Thursday, September 18, 2014

Ixil communities of Nebaj express opposition to US-led extraction in their territory

"Historically, we have never received the support of the state or the government for our development, which is why it seems fair that we be able to take advantage of our own natural resources in order to improve the living conditions of our people according to our own vision of development." 

Letter from communities of Nebaj to US-owned Double Crown Resources Inc.

In May 2014, US-owned natural resource exploration and development company, Double Crown Resources, Inc., bought the exclusive rights to all barite production from the Bilojom II mine site located near Salquil Grande, Vicalamá and Tzalbal, three Maya Ixil communities in the municipality of Santa Maria Nebaj. Despite having already presented their formal opposition to the imposition of large-scale projects on their territory to the Guatemalan Congress in 2010, plans to ramp up the extraction of barite, a non-metalic mineral used primarily for petroleum and natural gas drilling and extraction processes, continue.

In response, representatives from the affected communities submitted letters to Guatemalan and international authorities in which they reject the extraction of barite on their communally owned lands and demand respect for the right to consultation and self-determination.

Community representatives meet with the Guatemala Human Rights Ombudsman. Photo NISGUA

NISGUA joined the communities in submitting our own letter to Double Crown Resources (en español aquí) expressing our concern regarding the imposition of mining projects without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous population. Likewise, we are concerned by the participation of a US-owned company in the ongoing usurpation and exploitation of Ixil lands and peoples given the history of genocide and forced displacement in the region during the internal armed conflict.

While clandestine extraction of barite from the region known as Corralcub has been occurring illegally since the early 1990s, the involvement of Double Crown Resources, through their relationship with the Mexico-based Geominas de Guatemala S.A., indicates a concerning turning point for the imposition of large-scale extractive projects in the department of Quiché. Double Crown Resources plans to export an estimated 10 thousand metric tons of what they consider to be extremely high-quality barite to their soon-to-be completed processing plant in New Orleans, LA.

Widespread community opposition is focused on concerns regarding the impact on local water sources. During a previous phase of barite extraction beginning in 2003, Geominas utilized dynamite to remove the mineral, causing massive destruction of the natural environment that local communities depend on. Communities explain the impacts stating, "As a result of the constant explosions, the springs from Vijolom II that served the community of Salquil Grande dried up, and thousands of people in the surrounding  communities were left without drinking water."

In their letter, communities also call into question the legality of the mining licenses given that the land in question is communal property of the ejido of the municipality of Santa Maria Nebaj. "This land is the property, not only of the municipality of Nebaj, but also of each and every citizen of the municipality. This is to say that the land is communally owned and managed by the indigenous farming communities and is protected under the communal system by the communities and peoples, as well as by their municipal authorities."

NISGUA has provided on-the-ground human rights accompaniment to communities, witnesses and survivors in the municipality of Nebaj since 2001 when the legal case for genocide and crimes against humanity against former general Efraín Ríos Montt was filed. In May 2014, the witnesses and survivors of the Association for Justice and Reconciliation along with their legal team, achieved what many believed was impossible – Ríos Montt was convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity and sentenced to 80 years in prison.

Over the years, we have heard stories from our partners in Nebaj about how the violence of the 1980s sought to eliminate their families and communities through massacres, extra-judicial executions and forced displacement. We have also heard about the ways in which that violent past has continued into the present – how the current attempts to remove the indigenous Ixil population from their ancestral, communal lands ring as alarming echoes of the past. 

Certainly the tactics have changed – communities are not attacked with tanks and bombs, but rather by an army of multi-national development firms that threaten their communities with the very same displacement and loss of culture. The opposition to Bilojom II mine is just one of many examples throughout Guatemala in which indigenous communities, in the midst of healing and seeking justice for the deep wounds of the armed conflict, have stood up in defense of their land, livelihoods and culture.

