Guatemala: Anti-mining Activist Shot, Wounded


UA 170/12 AI Index: AMR 34/003/2012 –

Date of publication: 
14 June 2012

A Guatemalan anti-mining activist was shot on 13 June in the town of San José del Golfo, in the department of Guatemala. Other local mining activists may also be at risk.

On 13 June, at around 6.30pm, Yolanda Oquelí was driving home after taking part in a protest outside a mine site in San José del Golfo, in the department of Guatemala, about 35km from the centre of the capital, Guatemala City. As she approached her house, two men on a motorbike cut across her path and fired at her with a pistol. Yolanda Oquelí was hit by a bullet which lodged close to her liver. Three other bullets hit her vehicle. According to local press/radio/TV, a .38 pistol was used in the attack. Yolanda Oquelí is in hospital in a serious but stable condition.

Yolanda Oquelí is an activist and leader of the organization Northern Front of the Metropolitan Area (Frente Norte del Área Metropolitana, FRENAM) which has been protesting against the negative effects of a mining project in her community. The mine site is known as El Tambor and covers parts of the municipalities of San Jose del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampic. A protest has been maintained outside the entrance to the mine since March 2012. Those opposing the mine claim that it will pollute the water supply, and that local communities were not consulted about its potential impact.

The mine is operated by Exploraciones Mineras de Guatemala, S.A. (EXMIGUA), a local wholly-owned subsidiary of the Canadian company Radius Gold Inc.

As a result of her work as a human rights defender, since August 2011 Yolanda Oquelí has filed several complaints with the Public Prosecutor’s office about threats and harassment against her and other activists, including threatening phone calls, her house being vandalised with paint, and death threats. The most recent complaint was filed on 11 May. An Amnesty International delegation met with Yolanda Oquelí in May 2012.

Please Write Immediately

  • Call on the authorities to order an independent, thorough and impartial investigation into the shooting of Yolanda Oquelí and the threats against her, publish the results and bring those responsible to justice.
  • Urge them to take immediate steps to provide appropriate protection to Yolanda Oquelí and her family, and to activists working against human rights violations caused by mining operations in the area of San José del Golfo.

Contact Information:-

Otto Pérez Molina
Presidente de la República
Casa Presidencial
6ª Avenida 4-41, Zona 1
Puera del Centro
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Salutation: Dear President / Estimado Sr. Presidente

Minister of the Interior:
Mauricio López Bonilla
Ministro de Gobernación
6ª Avenida 13-71, Zona 1
Ciudad de Guatemala
Fax: 011 502 2413 8888 (You may need to dial ext. 2290)
Salutation: Dear Minister / Estimado Sr.Ministro


His Excellency Georges de la Roche Plihal
Ambassador for the Republic of Guatemala
130 Albert Street, Suite 1010
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5G4
Fax: (613) 233-0135
Email : consular [at] embaguate-canada [dot] com

Environmental organization MADRESELVA:
Colectivo MadreSelva
6a avenida 2-60 zona 2
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Email: colectivomadreselva [at] gmail [dot] com

Additional Information

Human rights defenders working on economic, social and cultural rights in Guatemala are often targeted because of their work to protect human rights. Those activists focusing on extractive industries, such as mining, have been subjected to physical attacks and harassment, as documented by Amnesty International.

In December 2011, Amnesty International issued an Urgent Action on behalf of the communities in the Santa Rosa department, southern Guatemala, threatened by a mining project. Local communities have not been consulted about the plans. (See UA 352/11, AMR 34/016/2011).

In February 2011, protesters against the Marlin mine in north-western Guatemala were attacked. One protester, Aniceto López, was taken to the office of the local mayor, where he has said he was beaten and threatened with death for speaking out against the mine. (See UA 57/11, AMR 34/002/2011).

In July 2010, Deodora Hernández, a grassroots activist who had been protesting against the allegedly negative effects of mining in San Marcos department, in north-western Guatemala, was shot at close range in her own home by two unknown men. She had spoken out to defend her community’s right to water amidst fears that mining operations have affected the local water supply. (See UA 163/10 Index: AMR 34/008/2010).

The Guatemalan authorities’ failure to ensure meaningful consultation of local communities prior to the granting of mineral exploration or exploitation licences has been noted in recent years. The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of Indigenous Peoples noted after a visit to Guatemala in June 2010 that he had received allegations that on many occasions the Guatemalan government had granted licences for the exploitation of natural resources in Indigenous territories without the necessary consultations with local Indigenous Peoples.

