Brendan McLaughlin, Earthworks, email@example.com, 206.892.8832
Twelve members of congress sent a letter yesterday to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressing support for Guatemalan land defenders, known as the Peaceful Resistance La Puya, in their struggle to protect scarce water supplies and community health from the harms of Kappes, Cassiday & Associates’ (KCA) gold mine. They also raised concern about the Nevada-based mining company’s international arbitration suit against Guatemala under the terms of the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA) for more than $400 million dollars. KCA filed suit after its operations were suspended for lack of prior consultation with communities.
On a fact-finding mission to Central America in March, Representatives Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Cori Bush (MO-01), and Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), along with representation from the offices of Jan Schakowsky (IL-09) and Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04), visited La Puya. Representative Jesús “Chuy” García led the letter, which was signed by the other Congressional offices that participated in the mission, as well as Representatives Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Jim McGovern (MA-02), Norma Torres (CA-35), Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Mark Pocan (WI-02), and Rashida Tlaib (MI-13).
During their visit to Guatemala, members of La Puya shared with the representatives how KCA imposed the project on them through deceit, acts of aggression, intimidation and legal persecution from company employees and contractors, as well as through the use of police repression. They expressed concern about the potential for further violence, given both the company’s arbitration case and a pending consultation process, citing recent repression of the Maya Q’eqchi’ people during a similar process in the eastern municipality of El Estor, which allowed the company to continue operating without pause.
The Guatemalan government collaborated with KCA to impose the project on La Puya, but now it is leaning on the peaceful resistance to defend its self from the company’s claim. In their letter to Secretary Blinken, the representatives underscore how “Guatemala’s legal defense in the arbitration outlines many of the concerns raised by the Peaceful Resistance La Puya and recognizes the legitimacy of their struggle. The government’s brief includes how the company’s investment in the mine increased after the community set up its permanent resistance camp, and how the company, coordinating with national police, used aggression and threats in its successive attempts to dismantle community resistance.” The letter continues, “The legal defense also makes extensive reference to evidence of the mine project’s illegality, which La Puya has denounced for years.”
The congressional letter seeks to dissuade human rights violations, calling on the State department to be on alert for potential renewed aggression against La Puya as these two processes proceed. The congress members also urge the Embassy to abstain from providing services to the company if requested, given its failure to respect community rights, environmental obligations, and for having operated illegally in Guatemala without the required construction license.
“Whether in Guatemala or in Chicago, people should be able to speak out over environmentally destructive development in their communities without fear of repression,” said Representative García. “The Peaceful Resistance La Puya has been leading non-violent community resistance against an illegal gold mining project for over 10 years, and I am proud to lead my colleagues in urging U.S. support as the community consultation moves forward.”
Peaceful Resistance La Puya / Resistencia Pacífica La Puya
Chicago Religious Leadership Network (CRLN)
Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES)
Community Studies and Psychosocial Action Team / Equipo de Estudios Comunitarios y Acción Psicosocial (ECAP)
Guatemala Human Rights Commission (GHRC)
Human Rights Defenders Project
Institute for Policy Studies – Global Economy Program
JASS (Just Associates) Mesoamérica
Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA)
Protection International Mesoamérica
Witness for Peace Solidarity Collective