NISGUA Fall Tour 2014


Area Contact Phil Neff:

Seattle University, 1:30-2:30pm
901 12th Avenue
Bannan Building, Room 102
Seattle, WA 98122

Traditions Fair Trade Café; 7-8:30pm
$5-15 Sliding Donation
300 5th Avenue SW
Olympia, WA 98501

Duwamish Longhouse & Cultural Center, 5:00pm
With Special Guest: Ken Workman of the Duwamish Tribal Council
$5-15 Sliding Donation
4705 W Marginal Way SW
Seattle, WA 98106

KEXP Radio Interview, 7:15-8:00am

Black Coffee Café; 1:30 - 3:30pm
Cosponsored by Rising Tide Seattle with Sweetwater Nannauck of Idle No More Washington
501 E Pine Street
Seattle, WA

St. Leo's Church Community Event; 6:15-7:45pm
710 S 13th Street
Tacoma, WA



University of Puget Sound, 12:30pm
Murray Board Room
Wheelock Center

University of Washington, 5:00pm
Allen Auditorium
482 Allen Library
Seattle, WA 98195



Lunchtime Talk with Lewis and Clark Law, 12-1pm
Sponsored by the Environmental Justice Advocates at Lewis and Clark Law School
10015 SW Terwilliger Blvd.
Portland, OR 97219
Contact: Jonathan Ostar –

Buscando America, Radio Program on KBOO Community Radio, 1:10-2:00pm
Listen live at or in Portland, OR at 90.7fm

Community event with American Friends Service Committee, 3:00pm
Multnomah Meeting House
4312 SE Stark Street
Portland, OR 97215
Contact: Pedro Sosa –

Community event with OPAL - Environmental Justice Oregon, 6:00pm
2407 SE 49th Ave. (corner of Division St.)
Portland, OR 97206
Contact: Jonathan Ostar –

Portland Community College SE Campus, 11:00am-12:00pm and 12:00-1:00pm
2305 SE 82nd Avenue
Mt. Tabor Hall
Portland, OR 97216
Contact: Kathleen Holloway;


Area Contact: Megan Whelan;
City College of San Francisco, 10:30am
1125 Valencia Street, Room 109
San Francisco, CA

San Francisco State University, 2:00pm
1630 Holloway Avenue; Library Room 121
San Francisco, CA

Santa Clara University, 11:45am
500 El Camino Real
Recital Hall (1st floor in the Music & Dance Facility)
Campus Map:
Santa Clara, CA 95053

California Institute for Integral Studies, 7:00pm
1453 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

Community event at the Mexican Heritage Plaza 10:00am

Sponsored by New Fire, The School for Arts and Culture and Teatro Visión
Lobby Meeting Room
1700 Alum Rock Avenue
San Jose, CA 95116

Indigenous Peoples Day Forum on Resistance and Resilience in the Face of Displacement; 4:30pm
Sponsored by: GABRIELA SF; Movement Generation; New Fire; APEN; AROC
Good Samaritan Family Resource Center
1294 Potrero Avenue
 San Francisco, CA 94110

Indigenous People’s Day Sunrise Ceremony; 5:30am
Alcatraz Island



Brown Bag Lunch Presentation at the Center for International Environmental Law, 12:00pm
1350 Connecticut Ave NW Suite 1100
Washington, DC 20036
Contact: Amanda Kistler:

Howard University School of Law, 12:00pm
Pauline Murray Conference Room
2900 Van Ness Street NW
Washington, DC 20008

UUCA/PAG event, 7:00pm
4444 Arlington Boulevard
Arlington, VA 22204
Contact: Erin Fitzgerald;

Monday, September 8, 2014

Communities in Santa Rosa and Jalapa launch campaign to halt Tahoe Resources' expansion

"Water and life are worth more than silver or gold. You are intelligent, don't let them fool you." Community organized billboard campaign in Santa Rosa and Jalapa. Photo NISGUA

In February 2013, the community of San Juan Bosco, located just 8 miles from Tahoe Resources' massive Escobal silver mine, held a referendum in which 99% of people voted against mining. Local residents were not just concerned about impacts of the Escobal mine on their water and crops, but about another Tahoe exploration license, Juan Bosco, which is located, as the name suggests, right on top of the small farming community. Now, nine months after Tahoe announced a start to operations at Escobal, the Environmental Impact Assessment for the Juan Bosco license has been published for public comment, indicating an important step forward in the granting of the exploitation permit.

