Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Tens of Thousands Oppose Tahoe Resources' Escobal Project in Guatemala

Please show your support for mining-affected communities in the area of Tahoe's Escobal project! Take action with this online petition directed at President, CEO and Director of Tahoe Resources, Kevin McArthur.

(Versión original en español abajo)

(Guatemala City/Ottawa) Contrary to Tahoe Resources’ recent claims, tens of thousands of people oppose its Escobal project in southeastern Guatemala. Repression and violence have been the outcome of company and government efforts to install the project without social support. A recent high-court decision in Guatemala reinforces the legitimacy and importance of local decision-making processes.   



More than half of the communities in the municipality of San Rafael las Flores, where the Escobal project is located, have declared opposition to mine. In five neighbouring municipalities, in the departments of Santa Rosa and Jalapa, a majority have voted against the mine in municipal referenda, in which tens of thousands of people participated. The most recent vote took place on November 10th in the municipality of Jalapa, department of Jalapa. Over 23,000 people participated with 98.3% voting against mining and 1.7% in favour.



“It is grossly misleading for Tahoe’s CEO Kevin McArthur to claim that the Escobal project enjoys strong community support when so many people have democratically expressed their opposition. The Constitutional Court has clearly stated that local plebiscites are an important measure of community sentiment near the mine site and they should be respected,” stated Jackie McVicar, Coordinator of the Maritimes Guatemala Breaking the Silence Solidarity Network.



In early December, the Guatemalan Constitutional Court decided in support of a municipal referendum in the municipality of Mataquescuintla, Jalapa and against a suit that an individual had brought to challege its constitutionality. The decision acknowledges the responsibility that municipal authorities have to convene such votes and to make decisions according to their results, affirming their value as “adequate means by which peoples may exercise their right to give their opinion and be consulted on topics of interest.”



Community members organizing local votes have faced repression and baseless legal actions in an attempt to quash their opposition to the project. During the past fourteen months, dozens of community members have had to endure more than 70 stressful legal processes, of which nearly all have been absolved of any charges.



The most recent crackdown against opposition to the Escobal project took place in late April mere weeks after the company received its exploitation license. Security guards fired on peaceful protestors outside of company property, injuring six, including two seriously. The company’s then head of security remains under arrest awaiting trial. Alberto Rotondo is charged with assault causing bodily harm and obstruction of justice.



Days after the attack, on May 2, 2013, the Guatemalan State declared a state of siege in four municipalities surrounding the mine project and issued multiple arrest warrants. Among the accused and imprisoned were key community leaders. In late November, a Guatemalan judge ruled that the police arrest and detention of five individuals for nearly seven months was illegal. Shortly later, arrest warrants were dropped against seven others accused in the same case.



“The President has accused of us being a few crazy people that are opposed to the mine, but we represent numerous departments, including the Xinca indigenous people, as well as people from all across Guatemala. I ask the company to please leave Guatemala because it is seriously hurting our families,” stated Teresa Muñoz a community leader from Jalapa during a press conference in early December.



Communities oppose the Escobal project given concerns over actual and potential impacts on water supplies and community wellbeing. The Ministry of Energy and Mines approved the company’s final license right after dismissing outright more than 250 individual complaints against the company’s project.



In July, a Guatemalan Appeals Court found that the Ministry of Energy and Mines did not follow due process in considering one of these oppositions. Lawyers for affected communities believe the appeals court decision puts Tahoe's license in limbo. Hearings on this case continued in November at which hundreds demonstrated their opposition to the project.



Tahoe is already under investigation for industrial contamination of water supplies near the Escobal mine.



“It is devastating to see the way that Tahoe is repeating the patterns of its top shareholder, Goldcorp, whose Marlin mine was built despite opposition and without community consent, leading to conflict and giving rise to broad-based opposition to mining throughout Guatemala. Instead of storming ahead and generating further upheaval, Tahoe should pack its bags and leave these communities in peace,” remarked Jen Moore, Latin America Program Coordinator for MiningWatch Canada.



Contacts:
  • Jen Moore, MiningWatch Canada, (613) 569-3439, jen(at)miningwatch.com  
  • Jackie McVicar, Breaking the Silence, 011 (502) 4824-0637, btsguatemala(at)gmail.com

SOURCE: http://www.miningwatch.ca/news/tens-thousands-oppose-tahoe-resource-s-escobal-project-guatemala

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Decenas de miles se oponen al proyecto de la minera Tahoe Resources en Guatemala

Jueves, Diciembre 19, 2013
(Guatemala City/Ottawa) Contrariamente a las afirmaciones de la empresa Tahoe Resources, decenas de miles de personas se oponen al proyecto Escobal, perteneciente a esta compañía, en el suroriente de Guatemala. Los intentos, tanto de la compañía como del gobierno, de instalar el proyecto sin apoyo social han resultado en represión y violencia. Una reciente decisión del alto tribunal en Guatemala reafirma la legitimidad e importancia de los procesos locales de toma de decisión.

Más de la mitad de las comunidades en el municipio de San Rafael las Flores, donde se ubica el proyecto Escobal, se han declarado en oposición a la mina. En cinco municipios aledaños en los departamentos de Santa Rosa y Jalapa, la mayoría de las decenas de miles de votos registrados en consultas comunitarias rechazan la mina. La votación más reciente se efectuó el 10 de noviembre en el municipio de Jalapa, departamento de Jalapa. Más de 23.000 personas votaron – el 98,3 por ciento votó en contra de la minería, mientras que el 1,7 por ciento votó a favor.

“Es altamente engañoso que el presidente de Tahoe Resources, Kevin McArthur, indique que el proyecto Escobal goza del apoyo de la comunidad, cuando tanta gente ha manifestado democráticamente su oposición. La Corte de Constitucionalidad ha indicado claramente que los plebiscitos son un importante indicador del sentir de las comunidades próximas a donde se ubica la mina y se deben respetar”, indicó Jackie McVicar, Coordinadora de la Red de Solidaridad Rompiendo el Silencio.

