In June 2017, local residents took direct action and erected a peaceful resistance encampment near the Escobal mine, halting operations by preventing truck traffic from reaching the mine. The next month, the Supreme Court found that the Xinka had their Indigenous rights violated when they were not consulted prior to the start of operations, ordering the mine suspended. The Constitutional Court upheld the decision in 2018 and ordered a state-led consultation to take place.
While the consultation process officially began in November 2018, it has so far failed to respect Xinka customs and traditions and excluded the participation of their governing body, the Xinka Parliament. The consultation has also been marred by procedural irregularities. In response, the Xinka Parliament has filed more than a dozen complaints over the lack of due process, Indigenous participation, and discrimination. None have been adequately resolved.
This has coincided with a sharp uptick in threats, intimidation and criminalization against communities in resistance. In July 2019, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights granted precautionary measures for Xinka Parliament lawyer, Quelvin Jiménez, after he received multiple death threats. International human rights organizations have also documented acts of provocation, intimidation, and criminalization, as well as defamation campaigns and pressure by armed groups and groups of people aligned with the mining project.
By participating in a discriminatory process on dubious legal footing, Pan American Silver helps perpetuate the legacy of discrimination and conflict that has plagued Escobal from the beginning.