PBI-Guatemala and Indigenous land defenders criminalized for opposing open-pit mine, dam

Published by Brent Patterson on

On December 20, the Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project posted, “Today we have accompanied the Law Office of Human Rights to Puerto Barrios at the initial debate hearing of Eduardo Bin Poou, Q’eqchi’ defender and vice president of the Fishermen’s Guild of El Estor, Izabal. The hearing was suspended and scheduled for next year.”

PBI-Guatemala adds, “Then we visited the Agustín Ramírez and Timoteo Suchité de Rosa indigenous authorities in the prison. The two defenders of the territory and members of Nuevo Dia of the Las Flores community, Jocotán, Chiquimula, are criminalized.”

Eduardo Bin Poou

Human rights defenders in the department of Izabal oppose the open-pit Fenix nickel mine in the municipality of El Estor because it is causing serious environmental damage and irreparable harm to Lake Izabal, Guatemala’s largest freshwater lake.

The mine was first developed by Toronto-based Inco, then owned by Toronto-based Hudbay and Vancouver-based Skye Resources, and is now operated by the Russian-owned Solway Group that is based in Zug, Switzerland.

Eduardo was charged in July 2018 with the crime of trespassing on protected areas. He was acquitted in May 2019, but not released from prison given he also faces a trial on charges of threats, instigation, illegal detention, damages and illicit association.

For more on this, please see PBI-Guatemala accompanied Q’eqchi fisherman opposed to now suspended Fenix nickel mine.

Agustín Ramírez and Timoteo Suchité

Just days after their arrest in April 2014, MiChiquimula.com reported, “Agustín Ramírez, 37, and Timoteo Súchite de Rosa, 40, [were] accused of threatening the supervisors of this large-scale project [a hydroelectric plant in the municipality of Jocoteco].”

And Nuevo Dia has previously noted, “Timoteo Suchite De Rosa and Agustín Días García, unjustly deprived of their liberty for the defense of their communal lands before the invasion of the Tres Niñas Hydroelectric Company.”

PBI-United Kingdom further explains, “CCCND [Nuevo Dia] members Agustín García and Timoteo Suchite, members of the Indigenous Council of the community of Las Flores were sentenced in May 2014 to 6 years in prison. The CCCND has denounced the lack of a proper investigation, due process and the failure to guarantee their rights. The organization also reported that both people have been subject to acts of intimidation and threats in prison from several local people visiting them.”

The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz has stated, “Disregard of indigenous rights of traditional lands ownership breeds tensions, subsequent violence and criminalization, as indigenous peoples become trespassers or illegal occupants of their own lands.”

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