On Friday June 7, Alberto Rotondo, former security manager for Tahoe Resources, was summoned to appear for the second time in a Guatemalan court. During the first hearing on May 7, Rotondo was charged with assault and obstruction of justice in connection to the April 27 attack outside Tahoe's Escobal project in which mine security opened fire on community members, seriously injuring six. The purpose of the hearing was to formally register the six victims as co-plaintiffs in the case.
|Co-plaintiffs and their lawyers at the second hearing in the case against Alberto Rotondo. |
Barbarena, Santa Rosa, June 7, 2013 (Photo: Giles Clarke)
|Alberto Rotondo (center) and his legal team at the defense table. Barbarena, |
Santa Rosa, June 7, 2013 (Photo: Karla Solórzano)
In early May, Juan Pablo Oliva Trejo, former Tahoe employee and security advisor to Rotondo, was also arrested, and on May 15 was charged with concealing evidence in connection to the April incident. While Rotondo and Oliva Trejo are said to no longer work for Tahoe Resources, both were employees when the alleged crimes took place. Wire tap evidence collected by Guatemala's Public Prosecutor is believed to implicate Rotondo and Oliva Trejo in the crimes and both are currently under house arrest.
Despite repeated claims by Tahoe Resources and Guatemalan officials that only non-lethal rubber bullets were used to disperse the protesters, the injuries suggest otherwise. One victim explained to NISGUA staff that while the wounds he suffered from the rubber bullets have faded, the injuries caused by live ammunition have yet to fully heal. The photos below were taken more than a month after the attack.
|Two victims of the April 27 attack. Barbarena, Santa Rosa June 7, 2013 (Photo: Giles Clarke)|
Since Rotondo was captured on April 30, Tahoe Resources spokespeople, including head of investor relations Ira Gostin and CEO Kevin McArthur have made misleading statements in an attempt to downplay the seriousness of the incidents and the charges filed against Tahoe employees. See Tahoe's May 1 press release.
As a result, on May 31 the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project (JCAP) submitted a complaint to the Ontario Securities Commission regarding Tahoe Resources’ poor disclosure about violence in connection with the company’s only mine project. In its June 4 press response, Tahoe failed to reply to the specific concerns expressed in the complaint, including the ongoing criminal investigation of former Tahoe employees in connection with the escalating and persistent violence around the mine site.
While the state of siege declared in four municipalities around the Escobal mine is officially over, the tension and fear it produced remains palpable, especially for those who continue to peacefully resist the project. The April 27 attack was carried out just steps away from the non-violent encampment erected to demonstrate the community's ongoing opposition to the project. Below, one of the men shot in the April attack holds up the banner previously used to mark the entrance to the protest site.
|"Communities in Peaceful Resistance: El Escobal. The Defense our Territories is our Right"|
San Rafael las Flores, Santa Rosa, June 9 (Photo: Giles Clarke)
Despite twelve community consultations to date in Santa Rosa and Jalapa rejecting mining in their territories, on April 3 the Ministry of Energy and Mines approved the exploitation license for Tahoe Resources' Escobal project. With commercial production of silver expected to begin in early 2014, community members remain concerned about the social and environmental impacts of the massive project, located alarmingly close to homes, crops and livestock.
|Horses and cows graze in the shadow of the Escobal mine. |
Los Planes, Santa Rosa, June 9 (Photo: Giles Clarke)
|Looking down on Escobal mine and town of |
San Rafael las Flores, June 9 (Photo: Giles Clarke)
International solidarity with the communities of Santa Rosa and Jalapa continues defending their right to consultation and self determination. Today NISGUA and Breaking the Silence presented President Otto Pérez Molina with an open letter signed by thirty organizations calling for the revocation of Tahoe's exploitation license. The letter outlines numerous concerns, including "the lack of consultation, broad local opposition to the project, the irregularities in the approval process, the pending criminal investigation against Minera San Rafael for industrial contamination, and the context of violence, intimidation and criminalization against human rights and environmental defenders." Read the full letter on our website.
For further background on Tahoe's dangerous investment, see our May 8 Investor Alert here.
NISGUA has been accompanying the consultation processes in the communities surrounding the Tahoe Resources mine site since 2011.