Thursday, May 29, 2014

Urgent action to support La Puya communities opposing US-owned gold mine

On Friday, May 23, the communities in resistance of La Puya were violently evicted from their blockade at the entrance to El Tambor gold mine. This attack comes after more than two years of peaceful resistance to the project, and repeated calls for dialogue. Hundreds of police used tear gas and flash bombs to remove the women who formed the front lines of the resistance. Over twenty people were injured. 

Police accompany machinery sent by Kappes, Cassiday and Associates to enter the mine site.
Photo: James Rodríguez,

The communities of San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc that form the resistance at La Puya explain: 

"The purpose of the operation, directed by the Ministry of the Interior, was to forcibly introduce machinery through the mine entrance, where the communities in resistance installed their blockade on March 2, 2012… 

The police forces included women who were there to confront the brave women of the resistance who had positioned themselves on their knees at the entrance, singing the national anthem and religious songs. The police, gloating in their brutality, lashed out against the women, shooting tear gas bombs at protesters' bodies, causing grave wounds to women, children and the elderly. [These actions] even affected the female police who were on the front lines without protection. 

Given this situation, which was planned by [the Minister of the Interior] Mauricio López Bonilla and the Director of the National Civil Police Telémaco Pérez, the communities resisted and defended themselves from police aggression for more than an hour and a half. Personnel from the High Commissioners Office on Human Rights, the [Guatemalan] Human Rights Ombudsman’s office, as well as human rights observers from international and national institutions bore witness to the police action." 

Women of the La Puya peaceful resistance. Photo: James Rodríguez,
Despite this violent repression, the brave men and women of La Puya continue to resist, and call on the international community "to take urgent measures in defense of the rights of the people of San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc."

Join NISGUA, GHRC and MiningWatch Canada in solidarity with La Puya: Call on KCA and Radius Gold, the principal companies invested in the project, to halt all mining activities until the dialogue process has concluded between the Guatemalan government and the communities of La Puya, and to cease any pressure on Guatemalan authorities to use violent force against the protesters. 

Please consider adding your organizational signature to the letter and circulate it widely for individual sign ons via our online action page.

Dear Kappes Cassiday & Associates and Radius Gold, 

I write to you, the principal companies invested in the El Tambor mine project just north of Guatemala City, to vociferously denounce the violent repression on Friday May 23rd that Guatemalan security forces used on your behalf against men, women and children who have been peacefully defending their water, health and community wellbeing since March 2nd 2012. Considering the ongoing dialogue process between the Guatemalan government and the community, we urge you to halt all mining activities and to desist from any efforts to pressure Guatemalan authorities to use aggression and violent force against Guatemalan citizens.

On Friday, hundreds of police were deployed to the encampment known as La Puya; they used tear gas and flash bombs against an unarmed and peaceful group of protesters. Some were caught on video throwing rocks on the group from a nearby hill. Over twenty people were injured, two seriously; seven were taken to the hospital in Guatemala City. 

People at La Puya have demonstrated ongoing willingness to dialogue to find a non-violent solution to community concerns regarding the future of your project. In fact, for almost one year, representatives of the movement have been participating in a high-level dialogue with their government. They have requested that this dialogue be solely with their government – and not with KCA or Radius - because the issues on the table relate to the government’s obligations to respect the rights of its citizens. 

The dialogue stalled early last week when the government refused to allow the conversation to be recorded. During the standoff at La Puya on Friday, the Vice-Minister of the Interior insinuated that the government had agreed to accompany the mine equipment because the dialogue was effectively "broken." Community members at La Puya continue to reiterate that they want to complete the dialogue process, but with transparency. Encouraging the Guatemalan authorities and affected communities to find a peaceful solution to this conflict should be your top priority. 

The attack on Friday was not the first incident of violence against the people of La Puya. In June 2012, an unknown gunman shot and wounded Yolanda Oquelí while she was on her way home from the roadblock. In addition, security guards hired by EXMINGUA were convicted of intimidating journalists at the roadblock in December 2012.

Community concerns about the impact of the project on water and health are supported by an evaluation carried out by hydrogeology and geochemistry expert Robert Moran. He states in a May 22, 2014 review that your company’s Environmental Impact Assessment is the worst quality that he has seen out of hundreds he has reviewed in 42 years of experience. While the process has been slow, all parties were working toward an agreement to review the EIA to address the report's failure to consider water contamination due to high levels of arsenic already present in the soil. 

Although Radius Gold sold its shares in the local Guatemalan subsidiary Exploraciones Mineras de Guatemala S.A. (EXMINGUA) to KCA in August 2012, it retains an economic interest in the mine. The company's 2013 audited financial statements state that three quarters of the cost of the sale transaction will be paid to Radius once gold shipments commence from the property and that Radius also anticipates quarterly payments from KCA based on gold production. 

I call on Kappes, Cassiday & Associates of Nevada and Radius Gold of Vancouver halt all mining activities out of support for the dialogue process and to publicly call for an end to the use of violent force by Guatemalan security forces.


[Your name or organization here]

President Otto Pérez Molina
Guatemalan Ministry of the Interior
U.S. Embassy in Guatemala
Canadian Embassy in Guatemala

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