A principios de diciembre, la Corte de Constitucionalidad avaló la consulta comunitaria en el municipio de Mataquescuintla, Jalapa y negó la acción cuestionando la constitucionalidad de la consulta que había presentado una persona particular. La decisión reconoce la responsabilidad con que cuentan las autoridades municipales de convocar este tipo de votación y tomar decisiones de acuerdo a los resultados que éstas arrojen, y afirma su valor como “una adecuada forma de posibilitar el derecho de los pueblos a opinar y ser consultados sobre asuntos de su interés".

Pobladores que organizaron las consultas comunitarias se han enfrentado a represión y a acciones legales infundadas, en un intento de invalidar la oposición al proyecto. Durante los últimos catorce meses, decenas de comuneros se han visto involucrados en más de setenta tensos procesos legales, en los cuales la gran mayoría quedó absuelta de todo cargo.

La más reciente ofensiva hacia la oposición del proyecto Escobal ocurrió a fines de abril, unas pocas semanas luego de que se le otorgara a la empresa la licencia de explotación. Guardias de seguridad abrieron fuego en contra de un grupo que se manifestaba pacíficamente fuera de la propiedad de la empresa, dejando seis personas heridas, dos de ellas de gravedad. Quien fuera en ese momento jefe de seguridad permanece detenido a la espera del juicio. Alberto Rotondo ha sido ligado a proceso por lesiones leves y graves y por obstaculización de la investigación penal.

El 2 de mayo de 2013, pocos días después del ataque, el Estado de Guatemala declaró estado de sitio en cuatro municipios aledaños al proyecto minero y giró varias órdenes de captura. Entre los acusados y detenidos se encontraban dirigentes comunitarios clave. A fines de noviembre, un juez guatemalteco declaró que fue ilegal la captura de cinco personas y su privación de libertad durante casi siete meses. Poco después, las órdenes de captura que se habían girado para siete otras personas acusadas en el mismo caso quedaron sin efecto.

“No somos unos cuantos locos, como ha dicho el presidente, que se oponen a la mina, somos muchos departamentos; Xincas somos todos, es todo Guatemala... Pido a la mina San Rafael [la subsidiaria guatemalteca de Tahoe] de que por favor se retire de Guatemala, que nos está haciendo un gran daño a nuestras familias.” indicó Teresa Muñoz, dirigente comunitaria de Jalapa en rueda de prensa a principios de diciembre.

Las comunidades se oponen al proyecto Escobal debido a los impactos existentes y potenciales en las fuentes hídricas y en el bienestar de la comunidad. El Ministerio de Energía y Minas aprobó la licencia final de la empresa inmediatamente después de rechazar categóricamente los más de 250 recursos presentados en contra del proyecto de la empresa.

En julio, la Sala Primera de Apelaciones de Guatemala halló que el Ministerio de Energía y Minas no procedió correctamente en relación a uno de estos recursos. Los abogados de las comunidades afectadas estiman que la decisión de la Sala de Apelaciones pone la licencia de Tahoe en limbo. En noviembre continuaron las audiencias sobre este caso, durante las cuales se manifestaron cientos en oposición al proyecto.

En este momento, Tahoe es objeto de investigación por contaminación industrial de las fuentes hídricas próximas a la mina Escobal.

“Es devastador ver hasta qué punto Tahoe repite el patrón de comportamiento de su mayor inversionista, Goldcorp, cuya mina Marlin se construyó a pesar de la oposición y sin el consentimiento de las comunidades, llevando a conflictos y a una amplia oposición a la minería en todo Guatemala. En vez de avanzar a toda marcha y generar mayores disturbios, Tahoe debería empacar sus maletas y dejar a estas comunidades en paz”, indicó Jen Moore, Coordinadora del Programa de América Latina de Alerta Minera Canadá.

Contactos:

Jen Moore, Alerta Minera Canadá, (613) 569-3439, jen(@)miningwatch.ca
Jackie McVicar, Red de Solidaridad 'Rompiendo el Silencio', 011 (502) 4824-0637, btsguatemala(@)gmail.com
Por favor, mostrar su solidaridad con las comunidades afectadas por el proyecto Escobal de Tahoe y tomar acción con esta petición en línea acá (disponible solamente en inglés).

Fuente: http://www.miningwatch.ca/es/news/decenas-de-miles-se-oponen-al-proyecto-de-la-minera-tahoe-resources-en-guatemala

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Genocide retrial set for January 2015; national courts debate possibility of amnesty

On November 5, almost six months since the highly contested decision by Guatemala's Constitutional Court (CC) to annul the genocide sentence, Guatemalan courts announced a date for the retrial of former General Ríos Montt. Guatemala's High Risks Court “B” affirmed that it has the jurisdiction to hear the case but said its calendar is full until January 5, 2015.

The announcement of the retrial date came the same day that the Association for Justice and Reconciliation and their legal team filed a complaint in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) against the Guatemalan state for continued impunity for grave human rights violations committed against the Ixil people. The complaint focuses on the May 10 annulment of the genocide conviction, arguing that survivors have been denied access to the right to justice in national courts.

Constitutional Court decision opens door for Ríos Montt to receive amnesty

On October 22, the Constitutional Court ruled in favor of an appeal presented by Ríos Montt's defense, opening the door to amnesty for war crimes. The appeal, one of many filed by the defense lawyers on the issue of amnesty, argued that due process was not respected in a decision on wartime Decree 8-86. Decree 8-86, dating back to the de facto government of Oscar Humberto Mejía Víctores (1983-1986), mandated a blanket amnesty for all crimes committed between March 23, 1982 and January 14, 1986.  Both former military generals Mejía Víctores and Ríos Montt are currently accused of genocide and would benefit from the application of amnesty. 

Ríos Montt's lawyers argued that Judge Miguel Ángel Gálvez Aguilar, who ruled against the possibility of amnesty, based his decision exclusively on Guatemala's 1996 National Reconciliation Law, and did not incorporate analysis of Decree 8-86. The National Reconciliation Law, created in 1996 with the signing of the Peace Accords, explicitly excludes genocide from the application of amnesty.  

