Crackdown on Local Citizens Opposing Goldcorp’s “Marlin” Mine Escalates in San Marcos, Guatemala

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Contact: Beth Geglia: beth@nisgua.org; 510-868-0612

Crackdown on Local Citizens Opposing Goldcorp’s “Marlin” Mine

Nine New Arrest Warrants Issued Against Eight Women and One Man;
Community Leaders Receive Death Threats

July 2, 2008

Tensions have increased in recent days in San Miguel Ixthauacán,
located in the western highlands of Guatemala, as local opponents to
the Canadian company Goldcorp’s profitable “Marlin” mine have received
nine new arrest warrants, contributing to an escalating climate of
tension for human rights defenders and community organizers in the
region.

In late 2007, a community member returned to her home in San Miguel
Ixtahuacán to find a new electric post installed on her property,
which channeled electricity to the nearby Marlin gold and silver mine.
On June 13th, after having spent many months attempting to persuade
the company to remove the unwanted power line from her property, the
woman, who opposes the Marlin mine’s operation in her community,
finally took matters into her own hands and forcibly blocked the
electricity flowing from the power line.  Within days, 9 arrest
warrants were issued for individuals known for their involvement in
local community organizations opposing the mine – 8 women and one man.

This follows an incident in 2007 where 7 local men demanding
accountability and compensation from the mining company Montana
Exploradora (a Goldcorp subsidiary) for coercive land appropriating
tactics in their communities, equally innocent of having committed any
crime, were targeted and arrested.  Five of the men were ultimately
acquitted, while 2 were sentenced to a Guatemalan form of “house
arrest.”  The newest series of arrest warrants further demonstrate the
company’s willingness to criminalize affected peoples who present any
opposition to their mining operations.

Contributing to the increasing tensions in the area are rumors that
the mine does not have enough electricity to operate and will be
shutting down its operations for 3 months.  NISGUA attempted to
contact officials at the mine company headquarters, but was unable to
confirm this rumor as true or false.  Nonetheless, this rumor has
gained traction in the region, angering local mine workers who would
face economic hardships if the mine were to shut down for any length
of time.  Additionally, there is a rumor allegedly from the
company-sponsored organization, Sierra Madre, that community schools
sponsored by the company will be closed in the region.

These rumors are currently fueling conflict between those in the
region opposing the mine and those in the region who are now dependent
on the mine for their jobs.  As part of the escalating tension, Mario
Tema Bautista, a community leader in Sipakapa who opposes the mine,
has received concerning indirect death threats, whereby he has been
told that some workers from the community are planning attacks against
him because of the supposed suspension of mining operations.
Community leaders and human rights defenders in San Miguel Ixtahuacan
have received direct threats from groups of employees of Montana
Exploradora.

In addition, affected community organizations recently accepted an
invitation from the company to dialogue under certain conditions for
negotiation. The conditions demanded by the affected community
organizations included the suspension of the nine arrest warrants
against their fellow community members, and the suspension of mining
operations in order to create the necessary conditions for true
dialogue.  The company has not yet responded at this time.

NISGUA and other international organizations are closely monitoring
the situation on the ground and will disseminate updated information
as we receive it.  It is our view that whether or not the rumors of
mine suspension are true, and whether or not the rumors of school
closures are true, it is the company’s responsibility to clearly
communicate their plan to the communities so that rumors don’t spread
and fuel local conflicts that could result in violence.  By staying
silent as tensions escalate, the company becomes complicit in any
future acts of violence that may take place due to these tensions and
rumors about their operations.

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