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Press Conference in Chiapas, Mexico with Uriel Abarca, Jose Luis Abarca and Gustavo Castro (Otros Mundos Chiapas)

Mariano Abarca's Powerful Speech in Front of Canadian Embassy Is Heard in Chiapas to Mark Family's Submission of Appeal and 10th Year of Impunity

Kirsten Francescone Latin America Program Coordinator Kirsten Francescone works to support communities, organizations, and networks in the region struggling with mining conflicts.

On August 19th, 2019 members of Mariano Abarca’s family, along with supporting Mexican organizations, held a press conference in San Cristobal de las Casas to denounce the 10th anniversary of impunity for Mariano’s murder and announce their decision to use their right to appeal the Federal Court of Canada’s recent decision to not order the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner to investigate the acts and omissions of the Canadian embassy in Mexico leading up to Mariano’s murder. At the press conference they played a video of Mariano's historic speech which he delivered in front of the Canadian embassy in Mexico just months before he was murdered. 

The government is afraid of learning the truth about what its embassy does in Mexico and in all of the embassies in Latin America. They don’t want to know the truth of how they acted to defend the company that had violated the human rights of the peoples of Chicomusuelo. That is why they don’t order an investigation”, said Uriel Abarca Roblero, Mariano Abarca’s brother who attended the hearing at the Federal Court of Canada this march, 2019.

"It is important to higlight that this is the first case which is being brought to Canada before their tribunals for the assasination of an environmentlaist by a Canadian mining company. The majority of mining companies have their headquarters in Canada and for that reason the impunity that manifests itself in the government of Canada to protect large coporations produces masacres but also huge environmental impacts and not only in Chiapas but in all of Latin America", said Gustavo Castro, member of Otros Mundos Chiapas, one of the organizations also filing the appeal. 

August 17th marked the 10th anniversary of Mariano’s detention in Chiapas, following a slew of invented charges filed against him by the company, without proof.  Shorlty after he was assasinated in front of his family restaurant in plain daylight on November 27, 2009. 

The media statement circulated to the press in Chiapas can be found here below:

10 YEARS AFTER THE ASSASINATION OF MARIANO ABARCA: The Government of Canada accepts omissions yet state of impunity persists, in denying investigation

Source: Family of Mariano Abarca – Otros Mundos Chiapas – Red Mexicana de Afectados por la Mineria (REMA) – Universidad Autonoma de Chiapas Facultad de Derecho-- MiningWatch Canada

(Chiapas, Mexico) 10 years ago, Mariano Abarca went to the Canadian embassy to report the threats and harassment that communities in Chiapas were receiving from the Canadian mining company, Blackfire Exploration. The answer was his imprisonment and subsequent homicide. A decade later, the Abarca family continues to appeal to the courts of Mexico and Canada to demand justice.

Mariano Abarca Roblero was a leader in the fight to protect the environment as the Mining Extractive Model began to encroach on Chiapas, Mexico. The Canadian mining company, Blackfire entered the Grecia Ejido in the Chicomuselo municipality to extract barite. The company attempted to subdue the population with deception while polluting their rivers and lands.

Mariano Abarca Roblero, a member of the Mexican Network of People Affected by Mining (REMA) in Chiapas, led the protests against the mining project. Their struggle was met with harassment and threats. On July 22, 2009, Mariano Abarca went to the Canadian embassy in Mexico to warn Canadian officials about the threats and risks being made by the Canadian mining company against his life and those of other Chicomuselo inhabitants involved in the process of territorial and environmental defense.

Mariano Abarca noted to the Canadian embassy:

“The company is using its workers as bully gangs to pressure our resistance, workers who barely add up to 40. When they [the company] arrived in Grecia, they said they were going to bring employment for everyone and this is not true. There they have 20 public works that they have not completed, apart they are destroying the infraestructure at the municipal centre. We are not here for this infrastructure [problem], but for the pollution that they are causing for the environment in our municipality, which is in an important mountain range, the Sierra Madre de Chiapas. And as it impacts the Sierra Madre de Chiapas, everything in the state is going to be seriously affected, mainly because the rivers run to the state of Tuxtla Gutiérrez, passing through Villa Hermosa and running out into the Gulf of Mexico. And so, the company is already wreaking havoc, in addition to some threats against those of us who are in the movement. We think that it is truly not fair that this foreign company is threatening our people, generating a conflict within our own people, and taking the riches to another country.”

The response to Mariano's statement of concern at the offices of the Canadian embassy in Mexico was that on August 17, 2009, 10 years ago, Mariano was arrested. Blackfire accused him of crimes of Attacks Against Peace and Corporal and Patrimonial Integrity of the Collective and the State, Criminal Association, Organized Crime and Attack on the Roadways.

The lack of evidence and national and international solidarity caused Mariano Abarca Roblero to be released on August 24, 2009. However, the threats continued. On November 23, Mariano filed a complaint with the police, stating that two Blackfire employees had threatened to kill him. On November 27, 2009 Mariano Abarca was assassinated.

The family and the organizations who accompany them have asked for 10 years that have, that those guilty for his murder be investigated and detained, and that the Canadian embassy in Mexico assume its responsibility for having protected the company that violated the human rights of the inhabitants of Chicomuselo, and put Mariano's life at risk until his death.  

On February 6, 2018, Mariano's family filed a complaint with the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner in Canada where they requested the Commissioner investigate the actions and omissions of the embassy in Mexico. This request was denied and the family filed a subsequent appeal to the Federal Court of Canada. This appeal to the Federal Court of Canada was also denied, but the court admitted that if the embassy had acted in a certain way Mariano might still be alive. We continue in the pursuit for justice for Mariano Abarca. We continue in the pursuit for justice so that no other person has to die in Chiapas, in Mexico and in Latin America as a result of the struggle to protect the environment.

We demand justice and an end to the criminalization of environmental defenders and respect for their human rights!

August 19, 2019, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico.

The original in Spanish can be found attached to this note, as well as here, and you can stream the live video of the press conference, here