Judge Gálvez Aguilar’s decision was immediately contested by the defense; however, an Appeals Court upheld the ruling, denying amnesty for war crimes. Now, the Constitutional Court has ordered the Appeals Court to elaborate in its explanation and provide foundation for its previous decision. While the Constitutional Court ruling alone does not grant amnesty, the decision sends an unequivocal message to lower courts encouraging them to reconsider previous rulings.

The 1996 Reconciliation law, in conjunction with the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights1. and the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide2, both ratified by the state of Guatemala, clearly invalidate the 1986 "auto-amnesty" decree, rendering the decision of the Constitutional Court, "a flagrant violation of international human rights law and the obligation to guarantee the right to truth, justice and reparations for the victims3.."

At the time of publication, it is unclear when a decision on amnesty will be made as the lower court ordered to review the previous ruling on amnesty has been plagued by delays and recusals by Appeals Court judges. Anselmo Roldán, President of the Association for Justice and Reconciliation, denounced these malicious delay tactics during his recent NISGUA speaker tour and called for and end to the partiality of the national justice system.

1    http://www.cidh.oas.org/basicos/english/Basic4.Amer.Conv.Ratif.htm
2    http://treaties.un.org/pages/ViewDetails.aspxsrc=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-1&chapter=4&  lang=en
3    FIDH, Anulación de la condena al General Ríos Montt: la FIDH solicita a la Corte de Constitucionalided de Guatemala reformar su decisión. Aug. 9 2013. www.fidh.org/anulacion-de-la-condena-al-general-Ríos-montt-la-fidh-solicita-a-la-corte-13809

NISGUA has provided human rights accompaniment to the witness organization, the Association for Justice and Reconciliation, and their lawyers, the Center for Human Rights Legal Action, since 2000.

Original article published on November 25th, 2013 by ACOGUATE

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Tahoe Resources on the defense as opposition to the Escobal mine gains ground

While community opposition to Tahoe Resources’ Escobal project grows and wins support from the Constitutional Court, the company remains on the defense trying to convince investors that it enjoys “strong local community support.” However, the record of local votes in neighboring communities and municipalities, betrays a different reality. 

More than half of the communities in the municipality of San Rafael Las Flores, where Tahoe’s Escobal mine is located, have declared opposition to the project. Likewise, thousands of people in the five municipalities closest to San Rafael, in the departments of Santa Rosa and Jalapa, have voted against the mine in municipal referenda. The most recent local vote took place on November 10th in the municipality of Jalapa, department of Jalapa. A total of 23,152 people participated, with 98.29% voting against the mine and 1.71% in favor.

In early December, communities demanding the right to consultation throughout Guatemala celebrated an important victory when the Constitutional Court (CC) ruled in favor of such a referendum, determining that a vote carried out in Mataquescuintla, Jalapa in November, 2012 was legal. The decision provides support to votes carried out by municipal authorities and underlines the responsibility of the local government in promoting these processes.

In its decision, the Constitutional Court stated: "The popular referenda are important mechanisms to guarantee fundamental rights and are a clear expression of a democratic framework. The residents of the municipalities have the right to express themselves with regard to the use, enjoyment and benefits from the natural resources found within the territory of their municipality."

All five referenda in Santa Rosa and Jalapa held during the past two years regarding the Escobal mine were municipally convened votes.


Community member from Santa Rosa protests Escobal 
mine outside Constitutional Court (Photo: CPR Urbana)

For communities opposing the Escobal project, the CC decision validates the legality and legitimacy of their referenda. A leader from Mataquescuintla remarked on the importance of the decision saying, "It is one more point in favor of those of us who are against the mine. We have to decide how to move forward from here because the company is invading our territory."

Municipal governments, however, do not organize all referenda on large-scale development projects carried out in Guatemala. Some referenda are organized and overseen by indigenous authorities without the support of the local municipal government. While the CC ruling sets an important legal precedent in the struggle for the right to consultation, the granting of concessions is still ultimately the decision of the central government and the Ministry of Energy and Mines.

 Communities stand up against criminalization and persecution
During the last year, more than 70 legal processes have been issued against individuals peacefully resisting Tahoe's Escobal mine. Almost all of them have been absolved of charges, 12 in recent weeks. Only two cases are outstanding. 

On November 21, a Guatemalan judge ruled against further legal action in the case involving five individuals who were arrested and imprisoned more than six months ago for alleged crimes related to their opposition to Tahoe's Escobal mine. One week later, on November 28, arrest warrants were dropped against seven others also accused in the same case. 

The arrest warrants for all twelve people released in November were issued on May 2, 2013, the same day the Guatemalan government declared a state of siege in four municipalities surrounding Tahoe's Escobal mine. The imposition of martial law created terror among the population peacefully defending their right to consultation and ramped up the ongoing criminalization against human rights defenders.

Among the accused and imprisoned during the state of siege were key leaders in the organized community resistance to the Escobal project. Teresa Muñoz, an outspoken leader in defense of territory, was forced to flee into the mountains when the military came to her home.  

Muñoz, a community leader from Jalapa shared: "We are in peaceful resistance, fighting for life and nature, despite knowing what the risks are... the mine security, with support from the government, is almost always there, pointing guns at our heads while our hands are empty. We know that if we lose our life, we fought for something that was worth while." 

Meanwhile, the head of security for Tahoe’s mine at the time of these arrests, Alberto Rotondo, awaits trial for alleged involvement in a shooting on April 27 that injured six. Despite being arrested at Guatemala's international airport while attempting to leave the country, Rotondo was granted house arrest. The priviledge granted to the former Tahoe employee provides a stark contrast to community members who spent over six months in preventative prison only to have all charges against them dropped. 

Support community resistance to the Escobal mine by echoing their voices internationally: Take Action! Write Kevin McArthur, President of Tahoe Resources, to demand the company respect communities' right to self-determination and leave Guatemala!

NISGUA has accompanied communities in opposition to the Tahoe Resources Escobal mine since 2011.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

NISGUA receives 2013 Global Justice and Peace Award

On Saturday, November 16, the Denver Justice and Peace Committee (DJPC) presented NISGUA with their annual Global Justice and Peace Award. DJPC, a longtime supporter of NISGUA’s Guatemala Accompaniment Project, recognized NISGUA's organizational achievements and commitment to justice.

