PBI-Guatemala accompanies Human Rights Law Firm at hearing for criminalized Indigenous journalist and fishermen’s union president

Published by Brent Patterson on

On November 24, PBI-Guatemala posted:

“PBI accompanies the Human Rights Law Firm in the intermediate stage hearing of the judicial process against Cristobal Pop, president of the fishermen’s union [of El Estor, Izabal], and the journalist Carlos Ernesto Choc, which has been suspended again.”

Both Pop and Choc are Maya Q’eqchi’.

The Center for Human Rights and Legal Action (CALDH) has also tweeted: “The intermediate phase hearing in the case of criminalization of the El Estor Fishermen’s Union and the Q’eqchi journalist Carlos Choc was suspended due to an excuse presented by the CGN’s legal representative.”

Choc recently stated: “We are living through difficult times in my country, for investigating and reporting on environmental violations, corruption, and human rights violations… I am convinced that being an Indigenous journalist is not a crime.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has previously called on Guatemalan authorities to drop the criminal charges against Choc, who stands accused of ‘instigation to commit a crime’ after he reported on an October 2021 protest against CGN-Pronico.

The Fenix project is comprised of mountaintop mining carried out by Compañía Guatemalteca de Niquel (CGN) and a lakeside processing plant operated by Pronico.

Photo: Choc covering the police eviction of the protest against the CGN mine, October 22, 2021.

And yesterday, Prensa Comunitaria reported:

Cristóbal Pop will appear along with two other members of the Fishermen’s Union and Carlos Choc, a criminalized journalist, to a court in Puerto Barrios, in a case of criminalization against him, hours before that, the fisherman received death threats.

Cristóbal Pop will face a new criminal hearing against him, this time for a case from 2017, when representatives of the CGN-Pronico mining company accused him of illegal detention of people, for a demonstration held by the Artisanal Fishermen’s Union in the vicinity of the colony of Russian officials, to denounce the contamination of Lake Izabal.

Both Pop and the rest of the fishermen and the journalist accused in this same case have not stopped attending the hearings in all these years, some have kept prison, others have given up the struggle and have withdrawn, but others, like Cristóbal Pop, continue in resistance against mining in their territories.

The threats have been constant. On other occasions the same thing has happened, before the hearings, he has been harassed and threatened, the drone that prowls his house arrives at night or at noon, hours before a hearing like the one that will take place tomorrow, November 24.

Despite this, Cristobal Pop said that he will appear at the hearing in the Court of First Criminal Instance of Drug Activity and Crimes against the Environment, of Puerto Barrios, presided over by Judge Edgar Aníbal Arteaga López, as on previous occasions, he is sure of his innocence, he said.

On April 1, 2017, when Cristóbal Pop went fishing at dawn, he found a thick red spot covering the shore of Lake Izabal. The fisherman knew very well that the contamination could only be the responsibility of the CGN-Pronico mine and so he denounced it. Since then the criminalization against him has not stopped and now the threats and intimidation against him are added.

Photo: Cristobal Pop.

It was the Toronto-based mining company INCO Ltd. that first began negotiations in 1960 with the military dictatorship of Guatemala to establish the Fenix nickel mine near the Maya town of El Estor on Lake Izabal.

Professor Shin Imai has written: “Colonel Carolos Arana Osorio was responsible for clearing the Indigenous people out of the INCO region in Zacapa-Lake Izabal. He launched what has been referred to as a ‘reign of terror’ in the region, in which the number of people killed is estimated to be between three and six thousand.”

Imai adds: “Major construction began on the El Estor mine in 1974 aided by a $20 million loan from the Canadian Export Development Corporation.”

In 2004, Vancouver-based Skye Resources bought the Fenix mine from INCO. In 2008, Skye Resources merged with Toronto-based Hudbay. Then in September 2011, the mine was purchased by the Switzerland-based Russian company Solway Investment Group (and its subsidiaries CGN and PRONICO).

While the Fenix mine is no longer owned by Canadian companies, the roots of this criminalization date back to the Canadian companies INCO, Skye Resources and Hudbay Minerals.

We continue to follow this.

PBI-UK: “Journalist @CarlosErnesto_C faces criminalisation for investigating corruption, environmental & #HumanRights violations in Guatemala. A hearing on 24 Nov will determine if the case against him is dismissed.”

Photo of Carlos Choc with PBI-UK in London.

1 Comment

Defending water can be deadly - Peace Brigades International-Canada · November 29, 2022 at 10:53 am

[…] PBI-Guatemala accompanies Human Rights Law Firm at hearing for criminalized Indigenous journalist an… […]

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