Five Years Later: Celebrating the Life of Adolfo Ich Chamán

GHRC stands in solidarity with families and community members gathering today in El Estor, Guatemala to commemorate the five-year anniversary of the assassination of Adolfo Ich Chamán.

On September 27 of 2009, Adolfo was murdered by private security forces working for the Fenix nickel mine in El Estor, Guatemala. His death was part of a wave of violence allegedly committed by employees of CGN, the Guatemalan subsidiary of Canadian mining company Hudbay Minerals, against anti-mine protesters. On the same day that Adolfo was killed, seven others were injured, including another community member named Gérman Chub, who was shot and left paralyzed.

Adolfo was a respected Mayan Q’eqchi’ community leader, school teacher, husband, and the father of six children. As we remember his courage in standing up for his community’s rights to land, water, and life, it is also important to place his death within a broader pattern of violence against those resisting harmful development projects — acts for which there has been little justice.

Over the last five years, residents of El Estor have initiated lawsuits both in Guatemala and in Canada. Adolfo’s wife, Angelica Choc, is currently bringing the case of her husband’s murder forward in a Canadian court; two related cases have also been filed regarding the gang-rape of 11 women from the community of Lote Ocho, and the shooting and paralyzing of German Chub. In a precedent setting ruling, the Superior Court of Ontario determined last year that these three cases could proceed to trial in Canada.

Residents of El Estor are commemorating Adolfo’s death, as well as the ongoing community resistance, through ceremonies and events taking place today, September 27, 2014. Members of GHRC are present at the event, and will share a letter of solidarity with the community. The letter reads, in part:

“As the Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA, we want to express our solidarity with all those present today, and especially with Adolfo’s family, as well as with Gérman, who survived the attack against him. We have closely followed your cases and we want to reiterate our commitment to continue accompanying you in your search for justice.

Justice should not be only an aspiration, nor only for one sector, and you all are an example that it must be sought after and demanded. We are grateful for the example of dignity you’ve provided us along this journey.”

A memorial in solidarity with those in El Estor was also held on September 26 in Toronto in front of Hudbay’s corporate headquarters, and Rights Action sent a letter to Hudbay calling for the company to stop the harassment of community members connected to mining related lawsuits.

Other international efforts to achieve justice include the Open for Justice Campaign — a movement to push for federal legislation in Canada that would allow plaintiffs like the residents from El Estor to report cases of abuse by Canadian companies in Canadian courts. The campaign calls for Canadian citizens to send a letter to their members of parliament calling for this legislation to be passed.

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