Guatemala News: July 16-22

Indigenous Qeqchi’ Families Receive Lands

Five years after hundreds of families were violently evicted from the Polochic valley, 81 families have finally received plots of land as compensation for their displacement. 548 families still remain uncompensated.


‘Ecocide’ in Guatemala’s Pasion River Remains Unpunished

Shortcut to Quarterly publication

A year has passed since the Reforestadora of Palmas de El Peten, Anómima Society (REPSA) African palm oil plantation spilled chemical pesticides into the Pasion river. The spill killed massive populations of fish and polluted the rivers, leaving communities living alongside the Pasión without  access to water and food provided by the river. So far, no one from REPSA has faced criminal charges for the pollution.

 

‘King’ of Guatemala Inmates, Byron Lima is Killed in Prison

Byron Lima

The former army captain Byron Lima, convicted of the 1998 murder of Bishop Gerardi, was murdered in prison yesterday. Reports state that a riot broke out in Pavón prison on July 18th, leaving at least 12 dead and 25 injured. Byron Lima, who had gained control of the prison and was said to leave prison regularly for walks and fresh air, was considered to be “untouchable,” and his unexpected death raises questions as to who killed him and why.

 

Guatemala Prosecutor Says Threat Linked to Graft Prosecution

Guatemalan Attorney General Thelma Aldana says she believes that her ongoing investigations into the “La Linea” fraud case involving former President Otto Perez Molina and Vice President Roxanna Baldetti lie behind recent threats to her life.

 

Who Killed Guatemala’s Prison ‘King’ Byron Lima?

In “Who Killed Guatemala’s Prison ‘King’ Byron Lima?” InsightCrime reporter Steven Dudley analyzes government and Civil Intelligence Unit (DIGICI) reports of former military captain Byron Lima’s murder, which occurred at Pavón, a Guatemala jail, on Monday. In his article, Dudley raises questions about the legitimacy of the reports, citing inconsistencies between previous interviews with Lima, DIGICI’s reports, and reports filed by the Guatemalan government.  Byron Lima, charged with the murder of Bishop Juan Gerardi in 1998, had spent almost fifteen years in prison at the time of his death on July 18. Rumors have circulated since, implicating organized crime bosses, drug traffickers, and former military officials in Lima’s death on Monday.

Guatemala News: July 10-15

July 10

Guatemala Arrests Prominent Executive on Suspicion of Tax Fraud

Carlos Enrique Monteros Castillo, head of Guatemala’s largest hotel chain, was arrested Saturday night. He and another executive, also arrested, are suspected of evading $2.8 million in taxes. These arrests are part of CICIG’s work to root out corruption in Guatemala. Attorney General Thelma Aldana has expressed concern for her safety as CICIG and the Guatemalan government increasingly focus on private-sector corruption, an effort which could affect Guatemala’s economic elite.


July 13

Quiché: Lolita Chávez and the Fight for the Protection of Natural Resources

Lolita ChavezLolita Chávez, indigenous rights defender and environmentalist, has faced nearly continual threats — to her work, her community, and her life — on the part of Instituto Nacional de Bosques (INAB), a Guatemalan forestry company. The threats have been carried out mostly by groups of men who appear regularly in the Central Park of Santa Cruz del Quiché to chant threateningly “Lolita Chávez must leave the department of Quiché.” Chávez was scheduled to meet with the Public Prosecutor’s office on July 13th to discuss the threats she had received over the past years from INAB.

 

Guatemala News: July 2-10

July 5th:

Scandals Hurt Confidence in Guatemala Institutions: Poll

A poll by Prensa Libre shows that the recent corruption scandals in Guatemala have damaged the credibility of of the armed forces and the political elite. Citizen trust in the military, while declining to 50%, is still the highest level of trust of any other Guatemalan institution. CICIG has garnered the most trust from Guatemalan citizens, ranking higher than the Catholic and Evangelical churches.  

GuatePollMayaBioReserve

Criminal Activity Spreading Fire in Guatemala’s Maya Reserve

The razing of Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve continues as criminal groups burn preserved land in Petén, making room for the construction of clandestine landing strips. In the last few months, there have been over 160 fires which have destroyed more than 8,000 hectares of the protected forests. This is a major increase from last year when there were only 12 fires. This data shows a surge in use of the area for drug trafficking, primarily by the Sinaloa Cartel.

