Recently, we received news of violent attacks against peaceful protesters in San Miguel Ixtahuacán, Guatemala. Protesters were demanding the shutdown of the Goldcorp-operated Marlin mine, a mine known for widespread human rights abuses. The mine has threatened the health of Indigenous communities living in the area since its opening in 2005; a recent study showed high levels of mercury, copper, arsenic, zinc and lead in residents living near the mine. In May of last year, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) called on the Guatemalan government to close the mine. Despite this, the Marlin mine remains open.
Since late February, peaceful protesters have demanded that the Guatemalan government respect the IACHR's decision and shut down the mine immediately. On February 28, participants returning from the peaceful protests were attacked and threatened by members of the community development council (COCODE) and mine workers in San José Ixcaniche. According to reports, approximately 50 protestors were illegally detained and beaten. Some were threatened with lynching for speaking out against the mine.
These human rights abuses threaten people's right to peaceful protest and the lives of Indigenous Peoples in the region. The IACHR's requests to suspend operations at the mine must be heeded to allow Indigenous voices to be heard.
In 2007, the UN General Assembly passed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and Guatemala is a signatory. That declaration embodies key principles to protect the rights of Indigenous Peoples - including the right to free, prior and informed consent. Now, Indigenous Peoples in Guatemala have faced violent reprisals in response to their demands to end dangerous mining activity on their lands, activity to which they never consented.
MADRE works with Indigenous communities in Guatemala through our sister organization, Muixil. Currently, MADRE staff are in Guatemala meeting with our sister organizations. To read more about this visit, click here.