Blog Entry

Five Years After Mariano Abarca Was Murdered for his Resistance Against Blackfire Exploration, We Demand Justice!

Jamie Kneen

National Program Co-Lead

The following letter has been sent to authorities to demand a response from the Mexican and Canadian authorities to ensure justice for his death. This video is from a vigil in front of the Canadian Embassy in Mexico City mere days after the Mariano's November 27, 2009 murder, held by the Mexican Network of Communities Affected by Mining (REMA). Activist Bety Cariño speaks of Mariano, and the larger Indigenous struggle for land, for water, and for life, forcefully and eloquently. Three months later, she herself was killed, along with Finnish human rights observer Jyri Jaakola, on a humanitarian mission to the Triqui people of San Juan Copala, Oaxaca.

Five years after the death of Mariano Abarca Roblero, who was assassinated for his resistance against the Canadian mining company Blackfire Exploration, we demand a response from the Mexican and Canadian authorities to ensure justice for his death. We also demand that the Canadian government end its so-called ‘economic diplomacy’ policy and adopt a policy based on respect for Indigenous and human rights, and for the protection of those defending their territories and the environment.

To the President of the Republic of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto
To the Governor of the State of Chiapas, Manuel Velasco Coello
To the Attorney General of the Republic of Mexico, Jesús Murillo Karam
To the Attorney General for Justice of the State of Chiapas, Raciel López Salazar 
To the National Commission for Human Rights of Mexico, Raúl Plascencia Villanueva
To the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Peter MacKay
To the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada, John Baird
To the Minister of International Trade of Canada, Ed Fast
To the Canadian Ambassador in Mexico, Sara Hradecky

November 27th, 2014 marks the fifth anniversary of the assassination of Mariano Abarca Roblero, murdered for his opposition to the Canadian mining company Blackfire Exploration given the social and environmental harms related to this company’s operations in the municipality of Chicomuselo, Chiapas, Mexico. All those detained and punished for his death had a connection to Blackfire. However, there was never a thorough and impartial investigation of this case to identify and punish all those involved in his killing. Blackfire is also under investigation for allegations of bribery based on evidence of payments made directly into the personal bank account of the Municipal President with the understanding that this official would control growing opposition to the company’s operations. Blackfire’s open-pit barite mine was subsequently closed down two years after it went into operation on environmental grounds.

Despite the fact that the Canadian Embassy knew about this case and the imminent threat to Mariano Abarca, it took no action to protect his life, nor did it ensure that the Canadian company would not be breaking the law in Mexico or in Canada, in particular the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act (CFPOA). Rather, the Embassy distanced itself from the investigation and continued to advise the mining company on the possibility of suing the Mexican government under Chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). This information came to light in 2013 when three Canadian organizations published an exhaustive investigation entitled: Corruption, Murder and Canadian Mining in Mexico: The Case of Blackfire Exploration and the Canadian Embassy.

Those found guilty for the assassination of Mariano Abarca have already been released from jail. Meanwhile others, who could have had a hand in Mariano’s death, including individuals with connections to the company and government officials, have never been thoroughly investigated. Mexican organization Otros Mundos-Chiapas along with the Abarca family have pointed to at least 13 others (all with ties to the company) that should have been on the list to be investigated. No response has yet been provided to a complaint filed in 2010 with the State of Chiapas’ Auditor against the then Municipal President of Chicomuselo for having received funds from the Canadian mining company with no accounting for where that money went.

In March 2010, nine Canadian organizations filed a well-documented complaint with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) under the CFPOA with respect to Blackfire’s corrupt dealings with the Municipal President of Chicomuselo. In July 2011, the RCMP raided Blackfire’s office in Calgary. Three and a half years later the case remains open.

In this context, we call on both Mexican and Canadian authorities to ensure that justice is served with respect to the death of Mr. Mariano Abarca Roblero and with regard to the ample evidence presented in the alleged bribing of the Municipal President of Chicomuselo by Blackfire. We also call on Canada to put an immediate end to its so-called ‘economic diplomacy’ policy that dedicates 100% of the efforts of the Canadian diplomatic corps to serve private interests. Instead, Canada should be enforcing a policy that respects Indigenous and human rights, in particular those who are defending their territories and the environment. The RCMP has at hand all the necessary evidence to bring the case of corruption against Blackfire to the attention of the Office of Canada’s Attorney General. As such, we call on that office to expedite the findings and make them public. Both countries, Canada and Mexico, have human rights instruments that they can call on to ensure that justice is served, and we demand no less.