July 6th:

Guatemala Extends Use of Military in Policing Role

On July 3, 2016, the day after Guatemala’s national “Army Day,” a controversial holiday in celebration of the Guatemalan military, President Jimmy Morales announced that the Guatemalan Military would continue to support the Police in domestic security functions. Commissioner for Police Reform Aldea Torrebiarte supported the decision, while former police reform commissioner and human rights activist Helen Mack remains opposed, arguing that police militarization would push violence and delinquency to other areas, rather than address the roots causes of the violence.

Police Militarization

 

Guatemalan Police Confirms Clearing of People from Semuc Champey

The Guatemalan police (PNC) confirmed on Tuesday that indigenous community members from Lanquin, Alta Verapaz had been forcibly removed from the entrance of the Natural Monument Semuc Champey, a popular tourist attraction. Community members had decided to collect payments from tourists entering the site and to halt the presence of government forces there as a form of protest because of the government’s failure to observe Decree 25-2005. The decree declared Semuc Champey a protected area and promised compensation to local communities.

Guatemala News Update: June 2016

 

WEEK OF JUNE 6TH-JUNE 11TH

June 7th

MP clausura dos inmuebles de mina La Puya

A raid on June 6, 2016 by the Public Prosecutor’s office at the “Progreso Derivada VII” mining site revealed that the company Exmingua had continued to extract minerals despite numerous court ruling. In three raids conducted at San Pedro Ayampuc, San Jose El Golfo, and San Antonio la Paz in Agua Caliente, investigators uncovered 74 bags of minerals, each weighing 1,025 kilograms, in addition to numerous archeological artifacts.  

June 8th

Pueblos indígenas apoyan reformas pero exigen mayor participación

Representatives  from Guatemala’s Indigenous communities have said they agree to support the broad anti-corruption reforms but insist that the Guatemalan government guarantee and respect the Indigenous population’s right to political participation, without limitations.  

 

Guatemala: 8 Ex-Military Figures to Face Trial Over Killings

Eight former members of the Guatemalan military are on trial for their participation in crimes against humanity, in particular enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions during the country’s internal armed conflict (1960-1996).

June 9th

Guatemala journalist shot dead walking with grandson

On June 6th, Víctor Hugo Valdez Cardone, a television journalist, was killed in the city of Chiquimula. The motive is not immediately known. Valdez was walking with his grandson when two motorcyclists shot him before escaping. Guatemala continues to be dangerous for journalists, as at least 13 members of the press have been killed in the past 10 years.

Senadores estadounidenses firman petición de TPS para Guatemala

Twenty-six US senators signed a letter to President Obama, asking him to bestow Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Guatemalans and to renew TPS for El Salvador and Honduras. The main concerns surrounding the signing of the letter is the deportation of mothers and unaccompanied children. Guatemala is not currently designated for TPS, while El Salvador and Honduras are due to expire this year.

Mining Company Threatens Guatemala with Lawsuit in USA

After the Constitutional Court’s (CC) ruling forced the Guatemalan Mining Explorations (Exmingua) to suspend operations last week, industry experts say Exmingua could file a lawsuit against Guatemala under CAFTA regulations. According to Exmingua’s lawyer, the company lost $360 million due to the suspension of the license in La Puya.

June 10th

Guatemala AG Seeks End of Law Facilitating Official Impunity

Guatemala’s Attorney General Thelma Aldana is calling for the removal of the “antejuicio” in Guatemalan court proceedings. The “antejuicio,” a type of preliminary hearing, protects government officials as it slows down the attorney general’s investigations. This comes at a time when the country works to fight against the impunity of corrupt officials. Reforming the law to remove the antejuicio will be challenging, as it will require Guatemalan lawmakers to remove a law that benefits themselves.

Palm oil companies acknowledge human rights abuses in Guatemala

Last week, REPSA, a Guatemalan palm oil company responsible for a massive toxic spill in 2015, was required to publically take steps to prevent future accidents and violence. In response, REPSA published a “Policy on Non-Violence and Intimidation.” It has taken over a year for the companies to acknowledge the negative effects on the local indigenous communities.  

 

WEEK OF JUNE 13-18

June 13th

Guatemala Corruption Case Escalates as 5 Ex-Ministers Charged

Five former ministers in ex-President Otto Pérez Molina’s government were charged with money laundering and bribery. The men laundered up to $4.5 million through former Vice President Roxana Baldetti’s aide.