We were honored to have AJR President Anselmo Roldán join us at the awards ceremony. His presence represented the strong and important relationships that lead and shape NISGUA’s work on the ground in Guatemala.

Thank you DPJC for this generous award and the opportunity to connect with such an incredible and warm community of activists, former accompaniers and supporters!

Please enjoy the selection of photos below from the awards night in Denver, thanks to former NISGUA staffer Graham Hunt.




AJR president Anselmo Roldán and NISGUA Programs Coordinator
Ellen Moore observe the ceremony.

DJPC presents former NISGUA accompanier with the Member of the Year Award.


NISGUA Operations Coordinator Megan Whelan
receives the Global Justice and Peace Award on behalf of NISGUA.



Former NISGUA accompanier Brad Lawton addresses the crowd.


AJR president Anselmo Roldán speaks to DJPC.



"Justice for genocide: A survivor's story" visits Laramie, Denver and the Bay Area



The "Justice for genocide: A survivor's story" fall speaking tour left Wisconsin on November 13 to embark on the final stops of the tour: Laramie, WY; Denver, CO; and the Bay Area, CA. The Wyoming Guatemala Accompaniment Project (WYGap) welcomed tour speaker, Association for Justice and Reconciliation President Anselmo Roldán, and NISGUA Programs Coordinator, Ellen Moore. WYGap organized a total of eight events over a day and a half, the majority hosted at University of Wyoming in Laramie.

Anselmo connected with university students from various departments during a dynamic round-table discussion over lunch. Later, he gave a public presentation at the university, drawing people from surrounding communities, thanks to strong local media promotion of the event. Anselmo finished the evening with an interfaith tapas dinner organized by local faith communities followed by a reception at the university.



The next morning, Anselmo spoke to a master’s students class and concluded the Laramie visit with a prayer circle before heading to Denver.

WYGap and University of Wyoming students were deeply impacted by Anselmo's visit. They eagerly joined our postcard campaign in support of the genocide sentence with messages for the AJR:
In a world upheld by impunity there can be no justice and gross human rights violations cannot be stopped. We must punish these men and break the cycle of violence.

Democracy cannot function without justice and the rule of law.

I am a Guatemalan immigrant and justice must be served!

Todos tienen el derecho de seguir adelante con la memoria reconocida y la seguridad garantizada. Les apoyo a Uds. en la lucha por justicia y les admiro la valentía.

Injusticia es injusticia. Estamos en solidaridad. Por favor, no dejen de luchar.


In Denver, CO, Anselmo had the unique opportunity to meet with the Romero Theater Troupe, an inspiring group of social justice focused local performers. The Troupe truly connected with Anselmo and the work of the AJR and is excited to continue to build their relationship.

While in Denver, we were honored to join the Denver Justice and Peace Committee (DJPC) for their annual awards night. This year, DJPC chose to to present NISGUA with their Global Justice and Peace award to recognize our work and commitment to justice! See a full photo report of the awards evening here!

Denver sent their own messages of support for the genocide sentence. Some highlights include:
To deny the sentence is to deny the value of lives lost. Each of those who died needlessly has value. The sentence is a recognition of that which was taken from us all.

Ríos Montt is responsible for the massacre of the people and has torn the fabric of the Mayan society, which still lives in fear. He is guilty and needs to pay.

Los responsables del genocidio deben de pagar por sus abusos a la dignidad humana. Es justo.



The tour reached its final stop in the Bay Area, CA, also home to NISGUA's US Office and Operations Coordinator, Megan Whelan. Anselmo presented at a community center with a primarily Spanish-speaking audience from the Mission district and surrounding areas. Representatives from community organizations in the Bay Area came out to hear directly from Anselmo.

Anselmo connected with the San Francisco community once again at a public forum at the City College of San Francisco. Anselmo's story impacted the packed room, filled with students, faculty and people from the local community. Once again, the event was widely attended by Spanish speakers, including many Guatemalans who also suffered during the war.



While in San Francisco, City of San Francisco Supervisor, David Campos, awarded Anselmo, in representation of the AJR, a certificate of honor for their work and dedication to justice and peace for the Guatemalan people. Campos, a Guatemalan American who was forced to leave Guatemala with his family during the internal armed conflict, recognized the AJR's historic victory as plaintiffs in the genocide case against Efraín Ríos Montt. He told Anselmo, “The AJR's work is an inspiration for all of us, reminding us to be courageous in the face of injustice.

Anselmo finished his visit to the Bay Area and closed out the three-week tour as the keynote speaker at 6th Annual Plátanos dinner organized by the Guatemala News and Information Bureau. Anselmo received a standing ovation from dinner attendees for the AJR's incredible gains this year in the process of bringing Ríos Montt to justice for genocide. 

Attendees at the tour events in the Bay Area left inspiring notes of support for the AJR. The Bay Area supports the genocide sentence because:
The lives of Guatemalans matter! Because life everywhere matters! This sentence is a bold stand for life, for honesty, for integrity, and for family history and future. The victories of the AJR are victories for all of us around the world who care about humanity, justice and love. Thank you for your struggle!

Justicia y la verdad en Guatemala son importantes para todo el mundo. Este ejemplo - el ejemplo del trabajo de AJR - demuestra a todo el mundo que NO aceptamos impunidad cuando hay graves crímenes contra la humanidad… Aunque hay gran poderes que quieren impunidad para los criminales políticos en Guatemala, el poder del pueblo y de la gente siempre supera y siempre tiene lo mas fuerza. Hasta la victoria siempre! Y gracias por todo lo que hacen.

I support the genocide sentence because as a young person, I feel that it is important to uphold your own country's law (and international law) and to severely punish someone who ruthlessly killed/massacred a group of people. Montt is a dangerous man, and it's absorb to think that after killing so many Mayans, he, of all people, can walk away without charges.

Those who disregard the basic human right to life must be brought to justice and a message must be sent that justice is not a commodity to be bought and sold.

Para mi es muy importante que se haga JUSTICIA por las masacres/ genocidio y otros crímenes contra el pueblo Indígena Maya en Guatemala. Estamos en solidaridad aquí en San Francisco, CA y vamos a apoyarlos, lo amamos lo bendecimos y cuenten con nosotros.

