Solidarity Update: Special focus on Tahoe Resources
News recap: A strong grassroots movement continues to resist Tahoe Resources; Six police officers tasked with the custody of Tahoe’s former head of security found guilty on charges related to his escape; Supreme Court of Canada gives way for Tahoe Resources to face civil suit in Canada for violence; Youth activist and educator Alex Escobar to join NISGUA on tour this fall.
Solidarity Update: June 27, 2017
Focus on the resistance to Tahoe Resources
A strong grassroots movement continues to resist Tahoe Resources' Escobal mine
For three weeks, communities from six municipalities surrounding Tahoe Resources' Escobal mine in southeastern Guatemala have maintained a round-the-clock peaceful protest along the highway in Casillas, 15 kilometers from the mine. Communities are restricting access exclusively to mine-related vehicles in protest of the negative impacts that mining is having on the region.
On Thursday, June 22, the Guatemalan state responded by sending in riot police to disperse protesters with tear gas.Responding to our urgent calls to action, more than 1900 people immediately wrote to Tahoe Resources and called their Reno-based offices to denounce the use of violence and urge the company to respect protester demands. As soon as the tear gas cleared, more than 3,000 community members returned to the encampment to take up their 24-hour shifts of peaceful protest. For more, visit our website.
This is not the first time Tahoe has relied upon state intervention to repress protests in the area. In 2012, the company sued the Guatemalan government for not providing sufficient protection around the mine. A 2013 state of siege brought remilitarization to four municipalities around the mine, the suspension of civil liberties, and the criminalization of dozens of community leaders who were vocal in their opposition. A 2013 shooting by mine security against peaceful protesters resulted in serious injuries, and a Canadian civil suit against the company. New reports have surfaced alleging Tahoe authored a direct appeal to the Ministry of Defense last year, requesting government support during a peaceful protest by neighbors of the mine, denouncing the cracks in their houses that they believe are a result of mining operations. There is a well-documented pattern of abuses by Tahoe Resources, in collusion with the Guatemalan government, to violently repress those who protest this mine.
It is crucial that we keep attentive to this peaceful struggle and ready ourselves to respond with the same swift and collective action we mobilized last week.
We encourage you to continue to write to Tahoe's offices, demanding that they respect protester demands and stay alert for coming urgent actions as communities continue this important direct action.
Tear gas is thrown by riot police on Thursday in the municipality of Casillas, near Tahoe Resources' Escobal mine, in an attempt to disperse peaceful protesters.
Credit: Community member from Mataquescuintla
Six police officers tasked with the custody of Tahoe's former head of security found guilty on charges related to his escape
Earlier this month, six members of the National Civil Police were convicted for breach of duty and sentenced to three years in prison each; four of the six were also convicted of culpable negligence and sentenced to an additional three years. The officers were in charge of the house arrest for Alberto Rotondo, former head of security for Tahoe Resources’ Escobal mine. Rotondo was arrested on April 30, 2013 at the Guatemala City airport, attempting to flee the country days after having ordered the shooting of peaceful protesters outside of the mine. Despite posing an obvious flight risk, Rotondo had been granted house arrest in lieu of jail. In November 2015, Rotondo – an ex-military officer from Peru, trained in psychological warfare – fled back to his home country before he could stand trial in Guatemala. He was arrested there and currently remains under police custody, awaiting an extradition order.
The two-day trial against the officers included witness testimonies that illustrated the tight control Rotondo held over his own house arrest. Several officers argued that they trusted reports by the officer on duty before them that Rotondo was home; they admitted not reporting that they had been denied entry into the building and had not seen Rotondo on their shift. Plaintiff lawyer Rafael Maldonado emphasized that in allowing Rotondo to escape, the survivors who were shot on Rotondo's orders have been denied an important opportunity for justice for the physical and psychological violence they experienced. For more, visit our website.
Supreme Court of Canada gives way for Tahoe Resources to face civil suit in Canada for violence
Shortly after the 2013 shooting outside the Escobal mine, several of the community members shot by the mine's private security filed a civil lawsuit against Tahoe Resources in Canadian courts. They argue the company should be held responsible for negligence and battery and that conditions in Guatemala would not allow for a fair trial. Tahoe has filed appeals, arguing that Canada is not the appropriate forum to hear the civil lawsuit.
A lower appeals court had already found in favor of the plaintiffs and stated in its ruling that, "there is some measurable risk that the appellants will encounter difficulty in receiving a fair trial against a powerful international company whose mining interests in Guatemala align with the political interests of the Guatemalan state.” A recent decision by the Supreme Court of Canada to decline to hear Tahoe's appeal on the matter will send the case to trial - a precedent-setting step for corporate accountability in Canada.
However, civil society organizations put out an investor alert a few days after the Supreme Court decision, calling the civil lawsuit for the 2013 violence outside the mine just the “tip of the iceberg” with regards to the violence that Tahoe has perpetrated against communities in the region. For the full press release and investor alert, click here.
Members of JODVID pose with their friend and colleague, Alex Escobar (pictured far right). Alex will join NISGUA on our annual fall speaking tour to talk about the work of JODVID and youth activism resisting Tahoe's Escobal mine.
Youth activist and educator Alex Escobar to join NISGUA on tour this fall
We’re excited to welcome Alex Escobar as the featured speaker for our annual solidarity tour in the U.S. this October. As an activist and educator, Alex organizes with the Guatemalan environmental justice organization Youth Organized in Defense of Life (JODVID). Born out of the struggle for community self-determination and resistance to Tahoe Resources’ Escobal silver mine in the area, JODVID uses the arts and popular education to mobilize youth in local and regional movements to protect the environment and defend territory.
When asked how his participation in JODVID has impacted his life, Alex said, “Nature, our environment, everything around us has been changing over the last few years in a very drastic way, which, whether directly or indirectly, is affecting us. It is by our own hands that our planet is being destroyed. Being part of this group has created an awareness in me, because I’ve realized that young people—we are part of this society, we are the future, and we can make change in our society.”
Confirmed tour stops include Chicago, IL; Wisconsin; Oberlin and Cleveland, OH; Washington, D.C., and the San Francisco Bay Area. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about hosting the tour in your city and stay tuned for more information on connecting virtually to the tour!
People are at the center of each of our Solidarity Updates. Their communities and movements face real risks for speaking out for justice, in defense of life and land, and fighting against impunity and state and corporate violence. We provide international accompaniment and/or advocacy support to all of the organizations, communities, and individuals we write about, and amplifying their voices and work is one means by which we stay in mutual and accountable relationship.
Make a donation to NISGUA today to help answer the calls of our partners for ongoing accompaniment support and much needed advocacy on the road to justice.