its shareholders to trust its judgment instead. Six percent of shareholders voted in favour of a resolution presented at the company’s Annual General Meeting that would bring Goldcorp into compliance with international law, including an order by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued in May 2010.

Goldcorp CEO, Charles Jeannes, defended his company, citing its support for a new measure to regulate consultation of indigenous peoples in Guatemala.

“Indigenous organizations in Guatemala have roundly condemned the proposed administrative decree to regulate consultation,” comments Benito Morales, attorney with the Rigoberto Menchú Tum Foundation in Guatemala City, who attended the AGM today. “The government has put forward the decree to ensure that mining is able to continue in the face of over 50 local plebiscites in which roughly a million people have voted against mining in the Guatemalan countryside.”

Jeannes also referred to the company’s plans to implement recommendations from a human rights assessment it commissioned, and a new human rights policy that the company adopted in October 2010.

“What is your human rights policy worth if you disregard the findings of international human rights bodies?” asks Francois Guindon with the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala.

“Goldcorp said that it will no longer report on its implementation of recommendations from the human rights assessment,” remarks Wyanne Sandler of the Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network. “Also, many of the most important recommendations have not been implemented, such as posting a sufficient financial guarantee to ensure adequate funds for mine closure.”

Vice President of Corporate Affairs David Deisley argued against voluntary implementation of the IACHR recommendations, saying that affected communities or civil society organizations concerned about Goldcorp’s operations should enter into dialogue with the company.

“Dialogue requires trust,” says Jen Moore, the Latin America Program Coordinator for MiningWatch Canada, “but when the company is actively lobbying against the implementation of recommendations of human rights bodies, while ignoring the results of independent scientific studies that provide evidence of serious impacts on water supplies and local health, that trust has not been earned.”

“It is just as important to comply with international law as it is to comply with tax law,” said Kris Genovese, Senior Attorney with the Center for International Environmental Law in Washington D.C. “This case could not be any clearer. The mine must be suspended.”


Friday, May 6, 2011

What You May Not Know About the Marlin Mine in Guatemala

From CAMIGUA (The International Coalition Against Unjust Mining in Guatemala):

The continued operation of the Marlin mine is in contravention of the precautionary measures issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in May 2010.

1 Goldcorp asserts that the administrative process initiated by the Guatemalan government to consider a possible suspension of the Marlin mine “is in compliance with the precautionary measures granted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).”

What Goldcorp isn’t saying: The recommendations of the IACHR are binding on Guatemala, which should have resulted in the immediate suspension of the Marlin mine.

The IACHR did not ask the government of Guatemala to open an administrative process to investigate the merits of its recommendations, but rather to suspend the mine to prevent irreparable harm while pending complaints are properly investigated. The measures were issued not only to ensure the health and safety of the communities, but also due to the severity of underlying human rights allegations.

2 Goldcorp asserts that the Guatemalan government is carrying out an administrative procedure that “involves a thorough investigation of the Marlin Mine.”

What Goldcorp isn’t saying: Goldcorp is relying on studies that have not been made public and were conducted by agencies without the capacity to do them.

Of 23 studies referenced by the Government of Guatemala, not one has been made public. Goldcorp’s own Human Rights Assessment found “a lack of capacity and limited experience [by the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (MARN) with the issues required to enforce environmental standards in the mining industry.”

3 Goldcorp asserts that based on government information, “there has been no harm to human health or damage to the environment as a result of the operation of the Marlin Mine.”

What Goldcorp isn’t saying: Goldcorp is ignoring independent scientific studies.

Physicians for Human Rights found “some residents living near the mine have relatively high levels of lead in their blood and arsenic in their urine.” Belgian researchers at the University of Ghent found evidence to indicate that the Marlin mine is depleting surface waters and drawing arsenic- rich groundwater to the surface.

US-based E-Tech International found that water in the tailings impoundment did not meet IFC effluent guidelines in 2006 for cyanide, copper and mercury being 3, 10 and 20 times IFC guidelines, respectively.

4 Goldcorp asserts, there is “…no existing danger to the life or physical integrity of the population and definitely no possibility of irreparable harm.”

What Goldcorp isn’t saying: Peoples’ lives are at risk. Threats and intimidation against human rights defenders have been on the rise since the mine opened.

Impacts are not only on water. Amnesty International issued three urgent actions about the Marlin mine since 2010, including for the attempt on the life of a known activist.

5 Goldcorp asserts that a multi-stakeholder roundtable dialogue is an example of its contributions to human rights advancement in Guatemala, saying the process is addressing the petition before the IACHR as well as development issues.

What Goldcorp isn’t saying: The IACHR did not convene this dialogue, nor is it the appropriate forum to address the petition.

The dialogue table does not include diverse voices. It does not include all the legal representatives for the petitioners or those who oppose the mine.

6 Goldcorp asserts that Guatemala’s decision to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative is another step ahead for human rights.

What Goldcorp isn’t saying: The importance of this revenue transparency initiative is in its implementation, which has been poor.

EITI ensures the verification and publication of revenues member governments receive from oil, gas, and mining. Joining is only the first step; compliance can take years. This initiative does not verify compliance with human rights standards, nor has it prevented socio-economic conflict in other parts of the region where it is being adopted.

7 Goldcorp asserts that Guatemala’s proposal for a law to regulate consultation of indigenous peoples also advances human rights.

What Goldcorp isn’t saying: The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has criticized this law as another violation of indigenous rights.

As a result of having failed to consult with indigenous peoples in Guatemala over the design of this law, tensions within the country are being further aggravated rather than being addressed.

8 Goldcorp asserts that it “strives to continuously improve its performance in all aspects of its business, and believes that many positive results have been achieved, particularly with respect to the Company’s respect for human rights.”

What Goldcorp isn’t saying: Goldcorp is selectively responding to recommendations, avoiding crucial issues such as land acquisition and adequate consultation.

Goldcorp is not implementing key recommendations from its own Human Rights Assessment, such as “to halt all land acquisition, exploration activities, mine expansion projects, or conversion of exploration to exploitation licenses, pending effective State involvement in consultation with local communities, and agreements put in place with communities to structure future land acquisitions.”

Goldcorp should voluntarily comply with the recommendations of the IACHR and voluntarily suspend the Marlin Mine. It should also halt all land acquisitions, exploration activities, mine expansion projects, or version of exploration or exploitation licenses, until it complies with international law.

For more information, contact:

In Canada, Jennifer Moore, MiningWatch Canada, jen@miningwatch.ca

In the US, Amanda Kistler, Center for International Environmental Law, Amanda.kistler@gmail.com