RIGHTS ACTION FUND-RAISING NEWSLETTER Jul 2012
We send you this sad update about work we are involved with in Guatemala. Please consider donating 'humanitarian relief' funds for the needs of Yolanda Oqueli, and for the other people and communities mentioned below.
Please re-send this letter to family, friends and colleagues. Send us your questions and comments.
THEY SHOT MY FRIEND YOLANDA
By Grahame Russell, firstname.lastname@example.org
I was recently in Guatemala, leading a 10-day educational seminar of students and their professor (Catherine Nolin) from the University of Northern British Colombia (UNBC), visiting communities and organizations that Rights Action funds and works with, and who are designing and implementing their own community development, environmental protection and human rights projects. Joining us were Emilie Smith (Canadian Anglican priest) and James Rodriguez (Mexican-American photo-journalist). For the students, this trip is part of their studies of issues related to global poverty and development, human rights and the environment. This trip is similar to delegations we regularly lead to Guatemala and Honduras.
MINING versus COMMUNITY WELL-BEING
On May 26, we visited the campesino (small farmer) community of San Jose del Golfo / San Pedro Ayumpac just outside of Guatemala City, where local residents are working peacefully and diligently to prevent the illegal entry of a Canadian mining company - Radius Gold Inc. - onto their community lands to mine for silver and gold. (This is just one of four very serious Community-versus-Mining related struggles Rights Action is involved with in Guatemala alone, let alone others in Honduras, El Salvador and in Oaxaca and Chiapas, Mexico.)
We were met by Yolanda Oqueli, a recent friend of mine, a mother of two young children, and one of the main community leaders. Over the course of 3 hours, we had a wonderful exchange with hundreds of community members. We then enjoyed a small meal they provided us with from their road-side communal kitchen.
(May 26, 2012, Yolanda Oqueli addresses the Archbishop of Guatemala,
who also visited the community blockade that day.
For weeks, community members - grand-parents to children, men and women, boys and girls - have been camped out at this spot, on a rotating basis, on their community road, blocking the entrance to the mine.
(May 26, 2012, Grahame Russell addresses the community members; Yolanda is standing to the left. As with all our solidarity-educational visits, I explain the work of Rights Action, in general, and the purpose of this visit with the UNBC delegation. I expressed our concern, as Canadians and Americans, about the human rights violations and environmental and health harms being caused, directly and indirectly, by North American (mainly Canadian) mining companies, not only in this community, but across Latin America.Photo@James Rodriquez, email@example.com)
On June 13, assassins on a motorcycle shot multiple times at Yolanda. Today, one of the bullets remains lodged in her body, close to her spine. She is in stable, but risky condition.
There is no doubt in my mind, or anyone's working on these issues, that the attempt on Yolanda's life was carried out by paid assassins due to the leadership role she has assumed in opposing the illegal and unwanted entry of Radius Gold into their lands.
'MINING AND REPRESSION HALL OF FAME'
Over the past decade, Rights Action has been involved in a growing number of community struggles in Guatemala and Honduras, as well as in El Salvador and Chiapas and Oaxaca, Mexico, dealing with serious human rights violations and environmental and health harms caused by North American (mainly Canadian) mining companies. Since 1995, Rights Action has been funding development, environmental protection and human rights defense projects in these communities, but it was in the early 2000s that this most recent onslaught of mining began.
Here, a partial list of some of the cases of repression committed against people in the communities where Rights Action works. I know and visit with most of these people and their families:
- Radius Gold, in Guatemala: Yolanda Oqueli was shot and wounded, June 2012;
- Goldcorp, in Guatemala: Diodora Hernandez, an elderly Mayan Mam woman, was shot in the right eye, July 2010. The bullet exited by her right ear, and she miraculously survived;
Hudbay Minerals/Skye Resources, in Guatemala:
- Adolfo Ich, a Mayan Qeqchi father of four and teacher, was shot and killed, September 2009;
- German Chub, a young Mayan Qeqchi father of one, was shot and left paralyzed from the waist down, September 2009;
- 11 Mayan Qeqchi women villagers were gang-raped, January 2007, as part of an illegal, violent eviction. 100 family homes were burned to the ground;
Pacific Rim, in El Salvador:
- Over the course of 2009-2011, 5 community members were killed;
- Blackfire Exploration, in Chiapas, Mexico: Mariano Abarca shot and killed, November 2009;
Fortuna Silver, in Oaxaca, Mexico:
- Bernado Mendez, shot and killed, January 2012;
- Bernardo Vasquez, shot and killed, March 2012;
This list does not include a litany of:
- health harms (including miscarriages in women and cows, and death to animals) due to the consumption and use of water contaminated with chemicals and heavy metals (iron, mercury, arsenic);
- water depletion;
- cracked and fissured homes due to the use of explosives for open-pit mining;
- laying of trumped-up criminal charges against community leaders who oppose the harms and violations caused by mining;
- community divisions and fights;
On May 18, one month before Yolanda was shot, Rights Action circulated a communiqué ("Radius Gold in Guatemala: More mining related repression waiting to happen") that addresses the growing tension and threats of repression caused by Radius Gold's attempts to push ahead with its mining interests, despite widespread community opposition.
- To read: http://rightsaction.org/action-content/radius-gold-inc-guatemala-more-mining-related-repression-waiting-happen
In it, we include a link to a 7-minute film (in Spanish) called "OTRA VEZ LA MINA" (Once Again, Mining). To view: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gq5wA0XGrEg.
MINING AND GUNS
In the film, Yolanda speaks about her community and why they are resisting the actions of Radius Gold. The film was shot during and after the May 8, 2012, attempt by Radius Gold's subsidiary in Guatemala (EXMINGUA) to enter community lands in a convoy of 25-30 mining company trucks full of equipment, escorted by 25-30 trucks of heavily armed National Police. As you will see, they attempted this entry at 1:00am in the morning, so as to try and slip by the villagers of San Jose del Golfo / San Pedro Ayumpac who were never consulted about this mining business and who never gave legal permission for a mine to operate in their lands.
NO END IN SIGHT
In the near future, there is no end in sight to this repression that is linked to, and in the service of North American mining and investor interests. There is, as of yet, not enough widespread concern or political will in Canada and the USA to bring about the legal and political changes needed so as to properly monitor and then hold accountable our mining companies when they operate in ways that contribute directly and indirectly to crimes, human rights violations and other harms in far off places.
Rights Action is one of the few organizations I know of that is providing humanitarian relief and emergency funds to the families of the victims of the abuses set out above (let alone victims of other similar struggles and problems). Funds are being used, on an on-going basis, for the health needs of the victims and for the economic survival of the families of victims of the killings and other abuses.
Rights Action (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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For indigenous and campesino organizations working for community-controlled development, environmental justice, human rights & justice in Guatemala & Honduras, make check payable to "Rights Action" and mail to:
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