While our tour has come to a close, we continue to support to the AJR through our petition and postcard campaign. Sign our petition against amnesty for Ríos Montt and send the AJR a personal message in support of the genocide sentence here.

Read about our previous tour stops in Tucson, D.C. and Los Angeles and the Midwest. See what cities we're headed to next by visiting our website.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Jalapa says NO to mining! Guatemalan Constitutional Court hears case related to Tahoe Resources' mining license


Jalapa has said NO to mining. Photo: Xinka Parliament

On Sunday, November 10, in a community consultation in the municipality of Jalapa, 23,152 people said NO to chemical metal mining.

Members of Santa María Xalapán and other indigenous Xinca communities in Jalapa requested the popular vote in order to address the threat of environmental and social impacts from the nearby Escobal silver mine, owned by Tahoe Resources. Nearly 24,000 people participated in the vote. Over 98% of all participants voted against mining while 1.71% voted in favor.

Do you agree with the development, installation and operation of chemical
metal mining in any part of the municipality of Jalapa? YES or NO.
Photo: CPR Urbana
In 2011, other municipalities surrounding the Escobal mine began holding municipal-level popular votes on the issue of mining. Casillas, Nueva Santa Rosa and Santa Rosa Lima were the first to hold votes in the department of Santa Rosa. In 2012, Matasquintla in the department of Jalapa also held a consultation. All four votes resulted in the overwhelming rejection of mining on their territory.

This year, the municipality of San Rafael Las Flores, where the Escobal mine is located, planned to hold a municipal wide consultation but their request was denied. Instead, individual communities in the municipality organized community-level consultations. Eight of San Rafael Las Flores' 26 communities completed popular votes when the process was cut short due to a government declared state of siege in May. The community consultation earlier this month in Jalapa marks the first popular vote surrounding the Escobal mine since the state of siege.

Participants in the community consultation show off their inked fingers, a sign of their vote.
Photo: CPR Urbana

Meanwhile, in a separate process of legitimate opposition to mining, Quelvin Jiménez continues to defend his legal right to have his voice heard. Jiménez, along with over 200 other complainants, filed legal complaints against Tahoe Resources regarding potential social and environmental impacts from the company's Escobal project. While individual legal complaints are less utilized than the community consultation process to express opposition to mining projects, they are protected under Guatemala's mining law.

The Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) ignored community opposition to the Escobal mine and rejected the 200+ complaints in April of this year, just before granting Tahoe Resources the mining license necessary to move forward with production. Jiménez, with legal support from the Center for Environmental and Social Legal Action (CALAS), appealed MEM's rejection of his complaint, citing lack of due process. The appeal was upheld in July, which CALAS interpreted to mean the suspension of Tahoe Resources' license. However, Minera San Rafael, Tahoe's Guatemalan subsidiary, put forward another legal appeal against the decision, sending Jiménez' case to Guatemala's Constitutional Court.

Hundreds of supporters from the legitimate resistance to the Escobal mine traveled in to Guatemala City to attend the Constitutional Court hearing this past November 5. Jiménez, before a packed room, defended his legal right to self-determination. He reflected on the process saying, "We hope the court respects our rights, that justice be fulfilled, not just for me but for all the communities."

A community member in the attendance also commented on the hearing, "They think they can take the law in their own hands but there is rule of law in Guatemala and it must be respected… We are demanding our rights be respected."

CALAS and Jiménez currently await notification from the Constitutional Court regarding its resolution.

Support community resistance to the Escobal mine by echoing their voices internationally: Take Action! Write Kevin McArthur, President of Tahoe Resources, to demand the company respect communities' right to self-determination and leave Guatemala!


Monday, November 18, 2013

"Justice for genocide: A survivor's story" visits the Midwest

“We are here in the United States asking for your solidarity. Borders divide us, but justice is a fundamental pillar of democracy” -Anselmo Roldán to the international community


From November 7-11, NISGUA visited six Midwestern cities with Association for Justice and Reconciliation (AJR) president Anselmo Roldán.  The Midwest leg of our speaking tour started in Oberlin, OH, hosted by NISGUA sponsoring community, the Santa Elena Project of Accompaniment (SEPA).

Similar to other sponsoring communities who are connected to NISGUA's Guatemalan Accompaniment Project (G.A.P.), SEPA's direct support to G.A.P. is a concrete example of their solidarity with our partners, the AJR. SEPA was proud to host Anselmo and continue supporting the movement for justice in Guatemala.
Members of SEPA and other attendees at our Oberlin College presentations joined our postcard campaign, sharing why the genocide sentence is important to them. Some highlights from their messages include:
It is vital to give truth and validity to the voices of people that experienced genocide and make sure the law is upheld.

I feel deeply the loss of your loved ones and I want to help you remember them in the strongest way – to let the truth be known.

I believe in the people of Guatemala.

I believe in supporting the truth!  Thank you for your courage and dedication to justice.

It is important that people can live where they have the right to live, and speak their language, and love their families and support themselves without fear.


In addition, Anselmo was able to rest a bit and enjoy a true U.S. Fall while in Oberlin. He happily pitched in raking fallen leaves with SEPA member John Gates!


From Oberlin, Anselmo and NISGUA staffer Ellen Moore headed west to Chicago for three exciting presentations! A Loyola University faculty member hosted two presentations with Anselm, where he spoke to over 80 students who attended from three different universities across Chicago. The students, some hearing about the Guatemalan genocide for the first time, sent powerful messages of support back to Guatemala for the AJR:
Les mandamos nuestro apoyo a la sentencia por genocidio desde Chicago. Es importante estar unidos en tiempos difíciles para poder ejercer cambios.

The calculated, systematic murder of a group of people by their government, which it is supposed to protect and serve, is the greatest crimes imaginable. I support your cause and believe in justice.

The injustice cannot be silenced anymore

I support a world community committed to bringing all crimes against humanity to justice.

Genocide is a tragedy and justice is a basic human rights.

I believe in the right to life, I believe in a lawful government.


