Blog Entry

Urgent Action: Shooting of Community Leader Opposing Goldcorp Inc.'s Marlin Mine in Guatemala; Threats Against Local Leaders Escalate

Jamie Kneen

National Program Co-Lead

On Wednesday, July 7th, 2010 at 7:30 PM in the small community San José Nueva Esperanza in the village of Maquivil, municipality of San Miguel Ixtahuacán, Ms. Diodora Antonia Hernández Cinto was shot. Two unknown young men showed up at her house asking for a place to stay. When they were refused housing, they asked to buy a cup of coffee. When Ms. Hernández went to give them their coffee, they shot her in the head near her right eye, causing significant blood loss. The two men ran off in the direction of San José Ixcaniche. Ms. Hernández was taken to the hospital in San Marcos and then to the Roosevelt hospital in Guatemala City, where she underwent surgery on June 11th. She is in stable condition, but the consequences of the gun shot are still unknown.

On the same night, at 11:30 PM a group of people arrived in the community to support Ms. Hernández. When they returned to their community Ágel, they heard gunshots approximately 50 metres from their homes.

So far neither the National Civil Police nor the Attorney General's office have begun the necessary steps to investigate the incident. An official complaint was filed in the Attorney General's office of San Marcos (#MP166-2010-2818) on July 8, 2010.

Ms. Diodora Antonia Hernández Cinto is part of a resistance movement against the human rights violations being committed by the company Montana Exploradora, the subsidiary of Goldcorp Inc that is operating the Marlin mine. She has been active in her community Sacmuj, where the company has extensive exploration interests and the inhabitants fear impacts on their natural water springs and the violation of their right to consent. She has been threatened a number of times for her participation in this movement.

Since 2005 indigenous communities affected by the Marlin mine have denounced grave human rights violations, impacts on their health, contamination of their water sources, and and a decrease in their civil liberties. Among the most significant complaints is the violation of their right to free, prior, and informed consent, which is protected under international law in regards to projects developed on indigenous lands.

On May 20, 2010 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States (OAS), issued precautionary measures to the Guatemalan government calling for the suspension of mining operations at Marlin to prevent possible impacts on the health of the communities as well as their access to water. The government was asked to take immediate measures to protect the lives of community members in the municipalities of San Miguel Ixtahuacán and Sipacapa.

On June 23, 2010 the Colom administration announced its commitment to comply with the precautionary measures and suspend mining operations at Marlin until the IACHR can rule on the merits of the petition filed by the communities.

The Guatemalan government must act immediately to guarantee the security of community leaders and their families. Members of the Front in Defence of San Miguel (FREDEMI) and other human rights defenders have reported an increase in threats against their lives since the State's decision to suspend the Marlin mine's activities. They fear acts of retaliation from mine workers and from the company.

Please send emails and faxes to express concern and condemnation for this attack, call for an immediate investigation, and urge the Guatemalan government to respond to the following community demands.

1. That the State take measures to protect the lives of human rights defenders.
2. That the representatives of the Human Rights Ombudsman's Office (PDH) and the Presidential Commission on Human Rights (COPREDEH) in San Marcos carry out their respective functions based in the rights of citizens and in line with the laws of the country regarding cases that affect human rights defenders.
3. That the State, through the Attorney General's office carry out an immediate investigation into this incident.
4. That the State comply in full with the precautionary measures issued by the IACHR in favor of communities affected by the Marlin mine who are defending their human rights.
5. That the State guarantee respect for human rights, the national constitution, and international agreements related to the rights of indigenous peoples.

Sample Letter (English below):

Estimado Sr. Presidente Alvaro Colom,

Escribimos con mucha preocupación por la situación actual en San Miguel Ixtahuacán, San Marcos. El 7 de julio la Señora Diodora Antonia Hernández Cinto fue baleada por dos hombres dentro de su casa a las 7:00 de la noche. Ella es conocida por su participación en la defensa de los derechos humanos ante la empresa Montana Exploradora/ Goldcorp Inc. y sus operaciones mineras en la mina Marlin. Es el primer ataque armado contra una activista anti-minera en este municipio.

Entendemos que el 23 de junio, el gobierno de Guatemala aceptó acatar las medidas cautelares emitidas por la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos. Aplaudimos esta decisión de la administración ya que muestra un respeto por los derechos humanos y las obligaciones internacionales de Guatemala. Sin embargo, es urgente y necesario que el gobierno cumpla con estas medidas lo mas pronto posible, y que tome medidas inmediatas para proteger a los pobladores en riesgo contra posibles represalias.

Urgimos una investigación inmediata y profunda sobre los hechos del ataque contra la Señora Diodora Hernández tanto como su acción inmediata para garantizar la seguridad de los defensores de derechos humanos en San Miguel Ixtahuacán.


[su nombre]

Esteemed Mr. President Álvaro Colom,

I write to express my concern regarding the current situation in San Miguel Ixtahuacán, San Marcos. On July 7, Ms. Diodora Antionia Hernández Cinto was shot by two men inside her home at 7:00 PM. She was known for her participation in the defence of human rights against the mining operations of Montana Exploradora/ Goldcorp Inc. This is the first armed attack against an anti-mining activist in this municipality.

I understand that on June 24 of this year the Guatemalan government accepted the precautionary measures issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and committed to suspending operations at the Marlin mine. We applaud this decision as a demonstration of respect for human rights and for Guatemala's international obligations. However, it is urgent and necessary that the government carry out these measures as soon as possible and take immediate steps to secure the lives of community members at risk of possible retaliation.

We urge you to carry out an immediate investigation into the attack against Ms. Diodora Hernández, and to take immediate action to guarantee the security of human rights defenders in San Miguel Ixtahuacán.


[your name]

Lic. Álvaro Colom
Presidente de la República [President of the Republic]
Casa Presidencial
6ª Avenida 4-18, Zona 1
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Telefax: (502) 2221.4423 / (502) 2238.3579

Doctor Sergio Fernando Morales Alvarado
Procurador de Derechos Humanos [Human Rights Ombudsman]
12 Avenida 12-72, zona 1
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Telefax: (502) 2424.1717
[email protected]/[email protected]

Lic. María Encarnación Mejía de Contreras (interina)
Fiscal General de la República y Jefe del Ministerio Público [Interim Attorny General]
8ª Avenida 10-67, Antiguo Edificio del Banco de los Trabajadores, Zona 1
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Telefax: (502) 2411.9124 / (502) 2411.9326
[email protected]

Fiscalía Distrital de San Marcos [Attorny General's Office- San Marcos]
7a Avenida A 8-06, zona 1
San Marcos
Telfono: (502) 7760.4355, (502) 7760.1051
[email protected]

Lic. Rudy Castillo Ramirez
Auxiliatura de la Procuraduría de Derechos Humanos [Human Rights Office - San Marcos]
5ta Calle 7-34, Zona 2
San Marcos, Guatemala
Telefax (502) 7760-8087

Ruth del Valle
Presidenta de la Comisión Presidencial Coordinadora de la Política del Ejecutivo en materia de Derechos Humanos - COPREDEH [Presidential Commission for Human Rights]
2 Av. 10-50 Zona 9, Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala, C.A. 01009
Fax (502): 2334-0119
[email protected]