June 14th

Concluye primer día de primera declaración de los casos: “Cooptación del Estado” – “Coperacha”

The first declarations in the cases “Cooptación del Estado” and “La Coperacha” began today after being rescheduled last week due to insufficient space in the courtroom. The two cases, while they have different names, are connected through the involvement of ex-President Otto Pérez Molina and ex-Vice President Roxana Baldetti, whom are in jail awaiting the verdict on a corruption scheme called “La Línea.”

 

Seguridad alimentaria en riesgo, por falta de tierras para sembrar

A lack of arable land is threatening food security in Guatemala. Local governments blame the agriculture industry, as they use the land for profitable crops, including rubber, sugarcane, and palm oil. By using the land for their own needs, the agriculture industry takes away land that the farmers themselves need for crops to feed their families, such as corn, rice and beans. This competition has forced many farmers to migrate to other areas to support their families.

June 17th:

CICIG/UNICEF Report on Sexual Slavery in Guatemala

A 2016 report by CICIG has found that Guatemala serves not only as a passage for sex traffickers, but is also the origin and destination of a sex trafficking network. Contributing factors to the persistence of sex trafficking include poverty, impunity, and existing patriarchal social structures in Guatemala. CICIG notes that approximately 57% of exploited people fall between the ages of 12 and 17.

Development of a Hydroelectric Plant Dries River, Leaves Communities without Water

The Cahabón River, in Alta Verapáz, has historically provided Quekchí communities with clean drinking water, but with the introduction of a Corporación Multi-Inversiones (CMI) hydroelectric plant, sections of the river have been dammed  and can no longer support communities in the region. Several groups have peacefully protested the project, including Guatemalan environmental organization Madre Selva.

June 18th:

Rural Communities’ Struggle Against U.S. – Owned Mine Continues in Guatemalan Supreme Court

The Kappes, Cassiday, and Associates (KCA) El Tambor mine in Guatemala has continued to operate, despite numerous Guatemalan court rulings’ ordering it to discontinue its extraction operations.  

WEEK OF JUNE 20-24

June 20th

How a Guatemalan murder trial could forever change Canadian overseas mining

Mynor Padilla, a former security guard of a Canadian mine, HudBay Minerals Inc., is charged with the murder of Adolfo Ich, a Mayan Q’eqchi leader. Ich was shot in 2009 and the case against Padilla is advancing slowly, as it seems HudBay is paying for Padilla’s high-profile lawyers. His lawyers, one of whom is charged with corruption, argued that Padilla would not get a fair trial in Guatemala due to judicial corruption.

June 21st

Guatemala Attorney General “Afraid for the First Time”

In a post on her Facebook page this Monday, Guatemalan Attorney General Thelma Aldana wrote that for the first time in office, she was concerned for her safety. The cases, pushed forward by the Guatemalan Public Prosecutor’s office, and the CICIG, could affect Guatemala’s most powerful political and economic elites.

June 22nd

Center for Advanced Genocide Research Hosts International Conference to Shed Light on Genocide and Resistance in Guatemala

The USC Shoah Foundation, which does research on mass atrocities and genocide, will host an international conference in Los Angeles from September 11-14, 2016 focusing on the genocide of Maya ethnic groups during the Guatemala’s internal armed conflict.

Allanan oficina de Impunity Watch  

At 5:30 pm on June 21st, masked armed men broke into Impunity Watch offices and detained one person while searching the organization’s documents and records. U.S. ambassador Todd Robinson tweeted that “those who broke into the Impunity Watch offices demonstrated their weakness and fear. We support everyone working toward justice in Guatemala.” Alberto Brunori of the UN Human Rights office suggested that the act of intimidation was related to the Molina Theissen case in which a fourteen-year-old boy was disappeared in 1981.

400 Police Trained in the U.S.

Victor Miln, Miami-Dade Police Department spokesman, explained that 400 Guatemalan National Civilian Police (PNC) officers received tactics training in the United States. Milian said that the training “served also to ensure that they [PNC members] would be able to train other agents.” During the training, select groups of agents learned techniques for interacting with communities. Adela Camacho de Torrebiarte, of the Police Reform Committee, says that the goal of the training is to “bring PNC agents closer to communities.”