In an ongoing attempt to make their voices heard, communities of Santa Rosa and Jalapa announced last Monday the launch of a campaign to halt Tahoe's expansion. The company's plans to exploit at least 12 mineral veins in an area covering 2,398 square kilometers are moving swiftly ahead despite community opposition and more than a dozen referenda in which more than 53,000 people in six municipalities voted against mining in their territory. See the full press release from communities below.

Residents of Mataquescuintla map Tahoe mining licenses compared to the location of communities, local water sources and forests. Photo NISGUA
Tahoe's decision to move forward with the Juan Bosco license was met with concern and frustration by local residents. At a press conference in Guatemala City on September 1, one resident commented, “In San Juan Bosco we feel indignant because we already had our referenda. We are a community that depends on agriculture and this mine threatens our water. That is why we continue to oppose these projects.”

Likewise, representatives from 10 communities, including three Xinca indigenous communities impacted by Tahoe's expansion plans in the departments of Santa Rosa and Jalapa, expressed concern that neither Tahoe, nor the Guatemalan government respect their right to consultation and self-determination. They also denounced local mayors who are accepting mining royalties against the will of the people.

A representative from the municipality of Santa Rosa de Lima, where in 2012, more than 98% of the population voted against Tahoe Resources' Escobal mine explained: “Our mayor, and others in the region, accepted the royalties – but the money is only serving to line their own pockets... We demand that the government and the company respect our referendum. We may be farmers but we still deserve rights. The constitution applies to everyone.” A representative from San Juan Bosco, in the municipality of San Rafael las Flores where the mine is located agreed: “We haven't seen development. All we have seen are increased conflicts.”

Community representatives also addressed Tahoe Resources' statements contending that the company has social support for the project and that it consulted with local communities, stating “The company says that they consulted with us and that is a lie. What the company does is gather signatures by deceiving people and take advantage of their poverty. The company offers trees or fertilizer and so people give their signatures and ID number. That's not a real consultation.” 

A leader from the Xinca community of Jumaytepeque questioned the discourse of the government and the multinational companies stating, “When they come and tell us that mining brings development, I have to ask, 'then why are we in the same situation, or worse off, than we were 10 years ago?' Every day more and more people are living in poverty. And people living near the mines are faced with health problems they never had before.”

Press Release: Communities of Santa Rosa and Jalapa Organized in Defense of Territory and Nature 

Since 2012, we have held citizen requested municipal referendums, in which more than 53,000 residents have manifested, through the legitimate exercise of our rights as citizens, that WE DO NOT AGREE with chemical mineral mining in any part of our territory. According to the Constitutional Court, these consultations have been declared constitutionally legal and binding at the municipal level.

Despite the clear rejection of chemical mining of metals in our territory, and with the complicity of the [Guatemalan] government, the company, Minera San Rafael, continues actions focused on entering our municipalities through underhanded measures, knowing full well  that the only thing they achieve is the generation of increased conflict, while disturbing the peace and community tranquillity. Clear proof of this is the granting of the exploration licenses named Juan Bosco and Andres during the first quarter of 2012. These licenses affect municipalities located in [the departments of] Santa Rosa, Jalapa and Guatemala. Now, despite the evident opposition of our communities and in a demonstration of disrespect for the clear wishes of the people, the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources has published the Environmental Impact Assessment (2014-EIA-4413) for the  Juan Bosco Mine Exploitation License (LEXR-089-08), for public comment. 

