‘On the Road for Justice’ Speaking Tour to Bring Attention to Guatemala Mining Conflict, Need for Remedy in Canada

(Ottawa) How is it that when community leaders wrongfully targeted in the wake of violence connected with Tahoe Resources’ Escobal silver mine in Guatemala they spend months in jail, while the company’s former head of security, accused of ordering guards to open fire on protesters last April, is first given house arrest and then allowed to avoid prison by arguing that he is sick?

This is just one of the stark asymmetries in the current conflict between the Toronto-listed mining firm and communities in southeastern Guatemala, where repression and violence have been the outcome of efforts to install the project without social support.

More than half of the communities in the municipality of San Rafael las Flores, where the Escobal project is located, have declared opposition to the mine. In neighbouring municipalities, in the departments of Santa Rosa and Jalapa, the majority of the population has voted against the mine in municipal referenda.

Nonetheless, Tahoe Resources reported in January that the Escobal mine is operational, claiming that “unanticipated social issues have been addressed.” According to local reports, the only thing that Tahoe Resources seems to have resolved is how to mine despite ongoing conflict in Guatemala, where the company and its principal investor, Goldcorp, wield considerable political and economic influence.

This conflict brings to the forefront the need for the Canadian government to facilitate access to justice for abuses committed abroad. The tour of a group of Guatemalans to include stops in Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia will link to the Canadian Network for Corporate Accountability’s Open for Justice campaign. The CNCA campaign calls for laws to allow access to Canadian courts for people who have been harmed by the international operations of Canadian companies. It also calls for the creation of an extractive-sector Ombuds office in Canada mandated to investigate accusations of abuses and make recommendations to the government and the companies involved.

To provide a first hand community account of the situation around the Escobal mine, lawyer Rafael Maldonado from the Guatemalan Centre for Environmental, Social, and Legal Action (CALAS) will visit Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal to talk about the current state of Canadian mining conflicts in Guatemala.

Mr. Maldonado has defended numerous community members who have been criminalized for their opposition to the Tahoe project and represents plaintiffs in the case against Alberto Rotondo, who is facing charges for aggravated assault against six community members. Mr. Maldonado also represents communities in a case of industrial contamination against the mine.

Mr. Oscar Morales will join Mr. Maldonado in Toronto and then travel to Kingston, Peterborough and Vancouver. Mr. Morales is Coordinator of the Committee in Defense of Life and Peace in San Rafael Las Flores, as well as a community advocate and agronomist who is deeply concerned about the environmental and social impacts of Tahoe's mine. He has worked to support the six men shot by mine security in April 2013 and has been an advocate for the community consultations that have taken place throughout Santa Rosa.

Ms. Celeste Gutierrez from the Diocesan Committee in Defense of Nature (CODIDENA) from Santa Rosa will also participate in the events in Toronto and then travel to the Maritimes. Ms. Gutierrez will speak on CODIDENA's work to educate communities on the impacts of mining projects, her experiences organizing community consultations in Santa Rosa and the risks for human rights defenders in Guatemala.

For more information or to arrange interviews with the delegation:

  • Jen Moore, Latin America Program Coordinator, MiningWatch Canada, (613) 569-3439, jen(at)miningwatch.ca

This speaking tour would not be possible without the support and hard work of the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project (JCAP) at Osgoode Hall Law School, the Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network (BTS), and the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA).

Public events:

Tues Mar 18th from 6:30-8pm
25One Community, 2nd Floor, 251 Bank St
Organized by Octopus Books, MiningWatch Canada, CNCA, the Public Service Alliance of Canada Social Justice Fund, Education in Action and the Americas Policy Group

Thurs Mar 20th from 7-9pm
Koffler House, Room 108, University of Toronto, 569 Spadina Crescent
Organized by the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN), BTS, NISGUA and friends

Sun Mar 23rd at 10:30am
Edgewood Oxford United Church, 3055 Connaught Ave.
Organized by the Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network

Mon Mar 24th from 1:30-3pm
Providence Motherhouse Auditorium, 1200 Princess St (across from the Peach Tree Inn)
Organized by the Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation Office of the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul

Mon Mar 24th from 6:30-8:30pm
Sadleir House, 751 George St. N.
with a short film screening and Q&A to follow
Organized by Canadians for Mining Awareness

Mon Mar 24th from 6:30-9pm
Salle D-R200, UQAM (1430, rue Saint-Denis)
with Alain Deneault, author of 'Canada: A New Tax Haven'
Organized by the Projet Accompagnement Québec Guatemala and the Social Justice Committee of Montreal

Mon Mar 24th at 7pm
Event at the Tatamagouche Centre, Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia
Organized by the Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network

Tues Mar 25th at 7pm
Room 150, Coady International Institute
Organized by the Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network

Wed Mar 26th from 5:15-8pm
CAWP Room 2916, Forest Science Centre, University of British Columbia
with a screening of "Gold Fever"
Organized by the Forestry Graduate Students Association at UBC

Wed Mar 26th at 5:30pm
James Dunn Hall, room TBA, St. Thomas University
Organized by the Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network

Sat Mar 29th from 7-9pm
Two Nations, One Struggle
Grandview Calvary Baptist Church, 1803 East 1st Ave
with Marilyn Baptiste, council of Xeni Gwet'in, Tŝilhqot’in Nation
Organized by Cafe Rebelde, with support from Amnesty International, the Mining Justice Alliance, the Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights and Streams of Justice

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