 

Global Palm Oil Traders Acknowledge the Need to Prevent Human Rights Abuses in Guatemala

Civil Society Pressure Shines a Spotlight on Ongoing Environmental Destruction and Murder in Guatemala’s Palm Sector

June 8, 2016

One year after a massive spill of toxic palm oil effluent into Guatemala’s Pasión River that was labeled an ‘ecocide’ by a Guatemalan court, and nine months after the killing of a Guatemalan activist who denounced the spill, social movement groups in Guatemala are still demanding justice, and companies have begun to recognize that such violence and ecocide must not be tolerated.

Last week, Cargill, one of the largest purchasers of palm oil from Guatemala, published a statement requiring REPSA, the Guatemalan company that was the defendant in the ecocide case, to take a series of actions to prevent future violence. The same day, REPSA published a “Policy on Non Violence and Intimidation.”

The companies’ statements come in the wake of a series of tragic events, and as a response to continued pressure from Guatemalan civil society and international advocacy groups.

Following a deadly spill of pesticide-laden palm oil waste into the Pasión River in the municipality of Sayaxché in northern Guatemala in June 2015, a Guatemalan court ruled the spill an “ecocide” and ordered that REPSA suspend operations pending investigation. Immediately following the ruling, in September, 2015, one of the plaintiffs, Q’eq’chi Mayan schoolteacher Rigoberto Lima Choc, was shot and killed.

In response, civil society groups in Guatemala have pursued a series of legal actions and non-violent protests, and a coalition of international advocacy groups including Friends of the Earth-US, Rainforest Action Network, ActionAid USA, Oxfam America and the Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA have called on global palm oil giants Wilmar, Cargill, IOI, ADM, AAK and Bunge to publicly denounce the violence, cut ties to REPSA, and take clear steps to address human rights risks in their supply chains. Friday’s statements from Cargill and REPSA are the first visible signs that companies recognize the need to address civil society’s demands.

“The clear denunciation of violence by both Cargill and REPSA is a positive step and clearly needed given the recent murder and kidnapping of activists,” said Gemma Tillack, Agribusiness Campaign Director for Rainforest Action Network. “The statement issued by Cargill contains a number of clear demands that REPSA must comply with to maintain contracts – but this falls short of local civil society demands for the shut down of REPSA’s palm oil operations that were responsible for the ecocide of the Pasión River.”

“Cargill’s public position against violence and REPSA’s promise of reform are significant,” said Jeff Conant, Senior International Forests Program Director at Friends of the Earth-US. “But real transformation will only come when the rights of local people take full precedence over the profits of agribusiness.”

“REPSA has thus far not engaged civil society groups effectively and there is no indication that the security situation in the region will allow for meaningful and safe dialogue with local groups,” Conant added. “There is a clear need for the companies to act – but company engagement in regions suffering high levels of violence and weak governance is extremely delicate. The companies must take their cues from the demands of organized civil society in Guatemala to avoid creating more conflict.”

The anniversary of the June, 2015 toxic leak and fish kill that covered over 100 kilometers in the Pasión River was marked by a march in which some 800 residents of Sayaxché took to the streets to demand justice. A key demand of many local groups is that REPSA permanently cease its operations in the region.

REPSA’s Non-Violence and Intimidation Policy is open for two months of public comment, but the company has not yet provided a plan for engagement with local stakeholders. Cargill has made it known that in order to continue doing business with REPSA, REPSA must “engage local communities and civil society groups… to rebuild trust by creating a participatory process in partnership with local communities and civil society.”

Relations between the palm oil supplier and local groups is especially tense due to the unresolved murder of environmental and human rights defender Rigoberto Lima Choc immediately following a court ruling against REPSA last September. The international NGO coalition is concerned that the companies’ positions are out of touch with local communities that are calling for the full rejection of REPSA’s operations in the region.

“Lima Choc’s murder shows the severity of the threats facing activists, and remains an open wound that will not be healed by words on paper,” said Kelsey Alford-Jones, Director of the Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA. “Yesterday, hundreds of brave community members gathered in Sayaxché to demand that REPSA permanently close down its operations.”

“Thousands of Guatemalans rely on the Pasión River to earn a living and feed their families, but the negligent actions of REPSA are putting their way of life at risk. REPSA and its parent company, Grupo Olmeca, must be held to account for the damage its operations have done to these communities,” said Doug Hertzler, Senior Policy Analyst at ActionAid USA.

