Historically, as Indigenous Peoples, we have been subjected to the pillage of our natural patrimony and our very territories, practices that began with the Spanish invasion, the creation of a racist, classist and exclusive Guatemalan State, and now continue with the neo-colonialism of the so-called developed North.
As Indigenous Peoples, we have an integral vision of Mother Earth, manifested in the respect and intimate relationship that exists between people and nature. This is our Cosmovision, in which human beings are not superior, but part of a whole. Our vision contrasts with the occidental logic of natural resource exploitation, based on the accumulation of capital by a few at the cost of the lives of many, in this case of Indigenous Peoples. The great consequence of this history is the state of poverty in which we find ourselves.
This neo-colonialism is now appearing by way of one of the most destructive industries known to humanity: the mining of metals. In our territory, the Marlin mine is being exploited by Montana Exploradora, S.A., a wholly owned subsidiary of the Canadian-US transnational mining company Glamis Gold Ltd.
The mine is located in the municipalities of San Miguel Ixtahuacán and Sipakapa, in the highlands of San Marcos. However, far from being an issue affecting solely the Mayan Sipakapense and Mam Peoples of San Marcos, the mine will affect the entire western highlands region of Guatemala because this area has been destined to become a mining district.
The mine is nothing more than a modern manifestation of the historic exploitation and domination of peoples by colonial and now neo-colonial powers, an example of the unjust global system.
The consequences are already evident: environmental destruction, water shortages, cyanide and heavy metal contamination, diseases, corruption, militarization and the damaging of the social and spiritual fabric of millennial peoples; in short, exploitation and bad development.
The promoters of the mining industry - the World Bank, Glamis Gold and the governments of Guatemala, Canada and the United States - sell the Marlin mine as a “development” project. In reality, however, the mine is simply a business that enriches an international corporation at the expense of the good development of communities, facilitated by persistent and systematic corruption, impunity, and lack of real democracy, both at the national and international levels.
The problems and violations of the rights of the inhabitants began with the very entry into San Marcos by the mining company, without consulting the population about the planned mining activities. In the same manner, the Environmental Impact Study, no more than a farce to justify the damages that the mining company knows it will cause, presents many errors, omissions and lies. For example, the document does not analyze the water resources in the region, nor is it accessible to the affected population, as the study consists of more than a thousand pages, many of which are in English.
Nevertheless, the International Finance Corporation, the powerful arm of the private sector within the World Bank, approved a 45 million dollar loan to Glamis Gold Ltd. for the Marlin mine.
Aware of the grave problems that metallic mining will cause for Indigenous Peoples, a movement of peaceful resistance to mining activities has been growing in Guatemala. The government of Guatemala has responded to this movement with militarization and repression. On January 11, 2005, the government sent more than one thousand, two hundred soldiers and four hundred police agents to Los Encuentros, Sololá, to protect the passage of a cylinder destined for the Marlin mine. The State forces used tear gas and bullets against the Kaqchikel brothers and sisters who for weeks had been detaining the transportation of the cylinder in protest. Raúl Castro Bocel was murdered by State security forces and more than 20 were injured.
Militarization and repression has also been felt in the highlands of San Marcos, in San Miguel Ixtahuacán, where on March 23, 2005, an employee of the private Israeli security company hired by Glamis Gold, the Golan Group, shot and killed young inhabitant Alvaro Benigno Sánchez, leaving four children without their father. Glamis’ subsidiary Montana managed to pressure Alvaro Sánchez‚ father to accept some money, promising in exchange not to pursue legal action.
Both crimes remain in complete impunity.
Faced with this situation, the communities of Sipakapa organized a Community Consultation process on mining in the entire municipality. The Community Consultation took place on June 18, 2005, in accordance with the Law of Urban and Rural Development Councils, the Constitution of the Republic and the International Labor Organization’s Covenant 169 on the Rights of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries. In accordance with the rights established in Covenant 169, the Community Consultation was developed according to the Mayan Sipakapense judicial system established in the norms, values and principles that form part of the identity of the People of Sipakapa.
With the overwhelming NO to mining expressed in the Community Consultation (11 communities against mining, one in favour and one abstention), the population demonstrated clearly that the People of Sipakapa do not want mining activity in their territory. This local action has set a precedent, moving from dysfunctional representative democracy to a true participatory democracy, strengthening the movement to construct a multicultural, pluriethnic and multilingual country.
Furthermore, we have since carried out a constructive process to develop our alternative development plan, based on encouraging and strengthening our indigenous farming economy, grassroots participation in decision-making and agro-forestry.
For all of the above, we, organizations and individuals, express our solidarity with the struggle of the People of Sipakapa and DEMAND:
- Of Glamis Gold: the IMMEDIATE closure of the Marlin mine. At the same time, we demand integral mitigation measures and reparations for all damages, to be directed and controlled by an independent commission comprised of representatives of the affected communities and other individuals or institutions that the communities of San Miguel Ixtahuacán and Sipakapa consider advisable.
- Of the World Bank: the IMMEDIATE withdrawal of the International Finance Corporation’s loan to Glamis Gold, the recognition of the validity and binding nature of the Community Consultation process in Sipakapa, and funding for mitigation and reparations for the affected communities. We also exhort the World Bank to overturn its policy of participating in, supporting and financing the destructive extractive industries.
- Of the Government of Guatemala: an IMMEDIATE halt to the granting of mining licenses (prospecting, exploration and exploitation) and the revocation of existing licenses until there exists a mining policy based on the territorial, environmental and social security of communities and a community consultation process, in accordance with national legislation and international conventions.
- Of the Governments of Canada and the United States: an IMMEDIATE radical change in the policies of promoting, facilitating and financing Canadian and US mining companies‚ activities, businesses that facilitate, benefit and contribute to grave human rights violations to Peoples around the world.
- Of North American consumers and investors: radical changes from the local level (awareness and changes to the role of consumers and investors in the unjust global system and assuming responsibility for the negative impacts of their consumption and investments activities), to the national level (actions and advocacy with respect to the foreign policies of governments and corporations), to the international level (actions and advocacy with respect to the multilateral “development” banks and institutions, controlled by powerful neo-colonial countries).
We are committed to carry out actions in order to make our position heard.
Sipakapa, San Marcos, Guatemala, March 4, 2006.
- Movimiento de Trabajadores Campesinos (MTC) - San Marcos, Guatemala
- Asociación de Desarrollo Integral Maya AJ’CHMOL (ADIMA) - San Marcos, Guatemala
- Asociación de Pueblos Indígenas de América - Sipakapa, San Marcos, Guatemala
- Asociación de Desarrollo Integral Maya Sipakapense - Sipakapa, San Marcos, Guatemala
- Derechos en Acción/Rights Action - Canada/US/Guatemala
- Caracol Producciones - Guatemala
- Collectif Guatemala - France
- Friends of the Earth International
- Marco Vinicio López (MTC) - San Marcos, Guatemala
- Rolando López (Aj’chmol) - San Marcos, Guatemala
- Mario Tema - Sipakapa, San Marcos, Guatemala
- Roberto Marani - Sipakapa, Guatemala/Italy
- Sandra Cuffe (Rights Action) - Canada/Honduras
- Grahame Russell (Rights Action) - Canada/US
* Please sign on to this declaration individually and organizationally: caminando27(at)yahoo.es