Following over nine months of non-violent peaceful resistance to the El Tambor mining project and increased intimidation and threats during the past month, the situation at La Puya escalated last Friday, December 7th, when over 300 National Civil Police (PNC) agents and 50 patrol trucks arrived, threatening to evict the pacific encampment. The El Tambor project is operated by EXMIGUA, the Guatemalan subsidiary of the US Company, Kappes, Cassiday & Associates, who acquired the project from Vancouver-based Radius Gold in August of 2012. Friday morning national and international human rights organizations, including NISGUA, were initially blocked by the PNC from entering the site. With only the press and community members present, anti-riot police fired tear gas bombs and advanced within inches of the population in resistance, consisting mostly of women who had lain down on the ground in protest. Eventually human rights organizations, including the Guatemalan Human Rights Ombudsman (PDH) were allowed to enter the site, effectively halting the advancement of the PNC.
As the day wore on, the resistance movement learned that the police did not have a legal eviction order, but were instead mobilized under the pretext of ensuring the right to freedom of movement on public roads. The Vice-Minister of Security of the Ministry of the Interior made it clear, however, that the agents were acting exclusively to allow access to the entrance of the El Tambor mine, as the encampment was not blocking traffic on the main road. After tense dialogue between representatives of the resistance, police agents and the Ministry of the Interior, the community members agreed to occupy the opposite side of the road and to allow 15 PNC agents to remain outside the entrance to the mine. Spokespeople for the movement also agreed to move forward with the dialog set to begin on December 20th, in order to encounter a peaceful solution to the conflict.
Participate in this action to express your concern for the peaceful protesters and demand their protection from eviction. Read the MadreSelva Collective’s account of the events here.
The Northern Front of the Metropolitan Area (FRENAM), the movement of community members from San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc, released the following statement in response to the events of the 7th at La Puya:
- That the Pacific Resistance of the communities CONTINUES given that article 45 of the second paragraph of our Constitution states that: PEOPLE’S RESTISTANCE IS LEGITIMATE WHEN DEFENDING AND PROTECTING CONSTITUIONAL RIGHTS AND GUARANTEES.
- That the imposition of mineral exploitation projects violates the rights consigned in the articles 1, 2, 3, 44, 97, 127 and 128 of our Constitution. In addition to violating other national laws such as the Municipal Code, as well as International Treaties like Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization. Additionally, they are contemplating the displacement of our communities.
- That the National Police have NOT taken control as some written media outlets reported on December 8, 2012.
- We demand a logical, reasonable, technical, and economic explanation of the use of approximately 120 police units, as well as hundreds of agents of the National Police, which were mobilized from various departments of the Republic of Guatemala in order to penetrate and repress our communities who are acting in pacific and legitimate resistance.
- We clarify that there was an attack against the population with dozens of tear gas bombs. This contradicts declarations by officials of the Ministry of the Interior.
- That the Population in Pacific Resistance has never obstructed the free movement of the population as declared by officials of the Ministry of the Interior. What has been “impeded” is the development of mineral exploitation, which would affect our communities, impacts that have been verified by national and international observers.
- As a population, we have always and will always be open to dialog in order to find a pacific and definitive solution. We have demonstrated this during the Indigenous and Campesino March, and with briefs presented on January 17th, 2012 to the Ministry of Energy and Mines and to the Human Rights Ombudsmen. Likewise, we have initiated contact with the Congressional Commission for Energy and Mines, among other efforts.
- That the Pacific Resistance is based on the Conviction of the Historic Communities, not the imposition of national or international organizations as the authorities and the mining company have accused.
- That we will NOT renounce the Right to Life, Justice and our Peace.
- That we hold the State of Guatemala, the government of Otto Perez Molina, EXMINGUA, Radius Gold, and KCA (Kappes, Cassiday and Associates) responsible for the direct and indirect consequences triggered by the forced imposition of projects rejected by the historic communities.