It is too early to tell what repercussions Cargill’s statement may have for the resolution of grievances in Guatemala, or for its palm oil supply, much of which is sold in Europe.

“While some companies that source from REPSA and Grupo Olmeca, including Cargill, have listened to civil society asks and taken positive steps, others remain silent,” noted Oxfam America Policy Advisor Aditi Sen. “All companies have a responsibility to respect human rights, and must have transparent processes in place to investigate human rights impacts in their supply chains and ensure that those harmed by their operations or suppliers are able to access remedy.”

Other companies that purchase from REPSA, directly or indirectly, include global palm oil traders Wilmar, IOI, ADM, AAK and Bunge.

Signed:

Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA
Friends of the Earth-United States
Rainforest Action Network
Oxfam America
ActionAid USA

For more information on the case, visit GHRC’s website: http://www.ghrc-usa.org/our-work/current-cases/african-palm-oil-production-repsa-ecocide-case/

 

Organizaciones internacionales celebran la apertura a juicio del caso CREOMPAZ

GHRC has joined six other international organizations in applauding the recent ruling in the CREOMPAZ case. On June 7, a Guatemalan judge ruled that 8 former military officials would face trial on charges of forced disappearance and crimes against humanity. The judge had heard weeks of testimony and reviewed extensive evidence uncovered on the CREOMPAZ military base in Cobán, including 565 bodies exhumed from 85 clandestine cemeteries. Fourteen people were initially detained in January, and eight others remain fugitives of justice. International organizations expressed concern about acts of intimidation and hate speech used during the process, but called the ruling an important step in the fight against impunity.  

8 de junio de 2016

El día de ayer, la jueza Claudette Domínguez, del Juzgado de Mayor Riesgo A, ordenó que Manuel Benedicto Lucas García, exjefe del Estado Mayor General del Ejército, junto con otros 7 exmilitares, deben enfrentar un juicio por desaparición forzada y crímenes contra los deberes de humanidad, sobre la base de pruebas científicas y testimonios de sobrevivientes. Asimismo concluyó la etapa intermedia del proceso que había iniciado el 3 de mayo de 2016.

En 2012, en el marco de la investigación del caso, fueron hallados 85 cementerios clandestinos en la zona militar de Cobán—hoy sede del Comando Regional de Entrenamiento de Operaciones de Paz, CREOMPA—, en los cuales se exhumaron las osamentas de 565 personas, entre niños, niñas, adultos y mayores, pertenecientes a los pueblos maya de Poqomchí, Achí, Q’eqchí, K’iché, Poqomchi’, Achi, Q’eqchi’, K’iche’ e Ixil. Hasta la fecha, se ha logrado identificar a 128 víctimas, representadas en el proceso penal por seis organizaciones que actúan como querellantes, y apoyan la labor del Ministerio Público, para poner fin a la impunidad que persiste desde hace más de 35 años.

El pasado 6 de enero, fueron detenidos 14 exmilitares de alto rango, quienes desempeñaron sus funciones en la zona militar 21 de Cobán, entre 1980 y 1987. En esa época, ocurrieron numerosas desapariciones forzadas y otras graves violaciones a los derechos humanos contra la población civil, cometidas por el Ejército de Guatemala en todo el territorio nacional. Ocho personas siguen prófugas de la justicia en este caso.

Además, en mayo del presente año, el Juzgado dictó la falta de mérito en contra de tres de los exmilitares capturados, y separó del proceso penal a otro de los acusados para determinar su capacidad mental para enfrentar un juicio penal.

Son preocupantes los actos de intimidación ocurridos en el marco del proceso en contra de los defensores y las defensoras de derechos humanos con vinculación al mismo, por parte de personas y organizaciones afines a los militares procesados. Asimismo, hubo varias manifestaciones en pro de los militares sindicados en frente del Tribunal, antes y después de las audiencias, con carteles y eslóganes hostiles y agresivos en contra de las personas y organizaciones cercanas al caso. Estos hechos evidencian un discurso de odio que pretende desacreditar a las víctimas y los querellantes adhesivos y generar un clima de miedo. Cabe recordar que es responsabilidad del Estado brindar las medidas adecuadas para garantizar la seguridad de los sujetos procesales y del público presente en las audiencias.

