Tuesday, June 23, 2009

WNU #994: Guatemalans Protest Gold Mine

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #994, June 21, 2009

1. Guatemala: Protesters Burn Mine Equipment
2. Dominican Republic: Judge Blocks Cement Factory
3. Haiti: 2 Killed in Protest, Electoral Clash
4. Links to alternative sources on: Bank of South, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Mexico

ISSN#: 1084‑922X. Weekly News Update on the Americas covers news from Latin America and the Caribbean, compiled and written from a progressive perspective. It has been published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York since 1990. For a subscription, write to weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com . It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com/

*1. Guatemala: Protesters Burn Mine Equipment
Indigenous Mam set fire to a pickup truck and an exploration drill rig on June 12 at the Marlin gold mine in San Miguel Ixtahuacán municipality in the western Guatemalan department of San Marcos, according to media reports. The protesters said the mine—operated by Montana Exploradora de Guatemala, SA, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Canadian mining company Goldcorp Inc.—had illegally placed its equipment on their land, endangering their water supply, and that they had been asking for two weeks for the company to move the equipment.

According to the Canadian-based Rights Action organization, as of June 19 Goldcorp had successfully pressured the Guatemalan government into bringing charges against seven local residents in relation to the incident. There have been reports of other efforts to intimidate organizers. Javier de León, a leader of the Association of Integral Development of San Miguel Ixtahuacán (ADISMI), said he received two threatening text messages by cell phone on June 12. (Reuters 6/15/09; Rights Action alerts 6/15/09, 6/19/09)

Indigenous Guatemalans have demonstrated repeatedly against the Marlin mine since it began operations in 2005 with a $45 million loan from the World Bank. In January 2005, campesinos in Sololá department tried to block the passage of equipment for the mine through their territory; public security forces shot one protester dead. In March of that year, two guards for the Marlin mine killed San Miguel de Ixtahuacán resident Alvaro Benigno [see Updates #781, 792].

San Miguel de Ixtahuacán residents aren’t alone in opposing the mining operations. At a June 19 meeting with legislative deputy Rosa María de Frade, the mayors of 11 municipalities in San Marcos department said they opposed granting any concessions to Montana Exploradora. “All that [the Marlin mine] has created is confrontation between brothers, and deceptions, and the lands of the humble people of San Miguel Ixtahuacán have been taken over,” said Sipacapa mayor Delfino Temaj. De Frade was promoting reforms to the mining law that she said would protect the environment while ensuring payments of royalties to local communities. “Montana can give us royalties of 50%, but we reject it,” Temaj said. He wondered “what we can do with the money in our pockets if the water sources are dried out.” (Prensa Libre (Guatemala) 6/20/09)

*2. Dominican Republic: Judge Blocks Cement Factory
On June 19 Judge Sarah Enríquez Marín of the Administrative Litigation Court of the National District (Santo Domingo) ordered the Consorcio Minero Dominicano mining company to suspend construction of a cement factory it was building near the town of Gonzalo, in Sabana Grande de Boyá municipality in the northeastern Dominican province of Monte Plata. She issued the order in relation to a complaint the United Communities Movement of Peasant Workers (MCCU) and the environmental group Espeleogrupo had filed on May 20 against the Environment Ministry charging that the ministry had granted Consorcio Minero Dominicano the license for the plant illegally.

Judge Enríquez Marín cited possible damage to the environment as her reason for ordering the suspension and gave the plaintiffs 30 days to substantiate their complaint. The company’s lawyers said they would appeal. (El Nuevo Diario (Dominican Republic) 6/19/09; La Opinión (Los Angeles) 6/20/09 from El Diario-La Prensa (NY))

The factory site is near Los Haitises National Park, the second largest source of natural water in the country. Environmentalists and area residents have been protesting the plant for months, charging that it will displace local campesinos and degrade the water supply [see Update #993]. Residents of Gonzalo celebrated the judge’s decision, as did youths who have maintained an encampment near the site since May 16. Lawyers indicated that the suspension, although temporary, has set a legal precedent. (El Panorama Diario (Dominican Republic) 6/20/09)

