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Urgent Action: Guatemalan government moves to expel witnesses to police violence at US-Canadian mine site

Jen Moore Jennifer Moore worked as MiningWatch's first full-time Latin America Program Coordinator from 2010 to 2018.

In response to Peace Brigades International's alert on July 2nd that Guatemalan authorities have moved to expel witnesses to police violence from the company, consider sending the following message or a version of it to the Canadian Embassy in Guatemala and other parliamentarians copied below. Find PBI's alert and more about related issues on our blog here.

SAMPLE LETTER:

Canadian Embassy in Guatemala
Ambassador Stuart Savage
gtmla(at)international.gc.ca

Dear Ambassador Stuart Savage,

I write to you out of deep concern regarding an alert issued last week by Peace Brigades International (PBI) indicating that two PBI volunteers have had their temporary residency permits revoked by Guatemalan authorities.

Both volunteers witnessed the violent police eviction at ‘La Puya’, where the communities of San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc have maintained a peaceful blockade at the entrance to the El Tambor mine project for over two years. The El Tambor project is owned by US-based Kappes, Cassidy & Associates and Vancouver-based Radius Gold retains an economic interest in its development.

I share PBI’s concern that this is part of Guatemalan government efforts to weaken relationships between Guatemalan communities and civil society organizations with human rights accompaniment groups that provide support to help deter and dissuade violence and repression in the context of conflicts over mining projects and other large-scale developments.

This move is bound to aggravate an already violence-ridden situation and lead to further human rights violations, unjustly benefitting the US and Canadian firms. As a result, it is vital that Canadian representatives speak out against this.

Specifically, as reported by PBI:

On July 1st 2014, two PBI volunteers, of Chilean and Spanish nationality, presented themselves at the Office of Migration Services, which had summoned them via written notice on 25th June (Received 26th June) to provide “information with regards to their temporal residency permits”. In the meeting, during which the legal representative of PBI Guatemala as well as a lawyer were present, the volunteers were informed that their temporal residency had been cancelled and that they had 10 days to leave the country[1]. The written resolutions issued by the migration authorities refer to articles of Guatemalan migration legislation specifying in particular the various powers of the Office of Migration Services, such as the cancellation of temporary residence permits that have been granted, by issuing a reasoned judgement (Article 74 of the Migration Act), as well as “to suspend the stay of foreigners due to reasons linked to public order, national interest and state security” (Art 92). However, the resolutions lack any reasoning on the basis of specific evidence to justify the decision and fail to refer to any actions of PBI or its volunteers.

PBI Guatemala has enjoyed legal status in Guatemala since 1995[2] and is duly registered and accredited by the competent public authorities, with legal representation and capacity to act within the framework of its mandate and mission. Each PBI volunteer initiates the process of application for temporary residence upon arrival in the country in compliance with immigration law. At all times PBI and its volunteers in Guatemala act in accord with the legal framework. National authorities are regularly informed on our work both in Guatemala and outside the country.

The two PBI volunteers to whom the resolutions refer, observed the violent eviction of the Protest Camp of the Peaceful Resistance of La Puya on 23rd May. In June, PBI Guatemala issued an alert calling for attention to these events.[3] During the eviction, representatives of the Office of Migration Services were present but subsequently left without approaching the PBI observers, after police officers had checked their migration status by revising their identification documents, only to find them in order.

Over the following weeks, various articles with defamatory comments against foreigners and international organisations were published in Guatemalan media. We are concerned that the cancellation of the temporary residence permits of two of our volunteers may be related to false information on the work of international observation during the eviction, which was published by the media.

In light of the above, I urge you to:

  • Publicly express your knowledge and support for the work of PBI in Guatemala indicating concern about the cancellation of the temporary residence permits of two PBI volunteers in the country;
  • Request the annulment of the unwarranted resolutions issued by the Office of Migration Services on July 1st, allowing both volunteers to recover their temporary residence permits which had been granted;
  • Remind the Guatemalan State of its obligation to protect human rights defenders and reiterate the importance of their work and of international accompaniment and observation when requested due to threats and attacks against them.
  • Publicly express through the channels deemed appropriate support for the work of human rights defenders in Guatemala, their right to receive accompaniment from PBI and other organizations and their right of communities to say no to unwanted mining activities that would detrimentally affect their wellbeing;
  • Ensure that Canada create robust eligibility criteria for all government supports to mining companies, including ensuring respect for the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous communities and for binding democratic and participatory decision-making processes of non-Indigenous communities before mine prospecting and project development begins; that Canada pass legislation to regulate Canadian mining companies operating abroad and provide affected communities with access to Canadian courts and an independent ombudsperson, such as the Canadian Network for Corporate Accountability is promoting through its Open for Justice campaign; and that Canada instruct its embassies abroad to carefully assess the impacts of Canadian mining operations on affected communities to ensure that commercial interests never outweigh collective and individual human rights. 

Thank you for your time and consideration, I look forward to your prompt reply.

Sincerely,

[YOUR NAME]

cc: 
Canadian Embassy in Guatemala
Political Counsellor, Colleen Pigeon
colleen.pigeon(at)international.gc.ca

John Baird
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Canada
John.baird(at)parl.gc.ca

Christian Paradis
Minister of International Development
Christian.paradis(at)parl.gc.ca

Paul Dewar
NDP Critic for Foreign Affairs
paul.dewar(at)parl.gc.ca

Helene Laverdiere
NDP Critic for International Development
helene.laverdiere(at)parl.gc.ca

Wayne Marston
NDP Critic for Human Rights, Americas and Consular Affairs  
wayne.marston(at)parl.gc.ca

Irwin Cotler
Liberal Critic for Rights and Freedoms, International Justice  
irwin.cotler(at)parl.gc.ca

Marc Garneau
Liberal Critic for Foreign Affairs
Marc.garneau(at)parl.gc.ca

Elizabeth May
Leader of the Green Party
elizabeth.may(at)parl.gc.ca

[1] Resolution No. 40 – 2014, File 26627-2013, Canceling of Temporary Residence Permits issued March 10, 2014 (No. PR-01235-2014); and Resolution No. 41-2014, File 30776-2013, canceling Temporary Residence issued on April 2, 2014 (No. PR-01693-2014).

[2] Issued March 10, 1995 by Ministerial Agreement 148-95, the Interior Ministry.

[3] PBI, “Violent eviction of the Peaceful Resistence at “La Puya”, Guatemala, 2.07.2014.