Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Members of La Puya resistance meet with President Otto Pérez Molina

Yolanda Oquelí (foreground) meets with Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina and
Minister of The Interior Mauricio Lopez Bonilla. Photo: Giles Clarke

In an uncharacteristic move, President Otto Pérez Molina and the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) invited members of the peaceful resistance of La Puya to a high level meeting last week to explain their ongoing opposition to the El Tambor (Progresso VII) gold mine located in the municipalities of San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc. Community members have maintained a constant presence at the entrance of the mine site for the past 15 months.

In the hours long meeting, community representatives explained the reasons for the resistance highlighting the lack of consultation and serious flaws in the Environmental Impact Assessment, as demonstrated in the analysis conducted earlier this year. Leader of the resistance, Yolanda Oquelí described the meeting stating: "This isn't a quick fix or a negotiation. We came at the invitation of the president and the minister of Energy and Mines because they wanted to know why we oppose the mining project." According to an article published on the MEM website, the authorities insisted on the environmental and economic viability of the project and offered to carry out a physical inspection of the mine installations with the participation of relevant local organizations.

Also invited to the high level meeting were representatives from the US company behind the project, Kappes Cassiday & Associates, their legal council, which also represents Canadian mining giant that owns Guatemala's Marlin Mine, GoldCrop, and principle investors in the project. However, at the request of the representatives from La Puya, KCA's meeting with the president was held separately. La Puya maintains firm that their concerns and demands are with the Guatemalan government, and not the private company.

A supporter holds a sign saying "I peacefully resist" outside the presidential palace.
Photo: CPR Urbana

While just 10 representatives were allowed inside the meeting, scores of community members and supporters of the peaceful resistance gathered outside the Presidential Palace. At the request of La Puya resistance, the Independent Media Center (CMI) gained access to the meeting in order to film the proceedings from within. 

A boy watches footage of the presidential meeting in La Puya. Photo: NISGUA
On Sunday, June 16, the resistance at large gathered at La Puya to watch the footage from Wednesday's meeting. A community assembly is pending to discuss the meeting and to make a decision surrounding next steps moving forward. In the assembly on Sunday, the La Puya representatives recognized that there struggle has been hard and exhausting, but reaffirmed that after 15 months in resistance they have no intention of stopping now.

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