Today, Earthworks joins more than 190 organizations in denouncing an armed attack against Guatemalan land defender Julio David González Arango, a leader in the peaceful resistance to Pan American Silver’s Escobal mine. Julio was shot and wounded on January 16 at his home. Since the attack, two other members of the peaceful resistance have received threatening messages saying they’ll be next. The letter calls on the Guatemalan Attorney General to immediately launch a thorough investigation into the attack and hold the material and intellectual authors of this crime responsible. Julio has led opposition to the Escobal mine for nearly a decade, facing numerous criminalization and defamation campaigns against him by supporters of the mine.
Saturday’s terrifying attack is part of a long history of violence against opponents of the Escobal mine since the project was first imposed in 2011. A Constitutional Court order suspended the mine in 2017 pending consultation with the Xinka people. But the threats and defamation campaigns against community leaders never stopped. In early December, a complaint was filed with Guatemalan authorities denouncing threats against Julio. Community leaders report that following the filing of the complaint, threats against them actually increased, including threats directed at Xinka representatives who are participating in the consultation process.
This is a dangerous time for land-defenders impacted by the Escobal mine, which Xinka leaders say is made worse by Pan American Silver’s ongoing community outreach. For more than two years, the Xinka have called on the company to respect the court ordered suspension and halt all mining activities, including community programs, which they say stoke tensions and undermine their ability to freely participate in the consultation process.
While the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) recently agreed to accept all 59 Xinka representatives in the consultation process, marking the first significant advancement in almost two years, serious obstacles remain. A recent report details a slew of attacks against judicial independence in Guatemala, including allegations of corruption within the Supreme Court. This is significant for the Escobal mine consultation given that the Supreme Court is the main arbiter in the process, responsible for ensuring that the Constitutional Court order is upheld and Xinka rights are respected. Without an independent and impartial Supreme Court, Xinka communities are left in an increasingly precarious and dangerous situation.
For More Information:
- Organization Letter – English
- Organization Letter – Spanish
- 2020 Report on Escobal Mine Consultation
- Blog: Tough Questions and No Answers From Pan American Silver
Banner Photo: Communities in resistance gather at encampment in Casillas on May 8, 2019 to call on Pan American Silver shareholders to respect the Escobal mine consultation process. Credit: NISGUA