Photo credit: Breaking the Silence.
The national and international organizations signatories to this letter on the occasion of Pan American Silver’s annual shareholder meeting, express our deep concern with regard to the Escobal mining project and the state-led consultation process with the Xinka people of Guatemala.
For ten years, communities in the departments of Santa Rosa, Jalapa and Jutiapa have struggled to defend their territory and to protect it from the harms that mining causes to water, the environment, farming and community health. It wasn’t until September 2018 that the Constitutional Court of Guatemala ordered the government to consult with the Xinka people over the Escobal project, owned by Pan American Silver, which currently operates mines in Canada, Mexico, Peru, Argentina and Bolivia. Beginning in October 2018, the Xinka Parliament, the legitimate representatives of the Xinka people, have denounced that the state has systematically discriminated against them through the consultation process, excluding their participation among other irregularities, in violation of the Constitutional Court sentence #4785-2017.
We would like to underscore that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in its report Business and Human Rights: Inter American Standards emphasizes the importance of recognition and strict fulfillment of Inter-American standards for respecting the right to consultation and free, prior and informed consent, as a specific aspect of participation mechanisms regarding matters related to the rights of Indigenous peoples and Afro descendent communities in the context of business activities. The Commission also underlines the state’s obligation to ensure participatory and inclusive spaces for those whose rights and fundamental freedoms could be affected as a result of business activities in order that they can express their opinion and that their self-determination will be respected.
There is concern about the lack of compliance with the court sentence and bad faith with which Pan American Silver has also been acting during this time. In August of last year, the company hooked up electricity to the mine from the national grid, something that the opposition had blocked up to that point. Additionally, on November 15, 2019, community members identified trucks that were reportedly carrying grinding balls to the mine site. Furthermore, the company participated in meetings convened by the Ministry of Energy and Mines in the context of the consultation process at which the Xinka people’s legitimate representatives were not present, and without questioning this and other irregularities in the process. In January 2020, the company’s General Director until May 2019, Juan José Cabrera Alonso, was named Special Secretary to the Vice President. These are a few of the issues arising from the company’s activities during the last year, despite the Constitutional Court-ordered suspension of the mine.
Additionally, the IACHR and the Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights took the opportunity to issue several specific recommendations to companies domiciled or with their principal headquarters in a member state of the Organization of American States (OAS). In particular, they recommend:
1. Develop human rights policies and appropriate due diligence procedures for its operations, corporate structures and supply chains, including standards for transparency, good faith and access to information relevant to these contexts, using as a minimum standard the Guiding Principles and relevant standards within the Inter-American system. Specifically, when they [companies] are involved, they should ensure safeguards to respect the rights to consultation and free, prior and informed consent such as the self-determination of Indigenous peoples and Afro-descendent communities, as well as the right to a healthy environment.
2. Abstain from pressuring or exercising undue influence over states to obtain benefits that create negative impacts or risks for the full enjoyment of human rights. Pan American Silver knew about the broad-based opposition to mining in the area and the mine’s suspension over the discrimination and lack of prior consultation of the Xinka people when it bought the Escobal project in February 2019. In doing so, the company invested against the will of the affected communities. History has shown that without respect for people’s consent and self-determination, the only possible outcome is increased conflict in a region that has already suffered militarization, criminalization and violence since 2011 as a result of the imposition of the project.
We are concerned about the threats, coercion and acts of intimidation, including spurious allegations and surveillance, against a number of Xinka leaders who are defending their rights. We demand that the government guarantee the safety of all those participating in the consultation process and in the peaceful resistance and that this process take place in strict accord with international standards for Indigenous peoples and the sentence of the Constitutional Court. This must include that the participation of the Xinka people not be restricted or subject to coercion, and that their self-determination be respected.
We call on Pan American Silver to respect the rights of Indigenous peoples and refuse to participate in an illegitimate consultation process that is repeating the errors of the past, in violation of the rights of the Xinka people and that puts at risk the safety and wellbeing of human rights defenders. Finally, we call on Pan American Silver to refrain from exerting influence whether to try to coerce people at the local level or to put pressure on the government despite having long-term members of its executive team serving the current administration.
We express our solidarity with the Xinka people and all those who are defending their rights as part of the Peaceful Resistance of Santa Rosa, Jalapa and Jutiapa.
Organizations / Organizaciones:
Asociación Q’anil, Guatemala
Autoridades Ancestrales Mayas Kaqchikeles
Apoyamos Chile – Toronto Canadá
Amnesty International Canada
Amnesty Intenational Kelowna Group #161
Alianza Política Sector de Mujeres -APSM-
Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network
BC Central America Solidarity Alliance
Coordinadora de Asociaciones y Comunidades para el Desarrollo de Pueblo Ch’orti’ -COMUNDICH-
Colectivo Voces Ecológicas COVEC
Consejo Maya K’iche’ de Quetzaltenango
Consejo de Mujeres Cristianas -CMC-
Canadian Lawyers for International Human Rights (CLAIHR)
Committee for Human Rights in Latin America (CDHAL)
Collectif Guatemala France
Denver Justice and Peace Committee
Extinction Rebellion Toronto
Guatemalanetz Bern (Suiza)
Global Justice Clinic NYU School of Law
Institute for Policy Studies – Global Economy Program
Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN)
Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network
Mining Justice Alliance (Vancouver)
Movimiento Mesoamericano contra el Modelo extractivo Minero -M4-
New Hampshire-Vermont Guatemala Accompaniment Project
Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA)
Procesos Integrales para la Autogestión de los Pueblos
Projet Accompagnement Québec-Guatemala
Plataforma de Solidaridad con Guatemala de Barcelona
Pastoral de la Tierra/Pastoral Social de la Diócesis de San Marcos
People’s Health Movement – Canadá
Red de Solidaridad con Guatemala Zurich-Suiza
Red Mexicana de Afectadas y Afectados por la Minería (REMA)
Salva la Selva
Individuals / Individuos
Béatrice Junod Connie Vanderhyden, Coordinator of Kickapoo/Guatemala Accompaniment Project
Chiara Galizio David Ramsay
Edith Janeth Revolorio Canan Emma McKay
Fabián Cuxil Tuyuc
Fermín Isaac Rodrigo Lázaro
Jeremías Hernández Keely Carter
Marilyn J Baker, on behalf of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, VA Maritza Velasquez
Maria Pilar Silvina Mascaray Oliver
María Eugenia Molina Theissen
Marco Antonio Castillo
Natalie Lowrey, Aid/Watch (Australia)