Organizations denounce death threats against lawyer representing Xinka Parliament in consultation over Escobal mine

On March 15, the Xinka Parliament denounced ongoing non-compliance with the Constitutional Court order on consultation, as well as threats and intimidations against Quelvin Otoniel Jiménez Villalta, lawyer for the Xinka Parliament. The Xinka Parliament was accompanied by representatives of the Peaceful Resistance of Santa Rosa, Jalapa and Jutiapa during their press conference in Guatemala City.

Their press release stated: “We fear for the security of attorney Quelvin Jiménez Villalta who was the victim of phone threats, and for all the Xinka authorities and leaders that are participating in the consultation process. We hold the State of Guatemala and Minera San Rafael directly responsible for our security and physical integrity.”

Mr. Jiménez has filed a criminal complaint with Guatemalan authorities after receiving death threats over the phone. Jiménez has also been subject to spurious legal action for his work on behalf of Xinka communities to demand their full participation in the consultation process, as well as transparency and due process. The petition, filed by Minera San Rafael in late December 2018, over a month after Pan American Silver announced it would acquire Tahoe Resources, accuses Jiménez of acting in bad faith and asks the Supreme Court and the Guatemalan Bar Association to pursue sanctions against Jiménez for his work defending the rights of Xinka People during the first stage of the consultation process. The complaint was dismissed by the Supreme Court having determined Jiménez had not acted in bad faith.

Twelve Guatemalan and international groups echoed the concern for the physical security of Jiménez and all of those involved in the consultation process. They call on Guatemalan authorities to guarantee the consultation process take place free of coercion, intimidation, and threats. Read the full letter here.

Mayors from four municipalities surrounding the Escobal mine also joined the Xinka Parliament  in the press conference issuing their own statement, which condemns the state’s non-compliance with the Constitutional Court order to consult with affected Xinka communities and urges the Supreme Court to take measures to ensure strict fulfillment of the decision, free of coercion, threats and intimidation.

Canadian company Pan American Silver has committed to bringing the Escobal mine back into operation despite well-documented, broad community opposition to the project. Pan American acquired Escobal mine as part of its purchase of Tahoe Resources in February 2019. The Justice and Accountability Project (JCAP) filed a complaint with the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission and the British Columbia Securities and Exchange Commission on behalf Earthworks, the Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network and MiningWatch Canada ahead of the company’s January 8 shareholders meeting. The complaint highlighted a number of issues with the project, including failure to disclose serious issues and conflict already emerging with the consultation process.

This blog was written in collaboration with the Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network.