State of Siege: Mining Conflict Escalates in Guatemala

State of Siege: Mining Conflict Escalates in Guatemala.

With the world’s attention focused on the on-again off-again genocide trial of former Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt and his head of military intelligence in Guatemala City, there has been little international reporting on other events in the Central American nation. Meanwhile, as the trial continues, conflicts involving rural communities and Canadian mining companies are escalating, to the point that a State of Siege was declared last night.


Fifty miles southeast of the capital, private security guards working for Vancouver-based mining firm Tahoe Resources shot and wounded several local residents on Saturday in San Rafael Las Flores, on the road in front of Tahoe’s El Escobal silver mine. The mining company’s head of security was arrested while attempting to flee the country. A police officer and a campesino were killed during conflicts earlier this week. Through it all, demonstrations against the mining project have continued amid conflicting reports and government misinformation.


Following a Cabinet meeting late last night, Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina declared a 30-day State of Siege in four municipalities around the El Escobal mining project: San Rafael Las Flores and Casillas in the department of Santa Rosa, and Jalapa and Mataquescuintla in the department of Jalapa. The measure is in effect as of today. Initial reports indicated that the constitutional rights suspended include freedom of movement, freedom of assembly and protest, and certain rights of detainees and prisoners.


Even before the measure was declared, communities were denouncing army mobilization in the region last night. When he announced the State of Siege, Pérez Molina stated that security forces reported for duty at three military bases last night and that operatives would begin early this morning.


“We fear for the lives of our leaders,” stated a message circulated online by the Xinka People’s Parliament, denouncing the mobilization of armed forces in Jutiapa with the alleged intention of arresting Xinka leaders in Santa María Xalapán, Jalapa. “We’re returning to the 1980s, with the persecution of leaders, extrajudicial execution and forced disappearance.”


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