Las organizaciones internacionales que suscriben este comunicado celebran la apertura a juicio en el caso. Esta decisión representa un paso importante para la lucha contra la impunidad de las graves violaciones a los derechos humanos, ocurridas durante el conflicto armado interno en Guatemala, y para el cumplimiento de la obligación del Estado de investigar, juzgar y sancionar dichos crímenes. Decisiones como ésta, representan el camino a seguir para garantizar el acceso a la justicia y a la verdad, de las víctimas de estos graves delitos y sus familiares, así como de la sociedad guatemalteca en general.

Firmado:

Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA
International Platform against Impunity
Due Process of Law Foundation
Lawyers Without Borders Canada
Impunity Watch
Washington Office on Latin America
Center for Justice and International Law

International Organizations Reiterate Support for Guatemalan Communities and Institutions Upholding Rule of Law and Respect for Human Rights in the case of the communities of La Puya and El Tambor Mine

[en español abajo]

May 24, 2016

The undersigned human rights and environmental law organizations applaud recent efforts by Guatemalan courts to enforce domestic laws and international norms in relation to the right to consultation and corporate accountability in the case of the El Tambor mine, also known as “Progreso VII Derivada.” We reiterate our support for the Communities in peaceful resistance of La Puya in Guatemala.

Guatemalan courts have granted a provisional injunction, ordering the suspension of the license for gold and silver extraction at the El Tambor mine. The mine is owned by the company Exploraciones Mineras de Guatemala, SA (Exmingua), subsidiary of US company Kappes, Cassiday & Associates. KCA acquired 100% interest in Exmingua from Canadian company Radius Gold in 2012; Radius receives royalty interest and cash payments from the project.

The injunction was granted because Guatemala’s highest court recognized that the State failed its duty to consult the affected communities prior to awarding the license and did not initiate processes to seek the consent of affected Indigenous peoples. The right of Indigenous peoples to consultation is enshrined in ILO Convention 169 and the right to free, prior and informed consent is recognized by Guatemala, a signatory to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The recent rulings have affirmed the concerns expressed by communities in San Pedro Ayampuc and San Jose del Golfo. From the time they learned of the mining concession in 2011, they have raised concerns about the lack of consultation, violation of Indigenous peoples’ rights, and detrimental health and environmental impacts of the mine.

International organizations have closely observed the case since the La Puya movement initiated a non-violent sit-in at the entrance to the mine in 2012 to demand their government comply with constitutionally-required protections for Guatemalan citizens. Their legitimate concerns have been met with repression, public defamation and trumped-up criminal charges. Violence has been committed against human rights defenders with impunity. There still has been no real investigation into the June 2012 shooting of a La Puya activist, nor has there been investigation or redress for the serious injuries sustained by protestors during the violent eviction by the police in May 2014. Questions also remain about the incident on the night of April 29, in which two people were injured at the sit-in in front of the MEM.

We reiterate the importance of investigating these acts of violence, as well as addressing the serious concerns raised by the communities in terms of the environmental impact of mining activities on their water and health. International experts who reviewed the company’s Environmental Impact Assessment found numerous deficiencies and concluded that it did not meet basic international standards.

We also draw attention to the fact that the court injunction has set in motion a series of investigations that reveal evidence of possible illegal activity by Exmingua.

On March 10 of this year, the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) enforced the injunction through corresponding administrative measures by suspending Exmingua’s license for mineral extraction. A MEM inspection in April verified the company continued to operate, and on May 9, police and prosecutors arrested four Exmingua employees on charges of illegal resource extraction. They had in their possession 19 sacks of gold and silver concentrate, worth an estimated US$1.9 million in total. We are concerned that on May 10, charges were dropped against the men for “lack of merit,” released the workers and ordered the sacks of minerals returned to the company, an action that suggests a lack of understanding of the resolutions of Guatemala´s highest courts. However, just days later, police and prosecutors carried out four more raids at a clandestine warehouse and recovered 300 sacks, worth a total of approximately $30 million.

The media has revealed that investigators had traced helicopters contracted by the company – allegedly used to transport minerals from the mine site to a farm in El Progreso — to Juan Carlos Monzón, former Private Secretary to ex Vice President Roxana Baldetti, and to Raúl Osoy Penado, a business man who allegedly served as a front man for Baldetti. All have been embroiled in a series of major corruption scandals that led to the arrest of Baldetti and former President Otto Pérez Molina, among many others in 2015.

