Thursday, June 20, 2013

NISGUA's genocide trial coverage: the complete collection

While we await the next steps of the genocide trial, we are honored to provide an accessible archive of the daily coverage we provided from day 1 of the trial. Please read and share this historic collection.

Sipakapa celebrates 8th anniversary of community consultation

On June 18, the communities of Sipakapa, a municipality affected by GoldCorp's Marlin Mine in Western Guatemala, celebrated the eighth anniversary of one of the first community consultations in the country. Today, more than 70 community consultations on natural resource exploration and exploitation have been carried out throughout Guatemala. In every case, communities have resoundingly rejected mega-projects on their territory voting NO to mining and YES to life.

On Tuesday, more than 1,000 men, women and children peacefully gathered in Sipakapa, in the department of San Marcos, to demand respect for the community consultation and to demonstrate their opposition to GoldCorp's Marlin Mine. The people of Sipakapa confirmed once again: Sipakapa is not for sale / Sipakapa no se vende!
Thousands gather to celebrate the anniversary of one of Guatemala's first community
consultations in 2005 around the Marlin Mine in Sipakapa, San Marcos. Photo: COPAE

In recent months, repression, violent attacks and a state of siege have shifted public attention to GoldCorp's newest investment in Guatemala, Tahoe Resources' Escobal silver mine, of which GoldCorp holds 40% of the shares. However, the social and environmental impacts of the Marlin Mine continue to be a major concern for residents in the surrounding communities.

At a press conference on May 19, the Center for Legal, Environmental and Social Action in Guatemala (CALAS) and the organization Juridical Pluralism (Plurijur) presented evidence of the possible existence of chronic arsenic poisoning and other environmental illnesses in the region of the Marlin Mine in the department of San Marcos. Chronic arsenic poisoning is typically caused by exposure to high levels of arsenic in groundwater, a possible result of pollution from the mine.

The health impacts mining have long been a concern for affected communities as was demonstrated during the People's International Health Tribunal in 2012. Technical studies have also shown that Marlin's mine operations present significant health risks. Researchers from Physicians for Human Rights and the University of Michigan have released a study showing that individuals living closer to the mine had higher levels of arsenic and other potentially toxic metals than those living further away. Studies confirming the negative environmental and health impacts of the mine have also been carried out by researchers at the University of Ghent in Belgium and E-Tech International, a New Mexico based environmental organization.

In 2010, in response to a petition submitted by Marlin Mine affected communities, the Inter-American Human Rights Commission urged the Guatemalan government to suspend all operations at the mine. In the face of governmental pressure, the recommendation to suspend all operations was lifted the following year. However, other recommendations remained in place, including an order that the government ensure the quality of water resources in the area of the mine. According to Carlos Loarca of Plurijur, the government announced in August 2012 that they would install a treatment plant for water contaminated by mine's operations, but the communities have not been aware of any follow-up actions taken by the government.

During the Sipakapa consultation anniversary activities this week, representatives of the community expressed their ongoing concerns about the impacts of mining on their territory and communities, including the contamination of water sources used for human consumption and crops. Community activist and human rights defender Crisanta Pérez called for unity and strength moving forward saying: “Today Sipakapa rejected mining, and all of our brothers and sisters have to continue on the path no matter what we suffer or what we live through, we must continue forward. Today Montana Exploradora (Canadian subsidiary of GoldCorp) - wants to exploit our communities, but the people want to express themselves and each day we continue to grow.”

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.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Criminal case against Alberto Rotondo, security manager for Tahoe Resources, moves forward in Guatemalan courts

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.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Speculation around genocide trial restart; Ríos Montt back under house arrest

Guatemalan civil society reacted to the May 20 annulment of the genocide trial verdict through public actions, marches and vigils overwhelmingly rejecting the decision. On May 24, an impromptu march that some activists reported to be the largest in recent history organized in the name of memory in Guatemala. An estimated 5,000 people filled the streets of the capital to denounce impunity and call for justice. Supporters throughout the world also organized solidarity protests outside Guatemalan embassies to echo the message: Yes, it was Genocide. Sí Hubo Genocidio.