We rounded out our Chicago visit with an evening community event at the University Church Chicago. The Guatemala Partnership, based at University Church, graciously hosted a dinner for Anselmo followed by a public presentation. Anselmo spoke before a packed room, sharing his story as a genocide survivor and human rights defender. University Church is deeply connected to the struggle for justice. The Church was a sanctuary church during the 1980s, providing crucial support for Guatemalans fleeing the internal armed conflict. The Church's commitment to peace, justice and solidarity continues:

La verdad es una fuerza que tiene vida propia.  Su ejemplo y su valor me ha cambiado la vida para siempre. Gracias – Reverend Sara Wohlleb

It represents a historic and brave decision for justice and truth and is an example and beacon of hope for the world that those who commit atrocities will be brought to justice.

Until my teacher spent class time to discuss what happened, I was unaware of the genocide. I am amazed by the AJR’s strength. I want to support the people that have suffered so much.

La justicia existe y vive en nuestros corazones y sabemos que su verdad es la verdad.

Innocent people were killed and the guilty are free. There should be justice for genocide and crimes against humanity.

No one has the right to take someone else’s life.

Yo soy refugiado en Chicago con mi familia por causa de la Guerra de Rios Montt.

It is just – and there can be no peace without justice. Dear people of Guatemala, I hold you in my heart.



Finally, Ellen and Anselmo headed to Wisconsin to join NISGUA board president Melinda Van Slyke for three days of events in southern Wisconsin. Committed groups of NISGUA supporters attended community events in both Madison and Spring Green. During downtime, Anselmo and Ellen  enjoyed the natural beauty of a handful of Wisconsin's many lakes.





In Viroqua, WI, we joined longtime NISGUA supporter Connie Vanderhyden of the Kickapoo Guatemala Accompaniment Project (K/GAP) for a community event. Following Anselmo's presentation, K/GAP hosted a meal in order to continue chatting and sharing. Some messages left by attendees for the AJR include:

Every perpetrator of genocide should know that it will not stand before the law. Your courage brings tears to my eyes. Keep telling your truths. We are behind you.

Without justice there will be no peace. La Lucha continua!

Si hubo genocidio en Guatemala! Estimados miembros de la AJR – hay que saber que estamos con ustedes en solidaridad siempre!

Accountability is part of the healing process. Impunity prevents healing. The voices of the Guatemalan people have spoken the truth. Their perseverance and courage are testament to their truth. Justice requires that the sentence stand.

For all the lives lost, and for the ongoing suffering of the survivors the sentence must stand. The world is watching.


Anselmo connected with more Midwest students on his last day in Wisconsin at Viterbo University and University of Wisconsin - La Crosse. Students at both universities were captivated by Anselmo's story and joined in our campaign with these powerful messages:
I support the sentence because nobody should be above the law. These communities deserve justice.

Its not about revenge, it’s about justice and everyone deserves justice.

The AJR is courageous for standing up for themselves and coming to the US to tell their story. Thank you for coming to talk to us, and don’t be discouraged.
Please share your own message of support for the historic genocide sentence and the brave survivors of the Association for Justice and Reconciliation and continue the call for NO AMNESTY and NO IMPUNITY for war criminals! Participate today!

Continue to follow the NISGUA tour! Read about our previous stops in Tucson, D.C. and Los Angeles. See what cities we're headed to next by visiting our website.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

"Justice for genocide: A survivor's story" visits Los Angeles

The Guatemala Education and Action Project (GEAP) hosted NISGUA and the Association for Justice and Reconciliation (AJR) on our third tour stop in Los Angeles. GEAP's events included a press conference, community event and a number of college speaking opportunities for AJR president Anselmo Roldán.


Anselmo receives a plaque by a local Guatemalan in Los Angeles.

Posters calling for justice accompany Anselmo's
presentation at a community event.

NISGUA staffer Ellen Moore supports Anselmo with interpretation.

Nearly 100 local activists and community members greeted and listened to Anselmo at the Los Angeles community-wide event. Groups in attendance included Mujeres Abriendo Caminos, Centro Colectivo de Centro America in Los Angeles, the Maya Center, AGUA, MayaVision, Local 721 SEIU, SOAWatch LA. The event was high energy, with many local Guatemalan Americans in attendance. After Anselmo's presentation, guests enjoyed marimba, dancing, a silent auction and tamales!

Anselmo is welcomed by local Guatemalans and LA activists.

Local Guatemalans who were forced to leave Guatemala due to violence joined the AJR to demand justice for genocide. They participated in our postcard campaign to send messages demonstrating their support for the survivor's organization and the historic genocide sentence back to Guatemala:
En solidaridad con las mujeres y hombres en lucha y justicia para Guatemala. No desmayan – Mujeres Abriendo Caminos

No hay lugar en este mundo, en estos días para estos criminales

Soy guatemalteco, migrante en Los Ángeles. Veo la Verdad, veo que mi pueblo necesita paz verdadera. La verdad es que hubo genocidio y los culpables deben pagar.

Porque yo soy primo, sobrino y hijo de los victimas de la Guerra en Guatemala. Todos los días pienso en una Guatemala en paz. Animo compañeros.


It is time for truth. We want justice.

It is unjust and unfair but your courage is inspiring.

Yo apoyo y los doy fuerza para que enseñen al mundo la democracia

Porque el pueblo indígena de Guatemala merece respeto. Las mejores vibras, aplausos y fuerza en su búsqueda de justicia. Estamos con ustedes.


Yo apoyo que la sentencia se mantenga para hacer valer la memoria de las personas que fueron masacradas.

Youth help raise money for the AJR at the LA community event.
A lunch colloquium at Pomona College brought together students and faculty to listen to Anselmo's story. Later that same day, Anselmo presented to a class on Central American politics at California State University - Northridge. Students from both Pomona College and CSUN engaged with great questions for Anselmo and enthusiastically responded to our postcard campaign with messages of why they support the genocide sentence:
 
Mis bisabuelos sobrevivieron un genocidio en Armenia que no está reconocido por todo el mundo. Entiendo que todas las victimas de crímenes contra la humanidad merecen justicia.

The people of Guatemala deserve a justice system that they can rely on to protect their rights.

Representa la esperanza de un Pueblo por la lucha por la justicia.

