Joint Urgent Action Demanding the Immediate End to Excessive Violence by State Security Forces Against the Peacfeul Resistance in El Estor, Izabal

English Translation Below

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URGENT ACTION | GUATEMALA: The State must immediately stop the excessive violence against Maya Q’eqchi’ defenders in peaceful resistance against the illegal nickel project in El Estor. 

After twenty days of peaceful resistance against the illegal mining of their ancestral territories and the Guatemalan State’s failure to enforce the Constitutional Court’s ruling to immediately stop the mining, Maya Q’eqchi fishermen and indigenous authorities in El Estor, Izabal were evicted by hundreds of State security agents using excessive force. In addition, journalists and human rights observers on site are being threatened and harassed to help cover up what is happening in the area, especially the lack of compliance with the Constitutional Court’s order to immediately stop operations at the mine site due to the lack of consultation with the communities. 

October 24, 2021

We condemn the excessive use of violence by Guatemalan state security forces against Mayan Q’eqchi’ fishermen and authorities asserting their legitimate rights to peaceful assembly and protest against the illegal mining operations of the Swiss-Russian group Solway at the Fénix-Pronico nickel mine in El Estor, Izabal. Defenders and journalists covering the protest have been tear-gassed, beaten and threatened by the excessive police and military contingent; reports of more security on the way to the area have raised concern for the possibility of more attacks and more illegal evictions. There are verified reports that police are entering the neighborhoods in search of social movement leaders and Mayan Q’eqchi’ community members who filed a successful injunction against the mine’s operations. 

In June 2020, the Constitutional Court ordered the Guatemalan State to close operations after ruling that the Ministry of Energy and Mines granted an exploitation license to Compañía Guatemalteca de Níquel (CGN)–then owned by Canada’s Skye Resources– in 2005 without consulting the affected communities. Operations at the mine have continued over the years, first with Hudbay Minerals, also of Canada, and currently through Solway Group, a Swiss-Russian consortium. During each company’s ownership, there have been acts of serious violence and systematic human rights violations against Indigenous human rights defenders. 

  • We demand the Guatemalan State immediately stop the brutality against human rights defenders and journalists 
  • We demand immediate compliance with the sentence of the Constitutional Court on the part of the Guatemalan state and Solway group, and that they cease the operations until there is a consultation with full participation of the affected communities. 
  • We demand an end to the use of the State of Siege and other tactics that foster fear and support the eviction from ancestral Q’eqchi’ lands.
  • We demand that the Swiss government, through its embassy in Guatemala, immediately speak out in favor of respect for rule of law in Guatemala, and in favor of compliance with the order of the Constitutional Court, and that it condemn the repression against the Q’eqchi’ people. 

Press release, Constitutional Court. June 19, 2020: https://cc.gob.gt/cc-migra/pdf/COM-26-2020.pdf

In 2017, witnesses saw the National Civil police fire and kill Carlos Maaz during a protest against the illegal operation of the Swiss-Russian Solway Group in El Estor. In 2009, when the company was the property of Hudbay Minerals, Adolfo Ich was murdered by the head of security of the mining company Mynor Padilla, and Germán Chúb was left paralyzed after being shot by the security of the company and its careless behavior. In 2007, 11 women reported having been violated as a group by the security of the State and of the mine, which at the time was the property of the Canadian firm Skye Resources.

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