"The truth is told, justice was sentenced. Yes it was genocide."
See more photos from the May 24 march via CPR Urbana

While public opinion on the genocide trial annulment has been expressed in the media and on the streets, the answers to the legal questions necessary to clarify the future of the trial are only slowly being untangled.

Following the decision of the Constitutional Court (CC) to annul trial proceedings after April 19, the Guatemalan Supreme Court faced the challenge of composing a three-judge Appelate Court to carry out the CC decision. Possibly fearing a black mark on their record and the condemnation of the multitudes of national and international bodies calling for an end to impunity in Guatemala, at least 61 judges excused themselves from the case.

Finally, on May 27 the Appellate Court was formed and rapidly carried out the CC decision to annul the trial. Shortly thereafter, Judge Yassmin Barrios excused all three members of her presiding tribunal from future genocide trial proceedings, the inevitable outcome of having already issued a verdict.

On June 4, the Appellate Court assigned the case to the First High Risk Crimes Court "B", made up of Judges Irma Jeannette Valdés Rodas, María Eugenia Castellanos and Sara Griselda Yoc Yoc. The tribunal has presided over other high profile cases for justice including the conviction of Pujujiles gang members for the 2010 murder of Maya artist and community leader, Lisandro Leonardo Guarcax González, and 32 other victims. Judge Irma Jeannette Valdés Rodas also led the tribunal responsible for the conviction of ex-general Pedro Pimental for his involvement in the Dos Erres massacre.

While news reports quickly spread that the trial would not resume until April 2014, an official restart date for the genocide trial has not been determined. The First High Risk Crimes Court "B" has only confirmed their case list extends through March 2014.

Ríos Montt was transferred to the Military Hospital on May 13, after spending only 3 nights in prison. He stayed in the hospital until the early hours of June 12, when he was ordered to return home under house arrest, as he was ordered in January 2012. José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez, who was acquitted of all charges, is back in police custody and remains in the Military Hospital, according to Guatemalan newspaper El Periódico.

Meanwhile, Ríos Montt and Rodríguez Sánchez' lawyers continue to argue that the former generals should be granted amnesty. However, Article 8 of the National Reconciliation Law, passed as part Guatemala's 1996 Peace Accords, invalidates amnesty in the cases of genocide, torture and forced disappearance. Regardless, the defense lawyers continue to claim the law cannot be applied retroactively - that is to say that  it cannot be applied to crimes committed in 1982 and 1983. The lawyers originally made the case for amnesty in December 2012, and were denied by Judge Miguel Ángel Gálvez. Naturally the defense appealed, and now it's up to the Constitutional Court to make a final ruling. Ramón Cadena, expert in international law, declared in his testimony on day 15 of the genocide trial: "Genocide can't be forgiven, it can't be granted amnesty."

Monday, June 3, 2013

Complaint asks for investigation into Tahoe Resources after wiretap evidence implicates employees in violence at Escobal mine

On Saturday April 27, mine security at Tahoe Resources' Escobal project opened fire on community members peacefully gathered outside the mine site. Six men were shot and seriously injured. This incident set of a chain of events, eventually resulting in the declaration of a state of siege in four municipalities surrounding the Escobal mine. 

On April 30, Alberto Rotondo, Security Manager for Tahoe Resources was arrested and on May 7 Rotondo was charged with obstruction of justice and assault. On May 4, another Tahoe employee, Juan Pablo Oliva Trejo, was arrested and later charged with concealment of evidence for his role in helping Rotondo mobilize during the days following the attack. Wire tap evidence gathered by Guatemala's Public Prosecutor's office implicates both men in the crimes.

According to Canadian law, Tahoe Resources is obligated to inform their shareholders and the public in general of any events that may impact the project. Tahoe has only released one statement regarding the concerning events on April 27, downplaying the seriousness of the incident and criminal implications for their employees. On May 31, the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project, in coordination with local partners, submitted a complaint to the Ontario Securities Commission regarding Tahoe's lack of disclosure. Please see the press release below.

