Article 4 of the political constitution of the Republic of Guatemala establishes that no person can be subjected to servitude or any other condition which undermines their dignity.
On January 8, 2014, five communities of San Miguel Ixtahuacán, department of San Marcos, where the Marlin Mine (Goldcorp Inc.) operates, presented a complaint against Ovidio Joel Domingo Bámaca, Mayor of San Miguel Ixtahuacán, for the crime of subjecting citizens to involuntary servitude according to article 202 of the criminal code. At the end of January, the Guatemalan Supreme Court of Justice transferred the legal process to the Joint Chamber the Appeals Court of San Marcos.
The Chamber will appoint a judge to resolve whether the complaint put forward constitutes a crime that has been committed, and that is hasn’t been submitted for spurious, political or illegitimate reasons. It will then be sent to be investigated by the Public Prosecutor’s Office in San Marcos.
When a person is obliged to do something against his or her will, the crime of servitude is being committed. This offense is punishable by 10 years in prison. It is a public offense, and therefore, the Appeals Court Judge is required to officially forward the complaint to the Prosecutor’s Office of San Marcos.
The Municipal Mayor is also violating Article 6 of the American Convention on Human Rights of the Organizations of American States (OAS) which prohibits absolute and irrevocable prohibition of slavery, servitude and forced labor.
The five communities of Ágel, San Antonio de los Altos, San José Nueva Esperanza, San José Ixcaniche, and Siete Platos of San Miguel Ixtahuacán, San Marcos, are beneficiaries of the precautionary measures ordered by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights – CIDH – on May 20, 2010, which require guaranteed potable water, water for domestic use and water safe for irrigation, in particular water not contaminated by the Marlin Mine operations. However, we are being forced to work without pay to have access to the precautionary measures.
The accused mayor, Ovidio Joel Domingo Bámaca, is forcing the five communities to:
1. Pay for the right to have running water,
2. Work for free to build the infrastructure for the water projects,
3. Give, for free, natural resources from our communal territories to make the construction materials,
4. Pay for the right of way to the owners of the land where the infrastructure for the water projects will be built,
5. Provide free free labor in the construction, operation and maintenance of infrastructure of the water projects in our communities.
Guatemala, February 6, 2014.