PBI-Guatemala rejects state violence against Q’eqchi’ peoples opposed to the Fenix mine

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Photo: “This they have given us as dialogue and profit” say Q’eqchi’ communities as this woman displays the tear gas cartridges fired at them.

On October 23, PBI-Guatemala posted: “We join the rejections of violence exercised against the demonstrations of Q’eqchi’ peoples in El Estor.”

Indigenous Q’eqchi’ communities in El Estor, Izabal, Guatemala are protesting the open-pit Fénix nickel mine now owned by Compañía Guatemalteca de Níquel (CGN), a subsidiary of the Russian company Solway Investment Group.

They have been in a roadside makeshift camp since October 4 to prevent the passage of machinery to the mine. On October 22, the National Civil Police and Guatemalan Army attacked with tear gas.

The Guatemalan Human Rights Ombudsman, Jordán Rodas, has stated: “Since 2019, the Constitutional Court (the highest court in the country) ordered CGN to suspend the mining exploitation license, for not having carried out prior consultation.”

Rodas adds: “The Government of Guatemala guards CGN trucks” to enter the mine while security forces “repress the population and journalists.”

Canadian ownership of the mine

The mine was first developed by Toronto-based Inco in 1960 and was in operation until 1980 (throughout the period of the civil war that ended in 1996).

Vancouver-based Skye Resources Inc. acquired the rights to the Fenix mine in 2004. In 2008, Toronto-based HudBay merged with Skye Resources.

Between 2007 and 2009, personnel from the mine along with the police and military violently expelled members of the community of Lote Ocho from their homes.

During an expulsion in 2007, eleven Mayan Q’eqchi’ women were gang-raped. In 2009, community leader Adolpho Ich was killed, while another community member, German Chub, was shot and paralyzed.

The mine was then purchased in 2011 by the Russian-owned Solway Group that is based in Zug, Switzerland.

In January 2021, Mynor Padilla, a former army lieutenant colonel and security chief for the Fenix mine, was found guilty of homicide in the death of Adolfo Ich.

PBI accompaniment

PBI-Guatemala accompanies the Human Rights Law Firm (BDH), the Verapaz Union of Campesina Organizations (UVOC), the Peaceful Resistance of La Puya, and Bernardo Caal Xol, a leader of the Peaceful Resistance of Cahabón.

Eduardo Bin Poou, a Q’eqchi’ human rights defender and vice president of the Fishermen’s Association of El Estor, Izabal, has been criminalized since May 2017 for his opposition to the Fenix mine. The Human Rights Law Firm (BDH) has represented Bin Poou in court against this criminalization.

The Verapaz Union of Campesina Organizations (UVOC) has also previously denounced the Fenix mine.

On October 23, a group of women arrived from the Peaceful Resistance of La Puya to support the peaceful resistance against the mine.

And imprisoned Q’eqchi’ river protector Bernardo Caal Xol has denounced the violence against the Q’eqchi’ peoples in El Estor.

On October 27, this webinar, during the 7th Session on a United Nations Binding Treaty (October 25-29) will discuss the impact of mining on Guatemala and feature testimonies affected by the Fenix mine.

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