For further background on Tahoe's dangerous investment, see our May 8 Investor Alert here

June 3, 2013


(Toronto/Ottawa) Friday, the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project (JCAP) submitted a complaint to the Ontario Securities Commission regarding Tahoe Resources’ (TSX: THO; NYSE: TAHO) poor disclosure about violence in connection with the company’s only mine project in southeast Guatemala.

On April 27, security personnel shot and wounded six people gathered outside of the Escobal mine site. Wiretap evidence gathered under orders of the Guatemalan public prosecutor’s office has implicated company employees.

According to the wiretap evidence, Tahoe’s Security Manager Alberto Rotondo ordered the mine security to attack the protestors. Mr. Rotondo has been charged with causing serious and minor injuries and obstructing justice, which included tampering with evidence at the site of the crime. He is currently under house arrest and awaiting an evidentiary hearing in July 2013.

The security advisor for the company, Juan Pablo Oliva Trejo, has also been apprehended in connection to the attack and charged with concealing a crime. According to wiretap evidence, he helped Mr. Rotondo mobilize in the days following the attack, warning him to leave the country to avoid facing legal problems. 

According to Securities Commission requirements, Tahoe Resources must file material changes “forthwith”. Company disclosure, however, has been both insufficient and inaccurate.

“We are concerned that Tahoe Resources has downplayed the serious crimes for which its employees have been accused in comments to the press and that it has not issued an official statement since the wiretap evidence came to light that would correct earlier errors,” stated lawyer Shin Imai of JCAP at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto.

JCAP has requested that the Commission undertake an investigation based on section 75(1) of the Securities Act. JCAP filed the complaint on behalf of MiningWatch Canada and its Guatemalan partner, the Committee for the Defence of Peace and Life of San Rafael Las Flores.

“As the company’s only mine project, investors, and the public in general, need to know about the implication of its employees in such an egregious attack, as well as widespread and ongoing opposition to the mine,” remarked Jen Moore for MiningWatch Canada.

Local communities have resoundingly rejected the Escobal mining project in 12 community consultations to date and have sustained a peaceful resistance to the mine for three years. Goldcorp Inc. owned the Escobal project until 2010 and currently owns 40% of the shares in Tahoe Resources. As of March 2012, the Canadian Pension Plan held $9 million CDN worth of shares in the company. 

A copy of the letter submitted to the Ontario Securities Commission on May 30 can be accessed here. Refer to an Investor Alert from May 8 for further background here.


Shin Imai, Justice and Corporate Accountability Project, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, (tel) 647-524-2312
Jennifer Moore, Latin America Program Coordinator, MiningWatch Canada, (tel) 613-569-3439, jen(@)

The Justice and Corporate Accountability Project (JCAP) is made up of volunteer lawyers and law students who provide research and advice on corporate accountability in Latin America.

MiningWatch Canada is a pan-Canadian initiative supported by environmental, social justice, Aboriginal and labour organisations from across the country. It addresses the urgent need for a co-ordinated public interest response to the threats to public health, water and air quality, fish and wildlife habitat and community interests posed by irresponsible mineral policies and practices in Canada and around the world.

Se solicita a Comisión de Valores en Canadá investigar a Minera Tahoe luego de que escuchas telefónicas vincluan a sus empleados en hecho violentos en Guatemala

3 de junio 2013

(Toronto/Ottawa) El Proyecto Justicia y Responsabilidad Corporativa (Justice and Corporate Accountability Project - JCAP) en Canadá entregó el día viernes una queja a la Comisión de Valores de la provincia de Ontario en relación a la empresa Tahoe Resources (TSX: THO; NYSE: TAHO) por su deficiente divulgación de información sobre los casos de violencia vinculados a su único proyecto minero en el suroriente de Guatemala. 

