Urgent and decisive action needed with regards to climate of violence and intimidation in San Marcos, Guatemala


CATAPA Press Release

Date of publication: 
14 March 2011

CATAPA reiterates its grave concern for the lives and human rights of the inhabitants, the situation of violence and impunity near the Marlin mine, fully owned by the Canadian mining company Goldcorp.

CATAPA urges the Guatemalan government to comply with international obligations, to investigate and bring to justice the perpetrators of violent acts and to provide safety in order to prevent further bloodshed and human rights abuses in the communities near the Marlin Mine.

CATAPA expresses its grave concern for the safety of inhabitants after the recent reports of violence and the detention of community members who were peacefully voicing their protest against the operation of Goldcorp’s Marlin Mine in San Miguel Ixtahuacán , Guatemala.

Around 40 protesters were held hostage near the mine by local authorities in the afternoon and night of February 28th, of whom several were severely beaten, threatened by handguns, sticks with nails, iron poles, etc… and evidently feared for their lives. In order to seek a peaceful settlement, the hostages paid a ransom and signed an act stating that neither they, nor any human rights organization will enter the area ever again or they would face the consequences.

These new events once more demonstrate the increasing climate of intimidation, violence and fear in the region easily becoming even worse if unchecked.

CATAPA has witnessed similar events in other countries, such as Peru, where anti-mining protesters were held hostage for several days by police and security staff and repeatedly tortured and women were abused, resulting in the loss of life of one local farmer ([1][1]).

The current climate of intimidation and violence that reigns in San Miguel Ixtahuacán, is a direct result of the negligence of the Guatemalan government to investigate earlier abuses, and the lack of measures to protect community members to prevent possible future human rights abuses, a situation that is very plausible.

What the protesters were demanding on February 28th was the compliance by the government of the precautionary measures requested by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR) in May last year. These precautionary measures are to be implemented in favour of local community members that are threatened and confronted with increasing violence as a result of their opposition to the mining project.

The Guatemalan government, however did not attend these requests and ignored the obvious warning signs of increasing violence, which was clearly demonstrated in July 2010 when various local community members were attacked by armed assailants ([2][2]).

It is inexcusable for the Guatemalan government to continue to ignore the dangerous human rights situation in San Marcos, resulting from the conflict that emerged since the arrival of Goldcorp’s Marlin project in San Miguel Ixtahuacán.

CATAPA strongly denounces any acts of violence in San Marcos, when perpetrated against inhabitants expressing their opposition to the Marlin mining or other community members, and urges:

The Guatemalan government to:

Comply with its obligations regarding the protection of its citizens, fulfil its obligations under international law regarding human rights and comply with the requests of the IACHR regarding the mining conflict in San Marcos.
Investigate and ,bring to justice the perpetrators of violence and human rights abuses, and provide adequate protection to local communities affected by the mining conflict.
The Organization of American States, the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights, and other international human rights institutions to:

Reiterate its concern to the Guatemalan government regarding the safety of local inhabitants, and once again insist it complies with its human rights obligations and the protection of its citizens.

Thomas De Maeseneer
Algemeen coördinator CATAPA vzw
E-mail // thomas.demaeseneer [at] catapa [dot] be
Gsm // 0496-15 10 90
Skype // thomasdemaeseneer