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The Robust Oak     23 juli 2006
Five villages of Huehuetenango plan to organise community consultation before the end of July

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 Huehuetenango.

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.
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.
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 indigenous peoples.
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