El 27 de abril, empleados de seguridad dispararon e hirieron a seis personas que se encontraban en frente del proyecto minero Escobal. Las escuchas telefónicas encargadas por el Ministerio Público de Guatemala implican a empleados de la empresa minera en los hechos.

Según la evidencia de las escuchas telefónicas, Alberto Rotondo, gerente de seguridad de la empresa Tahoe, ordenó a las fuerzas de seguridad de la mina atacar a los manifestantes. Rotondo ha sido ligado a proceso por obstaculización de la investigación penal, y por lesiones leves y graves. Se encuentra bajo medida sustitutiva de arresto domiciliario, a la espera de una audiencia probatoria en julio de este año.

El asesor de seguridad de la empresa, Juan Pablo Oliva Trejo, también fue detenido en conexión con el ataque y ligado a proceso por el delito de encubrimiento propio. Según las escuchas telefónicas, Trejo ayudó a Rotondo a movilizarse durante los días siguientes al ataque y le advirtió a Rotondo que saliera del país para evitar conflictos legales.

Según las directrices de la Comisión de Valores, Tahoe Resources debe presentar cambios materiales “de inmediato”. Sin embargo, la divulgación de información por parte de la empresa ha sido insuficiente e inexacta.

“Nos preocupa que Tahoe Resources minimice la gravedad de los serios crímenes por los que se acusa a sus empleados en sus comentarios a la prensa y que no haya emitido una declaración oficial para corregir los errores en la información emitida anteriormente a que surgiera la evidencia de las escuchas telefónicas”, indicó el abogado Shin Imai, del JCAP, Facultad de Derecho Osgoode Hall en Toronto.

JCAP solicitó que la Comisión de Valores inicie una investigación basándose en la sección 75(1) de la Ley de Valores (Securities Act) de la provincia de Ontario. JCAP presentó la demanda en nombre de Alerta Minera Canadá y su contraparte en Guatemala, el Comité en Defensa de la Vida y la Paz de San Rafael Las Flores.

“Dado a que este es el único proyecto minero de la empresa, es importante que los accionistas y el público en general sepan que los empleados están implicados en ataques de esta magnitud, además de la constante y extensa oposición a la mina,” comentó Jen Moore de Alerta Minera Canadá.

Las comunidades locales han rechazado rotundamente el proyecto minero Escobal en las 12 consultas comunitarias llevadas a cabo hasta la fecha, y durante tres años se han mantenido en resistencia pacífica a la mina. El proyecto minero Escobal perteneció a Goldcorp Inc. hasta el 2010 y actualmente esta empresa posee 40% de las acciones de Tahoe Resources. En marzo de 2012, el Plan de Pensiones de Canadá (Canada Pension Plan) poseía el equivalente de US$8.7 millones en acciones de la empresa.

Se puede acceder a una copia de la carta entregada a la Comisión de Valores de la provincia de Ontario aquí (en inglés). Para más detalle, descargar esta Alerta para Inversionstas aquí (español). 


Shin Imai, Proyecto Justicia y Responsabilidad Corporativa (Justice and Corporate Accountability Project - JCAP), Facultad de Derecho Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, (tel) 647-524-2312,

Jennifer Moore, Coordinadora del Programa de Latinoamérica, Alerta Minera Canadá, (tel) 613-569-3439,

Proyecto Justicia y Responsabilidad Corporativa (JCAP) es una agrupación de abogadas/os y estudiantes de derecho dedicada a la investigación y asesoramiento sobre responsabilidad empresarial en América Latina.

Alerta Minera Canadá es una iniciativa pan-canadiense que cuenta con el apoyo de organizaciones ambientales, de justicia social, sindicales e indígenas, de todo el país. Su objetivo es responder de manera coordinada y en relación al interés público a los temas de salud pública, calidad del agua y aire, hábitat acuático y vida silvestre, e intereses de las comunidades, frente a las amenazas que imponen en estos temas las prácticas y políticas irresponsables sobre minerales en Canadá y en el resto del mundo..