Impact assessments should seek to identify and address adverse human rights impacts on the basis of consultation with those potentially affected. They should be made available far enough in advance to allow those potentially affected a careful examination of its contents, in a manner and through means that fully respect the principles of accessibility of information and non-discrimination so that the local community can participate effectively and give their free, prior and informed consent.

Under international law, including the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), voted for by Guatemala, and the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No. 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries, ratified by Guatemala in 1996, Guatemala has a duty to consult Indigenous Peoples concerning investment projects. This includes projects involving the exploration or exploitation of natural resources in their territories.

In addition, under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Guatemala is a party, countries must ensure the right of all individuals and communities to participate in decisions that affect the realization of their human rights. For participation to be meaningful, people must be informed far enough in advance of the relevant decision-making process, and informed in a manner and in ways that fully respect the principles of accessibility of information and non-discrimination.


Yolanda Oquelí, leader of the resistence against gold mining in San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc, victim of an attempt on her life with a firearm

Communique from MadreSelva Ecological Collective (Unofficial translation by NISGUA)

13 June 2012

On the afternoon of Wednesday, June 13, 2012, Yolanda Oquelí—leader of the resistance against gold mining in San Pedro Ayampuc and San José del Golfo—was fired upon as she travelled in her vehicle from the protest in La Puya to her house in San José del Golfo.

Yolanda, along with other leaders of the anti-mining movement in the north metropolitan area, had been receiving intimidation and threats by functionaries of the Servicios Mineros de Centro América S.A. company, which operates in San José del Golfo with the participation of Colonel Arias Méndez. This company works to divide and threaten the population of the two municipalities in which there has formed a strong resistance to the Progreso VII Derivada gold mining project.

Yolanda Oquelí was attacked with gunfire when unknown individuals travelling on a motorcycle crossed her path near the cemetery of San José del Golfo. Days before, Yolanda and other anti-mining leaders formally presented before the Public Ministry a series of denunciations of intimidation, threats and criminalization for exercising their right to peaceful resistance.

In the face of this reprehensible crime WE DECLARE

• It is unacceptable that the government support and tolerate mining companies that attempt to impose their projects via threats, intimidation and violence against women and men who exercise their legitimate right to peaceful and legal resistance against extractive activities that threaten life, physical and moral health, the right to a healthy and safe environment and the human right to water.

• We demand that the authorities of the justice system investigate immediately this despicable attack against Yolanda Oquelí, that they identify the intellectual and material authors of this act and that these individuals be sanctioned according to their responsibility for this criminal action.

• We demand that the executive government put an end to its policy of giving our territory and and natural resources over to mining companies without carrying out the required free, prior and informed consultation of the affected populations regarding the consequences that these kinds of projects bring, as mandated by the Municipal Code and ILO Convention 169. The persistence of the firm hand government in using authoritarian measures to impose these extractive projects is carrying our country to a situation of repressive violence that is absolutely unacceptable.

• We demand that the organisms of government see to the respect of human rights and that immediate measures be taken to effectively protect and guarantee the life of the leader and human rights defender Yolana Oquelí.

• We demand that measures be taken to protect the representatives of the communities of San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc who remain camped outside the installations of the Minera Progreso VII Derivada project (la Puya), as they are exercising their rights as recognized in ARTICLE 45 of the Constitution of the Republic of Guatemala.

• “The people have the legitimate right to resistance in protection and defense of the rights and guarantees recognized in the Constitution.”

This peaceful resistance is being exercised by men, women, children, Catholics, Protestants, laypeople, indigenous and campesino population, business-owners, farmers and intellectuals who at no time have been consulted regarding the installation of mining projects. The people in resistance against this kind of projects identify clearly the risks that mining represents for sustaining a dignified life.

• We repudiate the violence against Yoli and the communities in resistance that have stood out for their courage and steadfastness in defense of life, water and territory. We stand in solidarity with the family of Yoli and with the courageous people of San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc who are setting an example of dignity with their peaceful and legal struggle against the authoritarian imposition of the government and the mining companies.

We are all Yolanda!

We are all La Puya!

Guatemala, Tueday, June 13, 2012.

MadreSelva Ecological Collective