According to a presentation and information presented to investors in June in Vancouver, Canada, Tahoe Resources Inc. (owner of the Minera San Rafael, S.A.) plans to exploit at least 12 mineral veins in our territory,  including gold, silver, zinc, etc. [According to Tahoe Resources] an area of 2,498 km2 will be exploited through various licenses, some that have already been obtained, others that are still in process. However, [the company] is selling this project to investors as though it already owns the land, arguing that the current government is pro-mining and that in Guatemala they pay an extremely low tax rate, making it a profitable business opportunity. 

Faced with this grave situation, we have expressed our opposition to the chemical metal mining in our territories through municipal and good-faith community referendums. Today we are launching a campaign that seeks to make clear to the pro-mining and sell-out Guatemalan government, as well as the mining companies and their investors, that our land is not for sale. We have a development model that respects the environment and Mother Earth. For us, water and life are worth more, much more, than silver or gold.

Therefore, on more than 100 km of highway in our municipalities we have placed signs so that those who enter our territories know that more than 98% of residents do not want the chemical mineral mining and that we are in constant peaceful resistance to these projects.

Guatemala, August 2014

NISGUA has accompanied communities in opposition to the Tahoe Resources Escobal mine since 2011.

Comunidades de Santa Rosa y Jalapa lanzan campaña contra la expansión de Tahoe Resources

Comunicado de Prensa: Comunidades Organizadas en Defensa del Territorio y la Naturaleza de Santa Rosa y Jalapa

Valla anti-minera ubicada en Mataquescuintla, Jalapa. Photo NISGUA

Desde el año 2012 a la fecha, en nuestros municipios se han realizado Consultas Municipales a Solicitud de Vecinos, en las cuales más de 53 mil vecinas y vecinos, todos ciudadanos en legitimo ejercicio de nuestros derechos ciudadanos, hemos manifestado de manera legal, que NO ESTAMOS DE ACUERDO, con la actividad de minería química de metales, en ninguna parte de nuestro territorio. Estas consultas han sido declaradas constitucionalmente legales y vinculantes a nivel municipal, según resoluciones de la Corte de Constitucionalidad.

A pesar del claro rechazo a la minería química de metales en nuestro territorio, en complicidad con el Gobierno la Empresa Minera San Rafael, continúa con acciones enfocadas en entrar en nuestros municipios de manera solapada, a sabiendas que lo único que logran con ello es generar alta conflictividad y alteración de la paz social y la tranquilidad comunitaria. Una prueba clara de ello, es el otorgamiento de la licencias de exploración denominadas Juan Bosco y Andrés a penas en el primer cuatrimestre del 2,012 que afectan municipios de Santa Rosa, Jalapa y de Guatemala. Actualmente a pesar de la evidente oposición de nuestras comunidades el Ministerio de Ambiente y Recursos Naturales ha puesto ya a la vista el estudio de impacto ambiental 2014-EAI-4413 PROYECTO DE EXPLOTACION MINERA JUAN BOSCO LEXR-089-08, lo cual es un irrespeto a la clara voluntad del pueblo.

Según la presentación e información brindada a sus accionistas el pasado mes de junio, en Vancouver, Canadá Tahoe Resources Inc. Dueña de Minera San Rafael, S.A. pretenden explotar en nuestro territorio al menos 12 vetas de minerales, tales como oro, plata, zinc, etc. En un área de 2,498 kilómetros cuadrados a través de varias licencias, que ya han obtenido y otras que aun se encuentran en trámite, sin embargo venden a inversionistas este proyecto como si ya hubieran obtenido las tierras, argumentando que actualmente hay un gobierno pro-minero y que en Guatemala se paga una bajísima tasa de impuestos convirtiéndose en un negocio redondo, para ellos.

Ante esta grave situación, las comunidades que a través de la Consultas Municipales a solicitud de Vecinos y Consultas de Buena fé, hemos manifestado que no queremos minería química de metales en nuestros territorios, estamos hoy lanzando una campaña que busca dejar claro tanto a este Gobierno entreguista y pro-minero, como a las empresas mineras y sus accionistas que nuestra tierra no está en venta, que tenemos un modelo de desarrollo amigable con el ambiente y la madre tierra, que para nosotros el agua y la vida vale más, mucho más que la plata y el oro.

