Different environmental and ecofeminist organizations, ecclesial movements, and regional activist alliances participated as international observers in the municipal consultation held this past Sunday, 18th of September in the municipality of Asunción Mita, Jutiapa, Guatemala. The consultation was related to the presence of metal mining projects in Asuncion Mita, home to the controversial Cerro Blanco mining project that poses environmentmental threats for both Guatemalan and Salvadoran communities.
The International Observation Mission was made up of the National Roundtable Against Metal Mining in El Salvador (Mesa Nacional Frente a la Minería Metálica en El Salvador, MNFM), the Ecofeminist Movement of El Salvador (Movimiento Ecofeminista de El Salvador, AMAES), the Central American Alliance On Mining (Alianza Centroamericana frente a la Minería, ACAFREMIN), the Central American Network for the Defense of Cross-border Waters (Red Centroamericana por la Defensa de las Aguas Transfronterizas, RedCAT) and the Mesoamerican Ecological Ecclesial Network (Red Eclesial Ecológica Mesoamericana, REMAM).
Results released by the Municipal Commission in charge of the the consultation shows that 87.98% of those who cast ballots voted against metal mining projects and only 10.63% expressed were in favor. The Commission is made up of representatives of the municipal government of Asunción Mita, the Catholic Church, civil society organizations, and representatives of the mining company Elevar Resources, who resigned from their positions shortly after the establishment of the commission. However, the observation missions were able to verify on site that the company assigned prosecutors during the voting process, covering the 6 voting centers designated for the population to cast their vote.
Based on the procedures and results of the community consultation in Asuncion Mita, the aforementioned international observers delegations, express
- We recognize the validity and legitimacy of the municipal consultation process of residents in Asunción Mita, department of Jutiapa, Guatemala, held this Sunday, September 18, 2022. The local communities expressed by vote that they did not agree with the installation and operation of metal mining projects in any of its modalities that impact resources and environments natural in their municipality.
- As international observation missions, we identified some operational irregularities, but these do not call into question the transparency and forcefulness of the results obtained in the municipal consultation process, nor we idenfied improper actions by members of the Municipal Commission outside the provisions or legal requirements which would imply invalidating the results of the votes and the will of the 7,481 participants who voted against the metallic mining projects.
- We denounce actions of intimidation and harassment registered against the different international observation missions that subscribe to this communique, during the development of the municipal consultation. Said acts were committed by people who are linked to the mining company and who, among other things, tried to block the work of the international observers and induce a vote in favor of the mining company in the different voting centers.
- The municipal code of Guatemala establishes that a municipal consultation is binding if 20% of the registered voters of the municipality participate. The Municipal Commission of Neighbors of Asunción Mita reported that during Sunday´s vote, 27.91% of the registered voters participated.
- Guatemala has carried out 180 municipal consultations on metallic mining projects. There are also several constitutional resolutions which recognize these as truly democratic processes. According to these rulings, such as the one issued in the department of Jalapa, municipal consultations are legitimate. We believe that the position of the Ministry of Energy and Mines of Guatemala, in its attempt to invalidate the overwhelming results in Asunción Mita and reveals the interests of the Guatemalan government to promote extractive industries, even if this is against the will and welfare of the people.
- We demand from the Republic of El Salvador states its position on the cross-border mining issue highlighted by the Cerro Blanco porject, and urge it to activate a bi-national dialogue comission as soon as possible, along with its Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources to effectively enforce treaties such as the Trifinio Plan. The Trifinio Biosphere Reserve is a trinational, protected border area in Guatemala, Honduran and El Salvador. It is urgent that the Salvadoran government promote regulations that guarantee mining-free borders with a shared basin approach and give priority to the negotiation of a Treaty of transboundary waters.
- We alert the international community about possible criminalization actions against environmental and human rights defenders of Asunción Mita, Jutiapa, Guatemala, and we urge the Guatemalan government and the company Bluestone Resources INC to respect the decision of the people of Asuncion Mita who rejected metallic mining projects in their municipality.
San Salvador, September 21, 2022
Translated by: Giada Ferrucci