Justice needs to be served for the ones who died, the ones who suffered and the ones who were silenced.

I believe in a democratic government and this means that the government must protect the citizen’s rights.

My parents are from Guatemala. This is the first time I have heard of this and I will now support this case to the end. Justice must be done.

A nation cannot prosper if it oppresses its own people. For this and many more reasons, I support the genocide sentence.

The faith of the AJR is inspiring. I wish you the best of luck, strength and patience with this journey. Support from Cal State Northridge!

Continue to follow the NISGUA tour! Read about our previous stops in Tucson and D.C. See what cities we're headed to next by visiting our website.

Survivors submit complaint against Guatemalan state for denial of justice in genocide case

Genocide survivors submit a complaint before the Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights in Washington DC on November 6, 2013. Photo: AJR

INTERNATIONAL COMPLAINT AGAINST THE GUATEMALAN STATE FOR DENIAL OF JUSTICE IN THE GENOCIDE CASE


Washington D.C., November 6, 2013 - Today, survivors of the Guatemalan genocide, along with civil society organizations, filed a complaint in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) against the Guatemalan state for the continued impunity  for grave human rights violations committed against the Ixil people. The complaint is based in the violation of the American Convention on Human Rights and other international human rights treaties.

In the complaint, organizations declare that the Guatemalan state has failed to fulfill its obligation to guarantee victims their right to  justice, given that after more than 30 years no one has been held responsible for the human rights violations suffered by thousands of victims.

Thus, the state is complicit, as according to the Inter-American Court on Human Rights, "impunity creates conditions for continued human rights violations and the defenselessness of victims and their families."


Events reported to the IACHR, in relation to the case for the genocide committed against the Maya Ixil ethnic group, include more than 60 massacres and attacks by Guatemalan army soldiers that resulted in the murder of approximately 1,771 victims, as well as countless victims of forced disappearance, sexual violence, torture and forced displacement.


In addition, the groups denounced the deficiencies and irregularities in the resolutions emitted by authorities in the ongoing legal process against former army generals Efraín Ríos Montt and Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez. Examples given include: the lack of access the Defense Ministry's archives; judicial authorities' tolerance of abusive filing of injunctions, including those that are unconstitutional, and unnecessary delays in resolutions; the lack of legal basis and arbitrary nature of provisional injunction resolutions; the excessive length of the criminal process; attacks against judicial independence and the lack of protection for participants in the process.


In particular, the organizations highlighted irregularities characterized by the resolution emitted by three Constitutional Court judges on May 20, 2013, by which the process against the said former generals was annulled.


Given this situation, we the petitioners consider ourselves obligated to turn to the IACHR in the hope that the regional system for the protection of human rights can speed the processing of the complaint and assure international protection for victims in the shortest time period possible. Therefore, we ask the Commission to accept this complaint.


Resorting to the international justice system is a right enshrined in international treaties and in the Republic of Guatemala's Constitution. Thus, we turn to the Inter-American System of Human Rights Protection in order that the Guatemalan state fulfills its international obligations to uphold human rights. While impunity continues to exist, there will not be respect for human rights or full democracy in Guatemala.


For the right to a just country!
Association for Justice and Reconciliation - AJR

Center for Human Rights Legal Action - CALDH
Center for Justice and International Law - CEJIL

Guatemala's Human Rights Law Firm - BDH

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Sobrevivientes entregan denuncia contra el estado de Guatemala por denegación de justicia en el caso de genocidio



 DENUNCIA INTERNACIONAL CONTRA ESTADO DE GUATEMALA
POR DENEGACION DE JUSTICIA EN EL CASO DE GENOCICIO

Washington D.C. 06 de noviembre 2013.- Víctimas sobrevivientes del genocidio en Guatemala y organizaciones sociales, interpusieron hoy, ante la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH), una denuncia contra el Estado de Guatemala por la impunidad que persiste de las graves violaciones a los derechos humanos cometidas en perjuicio del pueblo ixil. La denuncia se fundamenta en la violación de la Convención Americana sobre Derechos Humanos y de otros tratados internacionales de derechos humanos.

En la denuncia, las organizaciones afirmaron que el Estado de Guatemala ha incumplido con la obligación de garantizar a las víctimas su derecho a acceder a la justicia ya que por más de 30 años no se ha juzgado a ninguno de los responsables de las violaciones sufridas por miles de víctimas.

Tal conducta compromete la responsabilidad del Estado ya que según lo ha establecido la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos “la impunidad propicia la repetición crónica de las violaciones de derechos humanos y la total indefensión de las víctimas y de sus familiares”.

Algunos de los hechos que fueron denunciados ante la CIDH, en relación con el caso de genocidio cometido en contra del grupo étnico maya Ixil, consisten en más de 60 masacres y ataques de miembros del ejército guatemalteco que dejaron como saldo aproximadamente 1771 víctimas asesinadas, así como numerosas víctimas de desaparición forzada, violencia sexual, tortura y desplazamiento forzado.

Además, en relación con el proceso que se siguió en contra de los ex generales Efraín Ríos Montt y Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez, se denunciaron las deficiencias e irregularidades de las resoluciones emitidas por las autoridades en el proceso penal, como por ejemplo: la falta de acceso a los archivos del Ministerio de la Defensa; tolerancia de las autoridades judiciales frente al abuso de acciones de amparo y de inconstitucionalidad y dilaciones indebidas en su resolución; la falta de fundamentación y arbitrariedad de las resoluciones de amparo provisional; la duración excesiva del proceso penal; los ataques a la independencia judicial y la falta de protección a los participantes en el proceso.

En particular, se destacaron ante la CIDH las irregularidades que caracterizaron la resolución de fecha 20 de mayo de 2013 dictada por tres miembros de la Corte de Constitucionalidad mediante la cual se anuló el proceso seguido contra los citados militares.

Ante todo lo anterior, los peticionarios nos hemos visto obligados a acudir ante la Comisión Interamericana de los Derechos Humanos, con la esperanza de que el sistema regional de protección de los derechos humanos agilice el trámite de la petición y asegure la protección internacional de las víctimas en el menor plazo posible. Por lo que pedimos a la Comisión la admisibilidad de la presente denuncia.