*3. Haiti: 2 Killed in Protest, Electoral Clash
On June 12 Haitian president René Préval finally responded to a bill Parliament has passed to raise the minimum wage from 70 gourdes ($1.74) a day to 200 gourdes ($4.97). The pay hike, the first since 2003, cleared the Senate on May 5 [see Update #993]. In an official letter to the presidents of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, Préval repeated claims of Haitian business associations that the wage increase would jeopardize the subcontracting sector, the free trade zone (FTZ) factories that assemble goods largely for export. He proposed an increase to 125 gourdes for that sector, and called on Parliament to be open to negotiations on the measure. (Haiti Press Network 6/17/09; Radio Métropole (Haiti) 6/18/09)

Students from the State University of Haiti (UEH) continued the militant protests in Port-au-Prince that they began on June 3 to demand that Préval make the full wage increase official by promulgating it in the government gazette, Le Moniteur. Early on the morning of June 17, students used burning tires to create barricades near the Medical School and other parts of the university. As on previous occasions, Haitian police and police agents from the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) used tear gas in an attempt to disperse the protesters. The students seized a MINUSTAH police car and set it on fire; the agents fled the vehicle. Protesters also burned a bus and smashed windshields with rocks. UEH protests began earlier in the year over curriculum changes, but the demands now include the minimum wage increase and the removal of MINUSTAH, a Brazilian-led 8,000-member military and police operation that has been in Haiti since June 2004. (Radio Métropole 6/17/09, 6/18/09; AlterPresse (Haiti) 6/17/09)

Anger at MINUSTAH intensified on June 18 when supporters of the Lavalas Family (FL) party of former president Jean Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996 and 2001-2004) accused Brazilian soldiers of the shooting death of an unidentified young man outside the Port-au-Prince cathedral. Lavalas supporters had attended a funeral service there for Father Gérard Jean-Juste, a well-known Catholic priest and Aristide sympathizer. According to witnesses, the MINUSTAH soldiers had been firing in the air, although it is not clear why. An angry demonstration followed in which protesters smashed windshields; the action ended with protesters carrying the young man’s body to the National Palace, the president’s official residence. (AlterPresse 6/18/09)

Jean-Juste, who died in Florida on May 27 after a long illness, had run a popular food distribution service at his church in Port-au-Prince and was a founder of the Haitian Refugee Center in Miami. He was imprisoned in July 2005 by the interim government that was put in place after Aristide was forced from office in February 2004; Jean-Juste was released in January 2006 to undergo treatment for leukemia and pneumonia in the US [see Update #835].

At least one person died in clashes during a runoff for a third of the Senate seats on June 21. The victim--identified as Jean Pierre Wilfrid, a supporter of the social democratic Fusion party--was reportedly killed in an altercation with supporters of the Lespwa (“Hope”) party of President Préval. (AlterPresse 6/21/09)

*4. Links to alternative sources on: Bank of South, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Mexico

South American Nations Agree on Technical Rules for Bank of the South

Argentina's Community Media Fights for Access and Legal Reform

Popular Communication in the MST

World Bank Drops Loan to Brazilian Cattle Giant

US National Intelligence office sees Islamic extremism in Bolivia

Massacre in the Amazon (Peru)

Indigenous Protest and State Violence in the Peruvian Amazon - How the Media Misrepresents

Peru: "The Order Was to Kill Us"

Peru: land decrees overturned in victory for indigenous movement

Peru: eyewitness account of Amazon massacre published

Peru recalls ambassador from Bolivia over Amazon crisis

Peru clamps down on indigenous organizations

Peru: prime minister to step down in bid to defuse Amazon crisis

Interview with Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa

Appalachia and Colombia: The People Behind the Coal

Quinoa Plants a Seed for Food Revolution in Colombia

UN report: Colombian army "killed civilians"

Colombia's high court denies extradition of FARC "jailer"

Venezuelan Government: Separatist Opposition Uses Paramilitaries for Destabilization

Chávez backs Ahmadinejad amid Iranian protests

El Salvador: Promises, Perils and Reality

Gangs, Security and Criminalization: Youth Experiences of Violence in El Salvador

NAFTA'S Serfs: From Wage Slavery to Debt Slavery (Mexico)

Radio Ñomndaa, The Word of the Water (Mexico)

Obama's Cartel Trust Busters (Mexico)

More troops to Mexico's "Golden Triangle" as confused violence spreads

Michoacán: narco-terror attack on ambulance

Mexican village revolts against cellphone antennae

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