1. Five villages of
Huehuetenango plan to organise community consultation before the end
Community consultations on mining exploration and exploitation are
planned to take place on the 25th of July in Cololenago, San Juan
Atitán, Concepción Huista and Todos Santos Cuchumatanes. Two days
later a similar consultation will take place in Santiago Chimaltenango.
All these municipalities are located in the department of
A spokesperson from Huehuetenango indicated that the consultations
will be based on the articles 63 though 66 of the Municipal Code and
Convention 169 of the ILO. Furthermore she affirmed that all five
municipal authorities are in support of the community consultations.
A close examination of the latest available information of the
Ministry of Energy and Mining (MEM) concerning mining concessions
shows that this ministry granted various exploration licenses to María
Isabel Farner Mayorga de Obrist. One of these mining requests covers
large parts of the territory of five municipalities mentioned above.
All mining requests in Huehuetenango are available through
the following link
For the moment we urge you to treat this information with discretion
and to be attentive of the consultation activities taking place in
Huehuetenango next week.
2. Remilitarization of
the San Marcos highlands
"New force to combat crime." This was the title of an article in the
Prensa Libre last 6th of July, which mentioned 400 Guatemalan soldiers
being sent to the south-western part of the country. As the title
suggests, what is occurring is an increase in the number of military
forces in this area.
Using the justification of fighting organised crime, especially
narcotrafficking and weapon trade, the Maya Jaguar Plan was set up in
1998. This plan is a cooperation between the U.S. and Guatemalan
governments and allows, among others, the presence of U.S. elite
forces in Guatemala. Lately these troops are paying more and more
attention to the mountainous area of San Marcos. An example is the big
military operation that took place last March in the municipalities of
Tacaná and Tajumulco. The goal of the operations, in which both
Guatemalan and U.S. troops were used, was to eradicate the poppy
flowers that allegedly are being cultivated in these municipalities.
As the Diocesan Commission of San Marcos we are very worried about
this strong military presence throughout the highlands of San Marcos.
After all, it is public knowledge that the North American countries –
by means of their transnational corporations – have strong interests
in exploiting San Marcos' natural resources. These aspirations have
translated itself the multiple mining concessions in the highlands and
plans to construct hydroelectric plants towards the coast. Hence,
apart from fighting crime, these armed elite forces could protect
these interests, as well as intimidate local people's resistance
against these megaprojects.
In this context it is important to mention that the National Civil
Police (PNC) recently abandoned the towns of San Miguel Ixtahuacán and
Concepción Tutuapa. The presence of the army platoon in San Miguel is
quite delicate, especially given the conflicts generated since the
Marlin mine has started exploitation. An example of the increased
tension is the confrontation that occurred on the 9th of July on the
main square between members of the platoon and alleged gang members.
It is also worth mentioning that the meetings between Montana
Exploradora de Guatemala (the company owning the Marlin mine;
subsidiary of Glamis Gold Ltd.) and the municipal project commission
of San Miguel Ixtahuacán take place inside the military compound in
Huehuetenango. Furthermore, it is important to recall the primary
alliance between the armed forces and the mining company: last year
Montana Exploradora's cylinder of was escorted along the Panamerican
highway towards the current mining-exploitation site in San Miguel
Ixtahuacán and Sipacapa.
3. The IACHR attends
communities resisting mining exploration and exploitation.
On the 17th of July the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
initiated its first Period of Extraordinary Sessions in Guatemala
City. The purpose of these sessions, that lasted a week, was to hear
the complaints regarding the violation of human rights put forth by
Central American civil society organisations. In the hearings the
Commission gave special attention to the following themes: violence
against women, violence against human rights defenders and the
situation of indigenous peoples, especially with regard to the
negative consequences of open-pit mining exploitation.
The hearing of civil society members about the violations of human
rights due to mining activities in Central America took place on the
19th of July and was a result of a complaint presented by Madre Selva
from Guatemala that was supported by many other NGOs from all over
Central America. After presentations of several cases, the Commission
asked the civil society members about the lack of information provided
by mining corporations, about the increase of violence in areas with
mining exploitation and about the favourable conditions for mining
companies within the respective Mining Laws.
The Commission's main task during these five days of sessions was to
listen and receive information in order to elaborate recommendations
to the Inter-American Court for Human Rights. This Court has the
capacity to emit sentences that need to be respected by a state. We
hope that the Inter-American justice system will give continuity to
the above-mentioned complaints and that it will watch over the
Guatemalan state, so that it does not continues violating the
fundamental rights of its population, especially the rights of the
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