PBI-Guatemala accompanies Human Rights Law Firm at hearing for Maya Q’eqchi’ journalist and fishers in Fenix Mine case
On February 1, PBI-Guatemala posted:
“Yesterday, #PBI accompanied the Human Rights Law Firm in the hearing in a criminalizing accusation against the 3 fishermen Tomas Che, Cristóbal Pop and Vicente Rax and the community journalist Carlos Ernesto Choc.
After 7 years of hearings and suspended hearings, the case is finally closed due to the resignation of the accusing party, leaving the fishermen and the journalist free of all charges.”
PBI began to accompany lawyer Édgar Pérez Archila in August 2010 then extended that in late 2013 to the other lawyers of the Human Rights Law Firm who work in high-profile trials to fight against impunity and in defending criminalized human rights defenders.
Our article posted about this on February 1:
Maya Q’eqchi’ journalist Carlos Choc and fishers released by court following criminalization related to Fenix mine in Guatemala
On January 31, the Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project posted: “Carlos Ernesto Choc was released from the accusations against him in a case of criminalization of #FreedomOfExpression”
Carlos posted the good news on social media: “#MayanCommunityJournalism This day under the energies of Nawal 6 Tijax, a new stage in my life begins. After 7 years of criminalization, today the criminal prosecution against me was definitively closed. Thank you all very much – b’anyox eere, for the support.”
He also tweeted: “#IAmAJournalistNotACriminal Today I demonstrated my innocence in the face of two criminal proceedings against me, for documenting, investigating and reporting environmental damage and human rights violations, in the Q’eqchi’ Mayan territory. Long live the original peoples!”
And Prensa Comunitaria reported: “Three fishermen and community journalist are free after seven years of criminalization. #ElEstor The fishermen Tomás Ce, Cristóbal Pop and Vicente Rax, and the community journalist, Carlos Choc, were released.”
This started with a Canadian mine
Choc has reported on the Fenix nickel mine now owned by the Russian-owned Swiss-based Solway Investment Group.
In 1960, Toronto-based INCO Ltd. began negotiations with the military dictatorship of Guatemala to establish the Fenix mine. By 1965, EXMIBAL, a joint venture between INCO and the Guatemalan state, was granted a 40-year mining licence.
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.”
Professor Imai adds: “Major construction began on the El Estor mine in 1974 aided by a $20 million loan from the Canadian Export Development Corporation.”
Vancouver-based Skye Resources bought the mine from INCO in 2004. Skye Resources then merged with Toronto-based Hudbay in 2008.
The mine was purchased by Solway Investment Group in 2011.
In April 2023, Newsweek reported that Montreal-based Central America Nickel (CAN) could purchase the mine with the support of the U.S. Embassy.
Charged in 2017
Choc took a photo of Maya Q’eqchi’ fisher Carlos Maaz just after he was shot dead by police on May 27, 2017, at a protest against the pollution of Lake Izabal by the mine.
Forbidden Stories has reported: “On the pretext that he had participated in the protest, Choc, along with a journalist colleague and five fishermen, was accused of six crimes and misdemeanors by Solway Group. An arrest warrant was submitted against him in August 2017, forcing him into hiding for several months.”
We met with Carlos in Guatemala in May 2023 and then did a webinar with him on August 18, 2023. This was just prior to the August 21 hearing he was to have in relation to the substitute measure he was given in January 2019 on the August 2017 charges stemming from his May 2017 reporting on the police killing of Carlos Maaz.
That hearing was postponed until January 31.
We welcome the good news about Carlos, Tomás, Cristóbal and Vicente, and affirm our support for community journalism and the defence of land and territory.