Over eighty organizations from Canada, the US, Europe and Guatemala, and 650 individuals, have signed onto a statement to express international solidarity with women defenders throughout Latin America and with all people who are defending their water, land, life and territory. These individuals, solidarity groups, and social and environmental justice organizations are deeply concerned about the rising number of attacks against land and environment defenders throughout Latin America, particularly at the hands of multinational extractive companies and related actors, often taking place with impunity. This statement makes mention of recent attacks and murders against women land and environment defenders in Guatemala, Brazil, Honduras, Mexico and Peru.
With specific connection to a formerly Canadian-owned project, on the weekend of September 16th, an attack occurred on the home of Indigenous Angélica Choc. Anglélica Choc is fighting for justice in Guatemala and Canada for the murder of her husband Adolfo Ich on September 27, 2009 at the hands of company security guards.
In Canada, Angelica Choc is one of the plaintiffs in a series of suits brought against HudBay Minerals that are proceeding in Ontario courts for negligence in connection with violence at the Fénix nickel mine project in El Estor, Guatemala between January 2007 and September 2009.
In Guatemala, Angélica and her family are also dealing with a gruelling process related to the criminal trial against Mynor Padilla, former military colonel and head of security for HudBay Minerals/CGN at their Fenix nickel mine project at the time of Adolfo's murder, that is now nearing its end. Earlier this year, the judge – claiming that she felt threatened - ordered a closed-door trial, and since then, no press or international or national observers have been allowed to attend. The trial has been riddled with procedural and substantive irregularities, as well as allegations by the plaintiffs of racism by the judge. The long and arduous proceedings have caused serious personal and economic hardship to Angelica, her family, supporters, and lawyers. The attack on September 16 is not the first that Angelica has faced since the criminal trial opened in Guatemala in March 2015.
The same weekend that Angelica Choc’s home was attacked, Goldman Environmental Prize winner Máxima Acuña was beaten and left in serious condition after an armed attack at her home in Cajamarca, Perú. Máxima has been under constant threat for her resistance to the Conga mine project owned by US-based Newmont Mining.
The solidarity statement also expresses indignation and deep worry at the murder in July of another Indigenous Lenca woman, Lesbia Janeth Urquia, who was part of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), the organization that Goldman Prize winner Berta Cáceres led before her high-profile murder in March 2016. The statement further raises concern for Esperanza Salazar, the coordinator of Bios Iguana A.C., and a member of the Mexican Network of Mining Affected Peoples, who was recently forced to abandon her home and work in the state of Colima because of constant threats and intimidation. Members of the Indigenous Council in Defense of Territory in Zacualpan, Colima continue to be in danger. In Brazil, Nilce de Souza Magalhães, known as Nicinha, was murdered in January 2016 after continually denouncing human rights violations committed by the consortium responsible for the Jirau hydro-electric project. And in Guatemala, Aura Lolita Chavez, from the K’iche’ Peoples Council in Defense of Life, Mother Nature, Land and Territory, has continued to receive death threats and attacks.
The solidarity statement, will be delivered to Angélica and published today. It will also be shared along with a letter to Canadian authorities calling for Canada to be Open for Justice and for respect for Indigenous self-determination and community consent prior to any mining, or other such megaproject, being undertaken, funded or promoted in any way.