Acudir a la justicia internacional es un derecho consagrado en los tratados internacionales y en la Constitución Política de la República de Guatemala, por lo que acudimos al Sistema Interamericano de Protección de Derechos Humanos con el fin de que el Estado cumpla con sus obligaciones internacionales en materia de derechos humanos. Mientras haya impunidad no habrá respeto a los derechos humanos en Guatemala ni democracia plena.

¡Por el derecho a un país justo!

Asociación para la Justicia y Reconciliación - AJR
Centro para la Acción Legal en Derechos Humanos – CALDH
Centro por la Justicia y el Derecho Internacional - CEJIL
Bufete Jurídico por los Derechos Humanos - BDH

Monday, November 4, 2013

"Justice for genocide: A survivor's story" DC & Tucson tour stops



On October 30, NISGUA began our tour with Association for Justice and Reconciliation president, Anselmo Roldán Aguilar. After a day of meeting with key state and congressional representatives, Anselmo gave his first presentation at the Unitarian Unitarian Church of Arlington. The event, hosted by Partners for Arlington and Guatemala, connected Anselmo with a group of dedicated individuals committed to promoting human rights and education in Guatemala as well as supporting immigrants in their local community.


In D.C., we launched our tour actions - a petition calling for NO IMPUNITY! and NO AMNESTY! for war criminals and a postcard campaign collecting messages in support of the genocide sentence. After Anselmo presented at American University, students responded with powerful submissions in support of the genocide sentence:

Justice needs to be met to the fullest extent of the law. Rios Montt was found guilty already of murder and genocide. His current “freedom” and house arrest is unlawful… the victims need closure and the Guatemalan government needs to do what is right.


All persons need justice and equal rights. The Historican Clarification Comission (CEH) declared that there was genocide in the 1980s and now is the time to remember this in the Guatemalan system. Justice is necessary for the future of Guatemala.

Yo también soy sobreviviente, pero de un crimen mucho menor. Su fuerza y su valor me inspira TANTO! Que sigan adelante! Nunca Mas! Sus crímenes son realidad, y nadie lo puede negar ni borrar. La lucha sigue!

Justicia es necesario para el futuro de Guatemala.
You can stand in solidarity with the AJR from anywhere in the world by participating in the campaign online! Take action: sign the petition to join the call for "NO AMNESTY" and share why the genocide sentence is important to you.


While at American University, former NISGUA staffer Beth Geglia sat down with Anselmo to conduct an interview about his expectations for the fall tour and what he hopes to share with US audiences. Read what Anselmo had to say in Beth's exclusive interview, “There is No Amnesty for These Crimes”: Guatemalan Massacre Survivor Anselmo Roldán Kicks Off U.S. Speaking Tour".


Anselmo finished off his D.C. visits with a potluck hosted by former NISGUA accompaniers. The gathering gave Anselmo the special opportunity to reconnect with accompaniers who once lived in his community of Cuarto Pueblo.


Anselmo and NISGUA's Guatemalan Programs Coordinator, Ellen Moore, travel across the country for their next tour engagements in Tucson, Arizona. There, a community event brought together former accompanies and immigration rights activists for a potluck and presentation with Anselmo. Participants admired the genocide sentence (pictured) and shared their own messages of support, including:

This sentence validates the painful histories that have too long been ignored. Let Guatemala set the standard for justice not impunity.

Los derechos humanos no tienen fronteras! Apoyamos a Uds. en solidaridad – gracias por su lucha para la justicia. The proof is in the sentence. Si hubo genocidio!


The next day, the AJR participated in the Tear Down the Walls national gathering, hosted by the Alliance for Global Justice, with a presentation titled "Guatemalan Genocide Case: Tearing Down the Walls of Impunity." The gathering provided the unique opportunity for cross-border relationship building during a workshop on social, ecological and economic injustices that impact indigenous communities given by the Forgotten Navajo People. Participants discussed structural violence and the imposition of harmful development projects, particularly a uranium mine on Navajo lands. They also discussed the increasing use of the penal system to control movements through the criminalization of leaders and human rights defenders, both in the US and Guatemala.

The AJR and NISGUA also participated in an assembly that focused on the war on drugs, immigration and the militarization of the border to better understand the US policies and laws that drive this deadly system.

Continue to follow the NISGUA tour! See what cities we're headed to next by visiting our website.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Take action: Tell Tahoe Resources to pack its bags and leave Guatemala!

The time has come to support community resistance to the Escobal mine by echoing their voices internationally. 

Take Action! Write Kevin McArthur, President of Tahoe Resources, to demand the company respect communities' right to self-determination and leave Guatemala!


Since communities surrounding Tahoe Resource's Escobal silver mine first organized community consultations against the project in 2011, NISGUA has closely followed and reported on ongoing resistance to the mine. During the past year, conflict around the mine site located in San Rafael las Flores in southeast Guatemala has intensified. For in-depth NISGUA analysis on community opposition to the Escobal mine and other movements in defense of territory, read our detailed report, Exercising rights: Communities defend territory.

In May 2013, a series of referenda on the future of the Escobal project in mine affected communities of San Rafael Las Flores was abruptly cut short when the government called for a state of siege in the region. The state of siege, just one step away from a state of war, undermined legitimate resistance and quashed the consultation process.

In the days following the declaration of the state of siege, former security manager for Tahoe Resources, Alberto Rotondo, was charged with ordering the April 27 attack that seriously wounded six community members. A report recently made public revealed that in mid-2012, Rotondo authored an incident report for Tahoe subsidiary, Minera San Rafael, that outlined a strategy to respond to community opposition through the criminalization of community and religious leaders. 

In addition to expressing opposition to the project through community consultations, more than 200 individuals affected by the Escobal project filed legal complaints about the project with the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM). MEM dismissed all of the community complaints, clearing the path for the granting of Tahoe's mining license. The complainants appealed MEM's dismissal, and in July, a Guatemalan court ruled in their favor, a decision that partner groups believe should effectively suspended the company's exploitation license. Despite these still unresolved questions, Tahoe has moved forward with production, reporting its first shipment of mineral concentrate on October 15.