José Cruz - Prensa Comunitaria

Screen Shot 2020 08 17 at 19.17.54Failure to comply with constitutional judgments and provisions of the executive power characterize the actions of the mining company Guatemalan Nickel Company CGN-PRONICO in the exploitation of nickel that operates in El Estor, Izabal. In addition, the social leaders opposing the extremely serious contamination that impacts Lake Izabal and the hills where the mineral is massively extracted are victims of stigmatization and criminalization.The fishermen's association of the people from El Estor has filed an appeal against the mining operation of CGN-PRONICO (the Guatemalan Nickel Company) for breach of the Free, Prior, and Informed Consultation of Indigenous Peoples as stipulated by ILO Convention 169 [1]. In the middle of last year, the Constitutional Court of Guatemala granted legal protection to the fishermen and ordered the suspension of mining activities. The owners of CGN-PRONICO, a Russian-owned company based for tax reasons in the Swiss city of Zur, ignored the Constitutional Court's ruling and continued the exploitation of minerals in the area. Therefore, the mining company openly disrespects a judicial ruling of the highest constitutional body in Guatemala.

Along with this, CGN-PRONICO launched a campaign by corporate media to delegitimize the sentence emitted by Constitutional Court and organized a sit-in in front of the building that houses the Constitutional Court thus complying with the hauling of the workers. This particular strategy tries to usurp one of the forms of protest from communities and social organizations: the Plantón. Along with the hauling of its own employees, the mining company launched systematic persecution against the people, organizations and communities opposing mining contamination in Lake Izabal. The stigmatization and harassment against the fishermen and journalists who have covered the case intensified and turned into criminal complaint actions, based on falsehoods and deceits against the defenders of life and water. Dozens of people from the Q’eq’chi ’community leadership, journalists and human rights defenders, are criminalized and face “false” trials articulated with the complicity of local officials of the Public Ministry and the judicial system. Solway's corrupt money contributes to the corruption that pervades the repressive and judicial apparatuses of the Izabal and Alta Verapaz region.
Given the contempt for the Constitutional Court ruling, the lawyer Rafael Maldonado filed a legal action to promote the execution of the protection ruling. This appeal was also accepted by the court. Again, this situation highlights the chain of illegalities orchestrated by CGN-PRONICO-Solway.
Moreover, when President Giammattei announced the implementation of social distancing measures and the suspension of productive activities in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, the mining company instead intensified mining activities. CGN-PRONICO forced workers to complete strenuous 24-hour days that increase the risk of contagion. As a consequence of this employer abuse, a worker died last month inside the mine facilities.
To worsen even further the already difficult situation, amid the confinement measures imposed by the Giammattei government, the CGN-PRONICO company launched a campaign to repress, harass, and terrorize opponents of mining contamination. The logic of this action is to take advantage of social distance measures to dismantle resistance to mining. To that end, the company has urged the employees of the mine by threatening them with the closure of the company, thus dividing the people of El Estor. As such, the frustration and anger of those employed in the company clash against those people who instead are fighting for the defense of life, the water, and nature.
On Friday, June 12, 2020, the defenders of life in El Estor were harassed by a mob of alleged mine employees who went to their homes to provoke them with threats of lynching. Social organizations and human rights defenders demand that President Giammattei, the Minister of the Interior, the Director of the National Civil Police, and the Public Ministry take measures to prevent another crime of vandalism against defenders of life, water, and nature.
[1] The Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization on the Rights of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples is an instrument of human rights protection signed and ratified by the State of Guatemala in the 1990s. Among other provisions, the signatory States are obliged to consultation when authorizing projects or private or state investments in indigenous population territories. Being an international human rights agreement, according to the Guatemalan Constitution, the Convention has primacy over ordinary laws such as the Mining Law, since it is part of the constitutional block that governs Guatemala's internal law.

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Translation: Giada Ferrucci