Xinka Communities Mobilize to Denounce Non-Compliance with Court-Ordered Consultation over Escobal Mine

On Tuesday, more than 500 Xinka Indigenous People and communities in resistance from Jutiapa, Jalapa and Santa Rosa marched through Guatemala City to protest delays and non-compliance with the Constitutional Court order to consult with the Xinka Indigenous people over the future of the Escobal silver mine. The mine has been suspended since June 2017, first by community action, and then one month later by order of the court over discrimination and failure to consult with Xinka People.

Since November 2018, the Xinka Parliament, the legitimate representative body of the Xinka People, has filed numerous complaints and petitions with the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ), the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) and the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN) in order to ensure the consultation process proceeds according to the Constitutional Court decision and international standards. Not a single complaint has been resolved.

During the mobilization, the Parliament filed yet another petition with the Guatemalan Supreme Court (CSJ) asking the court to decide on an earlier complaint over procedural violations. These include lack of Xinka participation and due process given how the MARN issued a new area of influence for the Escobal mine even before the CSJ had officially signalled that execution of the Constitutional Court judgement should start. Tuesday’s complaint argues that it is impossible and illegal for the MEM to proceed with the consultation process while the area of influence is still in dispute. The Parliament calls for criminal prosecution of the responsible authorities and guarantees to ensure respect for the Constitutional Court decision.

Read the Xinka Parliament’s full press release in Spanish or English.  

Despite the outstanding complaints, MEM has been barrelling ahead, recently ordering the Xinka Parliament to name two representatives and two alternates to participate in the pre-consultation dialogue to set out the parameters for the consultation. In response, citing the Constitutional Court decision and international standards concerning their right to designate representatives according to their own customs, institutions and traditions, Xinka authorities named 59 representatives from five municipalities affected by the Escobal mine, including San Rafael las Flores, Mataquescuintla, Nueva Santa Rosa, Santa Rosa de Lima, and Casillas.

Yesterday’s action in Guatemala City underscored Xinka communities’ demand that their rights be respected throughout the consultation process. According to the Parliament press release, “The government, specifically the Ministry of Energy and Mines, has been Minera San Rafael’s most important public relations officer…”. Hundreds of people stood outside MEM’s office for more than an hour, but were denied entry. As a result, they submitted paperwork through a small slat in the steel gate, requesting once again that MEM uphold their right to determine their own representatives.  

“They didn’t open the door. They wouldn’t let us in. Certainly if we were the company, they would have let us in. But since we are community representatives we were denied entry. Regardless, we have achieved our goal to submit this letter to the Ministry of Energy and Mines, reiterating that we are going to come back as often as necessary. We even may set up a permanent encampment, to ensure they fulfill the Constitutional Court order,” stated Quelvin Jiménez, legal council for the Xinka Parliament.

It seems little has changed since Pan American Silver announced its acquisition of Tahoe Resources, including Guatemalan subsidiary Minera San Rafael (MSR) and the Escobal mine, on November 14th. Notably, following the Constitutional Court decision over the consultation and mine suspension in September, Xinka communities issued multiple statements in denouncing MSR’s intervention in communities. On Tuesday, they continued calling on the CSJ to take action to uphold all aspects of the mine suspension, including to stop MSR’s ongoing efforts to try to win over communities near the mine and to finance national publicity campaigns. They argued that the company’s actions are coercive, violating their right to participate freely in the consultation and the principles of good faith.

Xinka communities vowed to return to the streets to demand respect for their rights if the Supreme Court and the ministries continue to ignore their legal filings and violate the Xinka People’s right to participate in the process.

“Now they say it is the powerful Pan American Silver that is in charge, but we, the people, are here and we are more powerful. We will prevail,” said Aleisar Arana Morales, President of the Xinka Parliament.

This blog was written in collaboration with the Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network. Check out their photos from the march here

More Information:

Media Release: Securities Commission Asked to Investigate Ahead of Jan. 8 Tahoe, Pan American Silver Merger

Original version of the statement from the Xinka Parliament (in Spanish)