Since the May 2 declaration of a state of siege in four municipalities surrounding Tahoe Resources’ mine, 12 members of the Committee in Defense of Life and Peace of San Rafael had their homes raided by police and military forces, five community members have been arrested and charged, and at least 18 more have pending arrest warrants against them.

During the last year, there have been more than 70 legal processes against individuals peacefully opposing Tahoe’s Escobal mine. Many of those singled out have participated in the Committee in Defense of Life and Peace and have been leaders in the organization of the 12 community consultations carried out in the region since 2011. In each of the consultations, the population voted overwhelmingly against mining projects in their territory.

Criminalization continued during the May state of siege when Judge Carol Patricia Flores, who attempted to annul the historic genocide trial before the Constituional Court did so officially on May 20, issued at least 18 arrest warrants in a legal process filled with anomalies. Among the five arrested was Guillermo Carrera, community leader and member of the Committee in Defense of Life and Peace. After almost two months in prison, a judge in Jalapa has only just been assigned to hear Carrera’s case. All of the accused are implicated in crimes related to the robbery of mine explosives in November 2012 and the detention of police officers in Santa Maria Xalapán in April 2013.

Supporter calls for due process at the peaceful protest outside the Public Prosecutor’s office. A photo of Guillermo Carrera, unjustly imprisoned for almost 2 months, hangs around his neck. (Photo: NISGUA)

President of the Xinca Parliament, Roberto González, and prominent leader of the Committee for the Defense of Life and Peace of San Rafael las Flores, Rudy Pivaral, are among those with arrest warrants pending. González was one of the Xinca leaders kidnapped after leaving a community consultation on the Tahoe project in March, 2013. Rudy Pivaral has been instrumental is the organization of the eight consultations to date in the municipality of San Rafael las Flores.

On June 19, the Campesino Unity Committee (CUC) and the Xinca Parliament filed an appeal against High Risk Court “A” judge, Carol Patricia Flores. The legal action denounced the loss of the court audio, considered to be critical pretrial evidence. According to Sergio Beltetón, legal counsel for CUC, “It is a violation of the Penal Process, which requires that all judicial hearings be electronically recorded… the judge’s excuse is that the audio was lost, and that it wasn’t recorded on a CD or a hard drive on the computer.”

Today, families, friends and supporters of the criminalized and jailed gathered outside Guatemala’s Public Prosecutor’s office to demand an end to criminalization and respect for due process. NISGUA joins our Guatemalan partners in denouncing the persecution of community and indigenous leaders legitimately defending their territory, self-determination and the right to live in a healthy environment.

Rudy Pivaral’s mother calls for due process in the case against her son. (Photo: NISGUA)

Despite the ongoing persecution of mine opposition, important steps have been made in the search for justice for victims of the violent attack carried out against peaceful protesters outside the mine site on April 27. Two Tahoe Resources employees have been arrested and charged in connection to the attack against community members in which six men were seriously injured. Former Tahoe head of security, Alberto Rotondo, and security advisor Juan Pablo Oliva Trejo are under house arrest awaiting trial.

NISGUA has been accompanying the consultation processes in the communities surrounding the Tahoe Resources mine site since 2011.