A separate legal case has raised serious questions regarding whether the company possessed the necessary municipal construction permits to operate at the site, including the alleged falsification of these permits.

Guatemala has taken important strides to address long-standing challenges of government corruption and impunity. We commend the Guatemalan courts for their recent rulings that uphold rule of law as well as the efforts of the Ministry of Energy and Mines and the Public Prosecutor’s Office for their actions to uphold the right to prior consultation and ensure corporate accountability in this case.

We call on US company KCA and its subsidiary Exmingua to immediately halt all operations and comply with the recent MEM resolution and the provisional court injunction.

We call on the Public Prosecutor’s Office to continue all relevant investigations into alleged criminal acts related to Exmingua, KCA and the El Tambor mine.

We call on the Guatemalan government and the Interior Ministry to ensure the safety of those who participate in La Puya and of Guatemalan citizens who engage in peaceful protest.

We urge the US Embassy to support human rights defenders and condemn the use of hate speech and defamation as a tool to impede their work. Further, we call on the Embassy to take all possible measures to ensure US companies respect the law and human rights, in accordance with domestic legislation, court rulings, and guided by the highest international standards for multinational corporations. We urge US Ambassador Todd Robinson to make a public statement to this effect.

Signed:

Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA
Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala
Center for International Environmental Law
Maritimes – Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network
Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada
Rights Action Canada
Rights Action USA
Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America
Latin America Working Group
Oxfam
American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
American Jewish World Service
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas – Institute Justice Team
International Platform against Impunity


Organizaciones internacionales reiteran su apoyo a las comunidades y a  las instituciones que quieren apoyar el estado de derecho y el respeto a los derechos humanos en el caso de las comunidades de la Puya y la mina El Tambor

24 de mayo de 2016

Las organizaciones de derechos humanos y derecho ambiental abajo firmantes aplaudimos los esfuerzos recientes de las cortes guatemaltecas para aplicar la ley nacional y normas internacionales en relación al derecho a la consulta y la responsabilidad corporativa en el caso de la mina El Tambor, también conocido como “Progreso VII Derivada”; y reiteramos nuestro apoyo para las Comunidades en resistencia pacífica de la Puya en Guatemala.

Las cortes guatemaltecas han otorgado un amparo provisional, dejando en suspenso el otorgamiento de la licencia de explotación de oro y plata en la mina El Tambor . El dueño del proyecto es la empresa Exploraciones Mineras de Guatemala, SA (Exmingua), subsidiaria de la empresa estadounidense Kappes, Cassiday & Associates. KCA; la cual adquirió 100% del interés en Exmingua de la empresa canadiense Radius Gold en 2012. Radius sigue recibiendo intereses por regalías y pagos en efectivo del proyecto.

El amparo fue otorgado porque las cortes reconocieron que el Estado no cumplió con su obligación de consultar a la población antes de iniciar el proyecto y no inició ningún proceso para buscar el consentimiento de las poblaciones indígenas afectadas. El derecho de pueblos indígenas a ser consultados está consagrado en el Convenio 169 de la Organización Internacional de Trabajo y el derecho al consentimiento libre, previo e informado es reconocido por Guatemala, país signatario de la Declaración de las Naciones Unidas sobre los derechos de los pueblos indígenas.

Las resoluciones recientes han afirmado las preocupaciones expresadas por las comunidades de los municipios de San Pedro Ayampuc y San José del Golfo.Desde el momento en que supieron de la concesión minera en 2011, han expresado sus preocupaciones sobre la falta de consulta, violaciones de los derechos de pueblos indígenas y los impactos negativos de la mina en el medio ambiente y la salud de las personas.

Organizacionesinternacionales hemos observado de cerca este caso, desde que las comunidades iniciaron un plantón pacífico en la entrada a la mina en 2012 para exigir que su gobierno cumpliera con las garantías de protección para la ciudadanía establecidas en la Constitución guatemalteca. La respuesta a sus preocupaciones legítimas ha sido una combinación de represión, difamación pública y criminalización. Se han cometido actos de violencia en contra de las y los defensores de derechos humanos de estas comunidades que prevalecen impunes. Aun hace falta una investigación real del atentado en contra de una activista en junio de 2012; tampoco ha habido investigación o reparación por las graves heridas sufridas por comunitarios durante el desalojo violento llevado a cabo por la PNC en mayo de 2014. No se ha esclarecido el incidente ocurrido la noche del 29 de abril, en el que dos personas resultaron heridas en el plantón frente al MEM.

