2009-05. San Miguel Ixtahuacan is Waking Up
Guatemala City, Guatemala.
May 22nd, 2009.
Issue: Mining / Land Tenure / Indigenous Rights
Canadian mining giant Goldcorp held its annual shareholder’s meeting on Friday, May 22nd, in Vancouver’s financial district. Simultaneously, hundreds of community members from San Miguel Ixtahuacan, where Goldcorp’s Marlin Mine operates, marched through the streets of Guatemala City so as to protest the corporation’s activities in the Guatemalan highlands.
(For background information on the Marlin Mine and the conflictive relationship with the communities of Sipakapa and San Miguel Ixtahuacan in San Marcos, Guatemala, please follow this link).
The march’s gathering point was the Obelisco, a traffic circle located in the heart of Guatemala City’s financial district. From here, the first stop would be the Euro Plaza Building in Zone 14 where the headquarters for Goldcorp’s local subsidiary, Montana Exploradora, are located.
The day before the march, a press conference was held where “community leaders accused Montana Exploradora of carrying out a fear campaign in their local villages using threats and land usurpation so as to coerce local residents to sell their lands.” (1)
“The movement, made up almost in its entirety by indigenous local Mam Mayans, reiterated their intention to pursue a peaceful dialogue so as to bring to a close Montana’s mining activities in the region. As of now, three people have died due to the toxic contamination in the local water sources and other natural resources.” (2)
“Local leaders assured that during its initial operations, the mining company undervalued local property, created local divisions, and took away the home of approximately 600 families in San Miguel Ixtahuacan. Currently, the company continues its strategy of usurpation, coercion, and community fragmentation, which is why it is indispensable that relevant authorities become involved.” (3)
Once at the luxurious Euro Plaza building, leaders from San Miguel Ixtahuacan weren’t able to dialogue with representatives from Montana Exploradora. Nevertheless, they were able to present a document to members of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which also holds its office in the same building.
Gregoria Crisanta Perez, one of the 8 women accused by Goldcorp of sabotaging their electric supply (read more about the case here), declares: “We demand our rights because we do not want to be killed by the mining company. We ask the government to please listen to our demands, as we are the legitimate owners of the territories. We are indigenous people, we were born there, and we should die there. But our death should be decided by God, not by the mining company.”
After protesting for over an hour in front of the Euro Plaza building as well as marching through Guatemala City’s financial and restaurant district, the demonstrators arrived to the Canadian Embassy.
The Canadian Embassy welcomed a four-person delegation in order to hear the protestors’ demands. Javier de Leon (left) from the Association for the Integral Development of San Miguel (ADISMI) led the delegation. Afterwards, he commented: “Ambassador Leann McKechnie’s discourse is inconsistent as she promises that Canadian companies will respect human rights. However, the mining industry, by nature, violates such rights.”
Some residents of San Miguel Ixtahuacan identified the billboard and felt it was inappropriate due to the damage they have suffered from the mine’s presence in their communities. Gradually, protestors began tearing little pieces as an expression of discontent with the mining company that has incited grave social conflicts.
Dozens of people suddenly charged the billboard euphorically in a festive mood. As can be seen in the image, Police patrols observed the entire sequence, which was carried out in utmost respect for nearby cars and other private property next to Goldcorp’s billboard.
After a few minutes, the crowd managed to tear down the billboard completely. This was later taken to San Miguel Ixtahuacan so as to show other community members. The final plan was to burn the torn billboard near the mine.
Gregoria Crisanta Perez declares: “We are here because today, in Canada, Goldcorp shareholders are dividing up their earnings. Meanwhile, here in Guatemala, the people from San Miguel remain in poverty. But now, finally, San Miguel Ixtahuacan is waking up.”
For more information:
Spanish: Javier de León (ADISMI): firstname.lastname@example.org
Versión en español aquí.
1 CERIGUA. “Montana Exploradora inicia con estrategia de coacción y usurpación de tierras”. Jueves 21 de Mayo, 2009. Guatemala.