Por ello a lo largo de más de 100 kilómetros de carretera hemos colocado vallas en nuestros municipios, para que quienes entren en nuestros territorios, sepan que más del 98% de los vecinos no queremos minería química de metales y estamos en una constante resistencia pacífica en contra de estos proyectos.

Guatemala agosto de 2,014.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Center for Independent Media denounces attacks following its coverage of violence in Alta Verapaz

Below is NISGUA's translation of a press release by Guatemala's Center for Independent Media (CMI-G) regarding attacks suffered as a result of its coverage of the violent eviction of communities opposing the imposition of mega-projects in Alta Verapaz. For the original version in Spanish click here.

CMI denounces attacks following its coverage in Alta Verapaz 

Since a team from Guatemala's Center for Independent Media (CMI-G) began to cover the recent evictions in Alta Verapaz, a chain of attacks was initiated, among those cyber-attacks, which impeded the immediate publication of the information collected during the events. The eviction was carried out by the National Civil Police, the army, and civilians who were accompanying them in an irregular fashion. During these actions, more than 100 families were displaced, five community leaders were captured, and three campesinos were assassinated. These events have yet to be fully investigated.

This region, located in the northern part of the country, is characterized by strong interests surrounding hydroelectric projects; petroleum extraction and mining; as well as mono-culture crops for the production of agro-fuels and other products.

In this context, on the night of August 23, one individual, who resides with the two reporters who covered the previously mentioned evictions, was kidnapped. This person (whose name has been omitted for security reasons) was detained for several hours, and was threatened, beaten, and harassed. Along with the beating, direct threats were made against Gustavo Illescas, the author of the articles about the evictions, and against the work of CMI-G. For this action there are two complaints filed with the Attorney General's Office.

These were not the first attacks. The collective Emancipa Producciones, which forms part of CMI, suffered persecution during their coverage of the student protests (normalistas), and were harassed during the writing of a report about the installation of the Saqja’ hydroelectric dam (located in Purulhá). Attempts were made to impede their presentation of the documentary, “La Propuesta Impuesta”, during a film festival. Furthermore, during the different coverages of the anti-mining resistance “La Puya”, in San José del Golfo, independent journalists suffered intimidations, threats, and attempts to sensor the media. These acts were denounced in national courts. This judicial process — filed together with other alternative media journalists — resulted in the conviction of individuals from the mining company, Exmingua.

These acts of aggressions have coincided with evictions or repression against communities and social movements by the public security forces. In these cases, the business-controlled media outlets have dedicated little or no coverage to the events, or have just repeated the biased discourse of the government. CMI-G has not been the only organization attacked. Richard Busquets, journalist with the Campesino Unity Committee (CUC), has been criminalized and harassed on various occasions; Francisca Gómez Grijalva is expected to be brought to court over an opinion column in which she revealed the abuse of power by Cementos Progreso, among other cases.

CMI-G believes these attacks are concerning and indicate an increasing tendency since the current administration took power. The declarations of the Ministry of the Interior regarding the intention to regulate the circulation of critical content in social networks, as well as the proposed Law 4843 presented by the political party LIDER, represent attempts to create a legal precedent which would serve to accuse social reporters who cover certain themes of spying, terrorism and other crimes. These measures attempt to cause auto-censorship, to promote dis-information, and to isolate communities faced with a scenario of conflict and repression.

As a result, we publicly denounce these attacks. We manifest our solidarity with the people and collectives that suffer from repression, persecution, and government censorship. We demand that the Attorney General's Office conduct an immediate and effective investigation. We demand that the government respect the right to freedom of expression and emission of thought, as well as the physical integrity and work of all of those that document and share information regarding acts that threaten dignity and human rights. Without these guarantees, a real democracy is impossible.