Reiteramos la importancia de investigar estos actos de violencia, así como abordar las preocupaciones serias de las comunidades en relación con impactos ambientales, sobre el agua y su salud por la actividad minera. Expertos internacionales quienes analizaron el Estudio de Impacto Ambiental encontraron numerosas deficiencias y concluyeron que no cumple con los estándares internacionales básicos.

Destacamos también el hecho de que el amparo ha puesto en marcha una serie de investigaciones que revelan evidencia de posibles actividades ilegales por parte de Exmingua.

El 10 de marzo del año en curso, el Ministerio de Energía y Minas (MEM) respondió a la resolución legal con las medidas administrativas correspondientes, suspendiendo la licencia de explotación de Exmingua. Una inspección del MEM en abril verificó que la empresa seguía operando.El 9 de mayo, agentes policiales y el Ministerio Público detuvieron a cuatro trabajadores de Exmingua, sindicados del delito de explotación ilegal de recursos naturales. En su vehículo se encontraron 19 costales de concentrado de oro y plata, valorados en total en aproximadamente US$1.9 millones . Nos preocupa que el 10 de mayo se retiraron los cargos contra los hombres por “falta de mérito”, fueron puestos en libertad los trabajadores y los sacos de minerales devueltos a la empresa, una acción que sugiere una falta de conocimiento de la resolución de las máximas cortes del país. Sin embargo, unos días después, policías y agentes fiscales llevaron a cabo cuatro allanamientos de una bodega clandestina e incautaron 300 sacos, valorados en un total de aproximadamente US$30 millones.

Notas de prensa han revelado que investigadores habían vinculado helicópteros contratados por la empresa – supuestamente usados para transportar minerales de la mina a una finca en El Progreso – a Juan Carlos Monzón, ex secretario privado de la ex vice presidenta Roxana Baldetti, y a Raúl Osoy Penado, empresario que supuestamente actuó como testaferro para Baldetti . Todos han sido envueltos en una serie de grandes escándalos de corrupción que resultaron en el arresto de Baldetti y el ex presidente Otto Pérez Molina en 2015, entre muchos otros.

Otro caso legal ha revelado serias dudas sobre si la empresa tenía los permisos municipales necesarios para sus actividades de construcción en el sitio e incluso la presunta falsificación de dichos permisos.

Guatemala ha tomado pasos importantes para abordar los grandes retos de combatir la corrupción estatal y la impunidad. Aplaudimos las resoluciones apegadas a derecho tomadas por las cortes guatemaltecas,así también reconocemos los esfuerzos del Ministerio de Energía y Minas y el Ministerio Público por las acciones recientes para hacer cumplir el derecho a la consulta previa y asegurar que las empresas también cumplan con la ley en este caso.

Hacemos un llamado a la empresa estadounidense KCA y su subsidiaria Exmingua a suspender de inmediato sus operaciones y acatar la resolución reciente del MEM y el amparo provisional.

Hacemos un llamado al Ministerio Público a que continúe con todas las investigaciones pertinentes de supuestos actos criminales en relación a Exmingua, KCA y el proyecto El Tambor.

Hacemos un llamado al Gobierno de Guatemala y al Ministerio de Gobernación, para garantizar la seguridad de las personas en la Puya y cualquier ciudadano que participe en manifestaciones pacíficas.

Instamos a la Embajada de los Estados Unidos a que apoye a las y los defensores de los derechos humanos y condene el uso del discurso de odio y la difamación como una herramienta para impedir su labor. Además, hacemos un llamado a la Embajada a tomar todas las medidas posibles y necesarias para asegurar que empresas estadounidenses respeten la ley y los derechos humanos, de acuerdo con la legislación nacional, resoluciones de las cortes y con los más altos estándares internacionales para empresas multinacionales. Instamos al Embajador Todd Robinson a que haga un pronunciamiento público en tal efecto.

Firmado:

Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA
Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala
Center for International Environmental Law
Maritimes – Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network
Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada
Rights Action Canada
Rights Action USA
Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America
Latin America Working Group
Oxfam
American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
American Jewish World Service
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas – Institute Justice Team
International Platform against Impunity