A recent report presented to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) explores the growing presence of Canadian mining companies in Latin America, highlighting a series of environmental and social concerns, and raising questions about who should ultimately be held responsible for violations related to Canadian-owned projects. The report, titled The Impact of Canadian Mining in Latin America and Canada’s responsibility [full report in Spanish], was written by a working group made up of six civil society organizations from Latin America and one from the US, with input from twenty-two additional Latin America-based organizations. Continue reading
The Constitutional Court ruled that municipal governments must respect the results of consultas comunitarias (community referendums) on whether mining projects can be developed in their towns. The court also affirmed that the results of community referendums should be submitted to the national authorities who grant mining licenses.
The court’s ruling rejected the appeal of unconstitutionality regarding a November 2012 community referendum concerning Tahoe Resource’s San Rafael Mine in the municipality of La Villa de Mataquescuintla, Jalapa. The results of this vote revealed that 10,000 people opposed the mine, while only 100 people supported it. The court based its ruling on the ILO Convention 169, which guarantees indigenous communities the right to consultation. In response to the court’s decision, the Guatemalan Chamber of Industry (CIG) and the Union of Extractive Industries (GEE) maintained that community referendums should be used as an indicator to inform decision makers, but not a binding determinant in approving mining projects.
Beginning last Friday, members from various communities demonstrated against Goldcorp’s mining in Sipacapa, San Marcos by blocking the highway at two different points. This protest came in response to the granting of new licenses for exploration in San Carlos Sija. According to the company, protesters held 35 workers from the Marlin Mine to demand that company authorities provide them a new water source, as mining in the area has contaminated and dried up their water source. Community member Basilio Bámaca assured that no person was being held; rather, the community was just warning miners that from now on they would take action. Representatives of the Marlin Mine said they will help the community access safe water, but added that the disturbances were provoked by outsiders and accused residents of violating the right to free movement and commerce.
On Sunday, individuals connected to the Israeli company Energía Limpia de Guatemala (ELG) attacked residents of the Maya Q’eachi’ community Monte Olivo with machetes. Four community members were gravely wounded. The community has been in opposition to the company’s construction of the Santa Rita hydroelectric dam.
Hector Bol de la Cruz, chief of police from 1983-85, was convicted in the 1984 kidnapping and disappearance of student union leader Fernando Garcia. The court also sentenced former senior police officer Jorge Gomez to 40 years for his role in the kidnapping.
Federal prosecutors are accusing Jorge Sosa, a former Kabile, of lying on his citizenship application by concealing his involvement in the 1982 Dos Erres massacre that left over 200 people dead. Sosa, who is married to an American, was originally denied asylum in 1985. If convicted, Sosa could be stripped of his United States citizenship and face 15 years in prison. Guatemalan authorities will seek his extradition to charge him with crimes against humanity as well.
The Interior Ministry announced that in 2014 it will rent a fleet of drones, for video surveillance. The Ministry stated that the drones would be used in military and security capacities. They will permit the government to, among other things, monitor drug trafficking along the country’s borders, criminals and criminal activities, and protests.
Ríos Montt on trial for genocide and crimes against humanity
The trial against former head of state Ríos Montt and along with former general José Rodríguez, began on January 30th, two days after Judge Ángel Gálvez announced his decision to try the two men for genocide and crimes against humanity. The much-anticipated announcement drew a large crowd which included many survivors of the armed conflict as well as journalists, retired military personnel, and human rights activists. The decision was hailed as a victory for the victims of one of the most violent conflicts in Central America.
Spanish delegation comments on conflict in Santa Cruz Barillas
A group of Spanish representatives on a mission to investigate human rights in Guatemala held a press conference last week to talk about several of the cases they looked into during their visit. One of the cases that they highlighted was the conflict in Santa Cruz Barillas, Huehuetenango surrounding the dam proposed by the Hidro Santa Cruz energy company. One Spanish representative expressed concern for the human rights violations there including the assassination of a community member, illegally long detentions of political prisoners and the absence of a means of democratic communication between the community members and authorities. Another representative, Josep Nuet, expressed a desire for Hidro Santa Cruz to start the project anew, this time with the input of the community.
Limitations on the Inter-American Court of Human Rights repealed
The executive branch announced on January 17th Government Agreement number 30-2013, which repealed an earlier decision to not recognize the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on violations prior to February, 1987. The original agreement (number 370), which was announced on January 2nd, was met with much criticism, forcing the President to suspend it the next day.
An analysis of President Perez Molina’s first year in office
During his first year in office, President Pérez Molina launched the Cero Hambre and Bolsa Segura programs to combat malnutrition and hunger. His critics allege that these programs have not yet reached much of the at-risk population and have not done enough to break the cycle of poverty. Credit should be given to the attorney general, police commissioner, and interior minister, and the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala for the improvements in the murder rate as well as the security situation. “In 2012, Guatemala recorded 5,174 homicides, approximately 500 fewer than in Colom’s last year, thereby reducing the country’s murder rate from 39 to 34 per 100,000. However, while the government’s increased reliance on the military and mano dura policies has not led to an increase in homicides, there is good reason to be concerned with the government’s increasing reliance on the military to perform acts better suited for police.” writes Mike Allison. Continue reading