A break-down in negotiations and a series of illegal eviction/removal attempts in the dispute between Guatemalan Nickel Company and neighbouring communities has led to an attack by armed groups, among them security agents of the company, against community members.  The attack in the municipality of El Estor, in the department of Izabal (Guatemala), resulted in the murder of community leader Adolfo Ich Chaman and the injury of several other community members. 
The Fenix mine project is operated in the department of Izabal, Guatemala by Compañía Guatemalteca de Níquel (Guatemala Nickel Company)-(CGN).   CGN is a subsidiary of Canadian transnational company HudBay and has a long history of conflictivity and involvement in human rights violations in Guatemala. 
After its first explorations in the 1960s, it restarted its exploration and mining operations through the company EXMIBAL, in conditions that were made favourable by the military regimes of the 1970s and 1980s.   It is worth highlighting that in its report the Commission for Historical Clarification (la Comisión para el Esclarecimiento Histórico (CEH)) documented various cases of serious human rights violations, in which employees of the subsidiary company EXMIBAL were implicated.
In recent years, a series of conflicts have been registered with the communities that are situated adjacent to the territory which the Guatemalan state gave to CGN.  The company has been disputing the title to the land of families who live in the territory.   This has led to a series of violent evictions carried out by private security forces.   These evictions have been carried out even though the company has never shown property titles for the disputed lands.  In this way, recent events represent another example of the lack of attention given by the governing authorities to the land/agrarian problem. 
Recent Events:
The latest developments in the tensions/disputes  occurred near the community of Las Nubes, one of the communities that adjoins the territory granted to the CGN Company.  The case of Las Nubes has previously led to the creation of a negotiation table, in which the Governor of the Department negotiated the relocation of the Las Nubes families to another location.  Some families accepted the negotiation when they were promised, among other things, Q25.000 for each family, as well as lands, roads, schools and a medical centre.  But after having been moved to the new location, they realized that these promises weren’t going to be kept, so they returned to the community of Las Nubes.

On the 23 of September, a CGN representative, CGN’s head of Security, and representatives of the government of the department and of the Ministry of Agricultural Issues presented themselves in the community.   They warned some women who were present that they would need to move to other terrains and warned that if they failed to do so they would be removed.  They also threatened to kill their husbands if they did not resettle.  In addition, they entered various houses without permission, taking photos before leaving. 

On the 25 of September, the security personnel of CGN returned to the community, this time accompanied by members of the PNC (National Police) and fired shots into the air.  Later, they began to destroy the community center, an act that they stopped only when some community members approached to try to prevent the destruction of the community hall.   Right after that, the private security forces threw tear gas and pepper spray, shot at people with rubber bullets and attacked various community members.  During the entire episode the Police who were present in the area did not intervene.

On the 27 of September, the Governor of the Department of Izabal arrived, accompanied by approximately 150 members of the security corps of CGN.  She accepted the complaints of the community that the promises made to them in negotiations had not been fulfilled, but maintained that if they did not move to another location, there would be no help or projects.  On the other hand, she told them that if they moved that same day she would send them assistance immediately.  After hearing this, the community voiced criticisms that the Governor had arrived without the accompaniment of state officials and responded that they did not require any assistance.   They also questioned the Governor about whether she had made deals with the company.    The Governor left the area soon after, visibly upset by these criticisms. 

Meanwhile, representatives of the various neighbouring communities who were informed of the intimidations and threats suffered by the community members were assembling on the road near the company.  When representatives of Las Nubes joined in, the company’s security started to shoot at the community members so they would disperse.  At the same time, another paramilitary group started to shoot at the villagers from another spot nearby. 

Adolfo Ich Chaman, teacher and community leader from the community of La Unión, was in a meeting near where these events were taking place.  When he heard the shots, he went to rescue the children in the houses close to the malla of the company.   According to information received, CGN’s chief of security then called him over, claiming to want to talk with him.  When Mr. Chaman approached, he was hit and macheted by agents of the company, and then was dragged into the company’s grounds, where he was killed by firearm by CGN’s security agents.  At the same time, four community members were detained by agents and brought to a room from which they were subsequently able to escape.  In addition, about ten people were injured by the impact of bullets, some of whom find themselves in serious condition. 

RECOMMENDED ACTIONS:  Send appeals in Spanish and in your own language to Guatemalan authorities, with copies to your respective embassies and to the Canadian transnational company Hudbay (see attached for addresses and sample letters in both English and Spanish).

       Demanding the undertaking of an immediate and exhaustive investigation into the armed attack on community members that resulted in the murder of Adolfo Ich Chaman and left more than 10 people with firearm injuries.
       Demanding the immediate issuance of arrest warrants against those responsible for these acts.
       Demanding that immediate measures be taken by the governmental authorities to guarantee the security of the communities affected by the conflict with the CGN and calling for disarmament and control of armed groups circulating in the region. 
       Urging that a solution to land title and ownership in the communities be found, ensuring the legalization of the communities land titles and guaranteeing a space for sustainable living. 
       Calling for the cancellation of CGN’s license and urging that they leave the country immediately, given their direct involvement in serious human rights violations, through contracting private security and paramilitaries and their impact on the increased tensions in the region.    
       Calling for exhaustive investigations into the role and the actions of the Governor of the Department in particular in the negotiation process undertaken with the communities


Human Rights Accompaniment Program
Maritimes- Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network
13183 Hwy #7
Ship Harbour, NS
B0J 1Y0
Tel.: 902-845-2750
Email: btsaccompaniment@gmail.com

Human Rights Accompaniment Program
Maritimes- Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network
13183 Hwy #7
Ship Harbour, NS
B0J 1Y0
Tel.: 902-845-2750
Email: btsaccompaniment@gmail.com 

Categories: Urgent Actions

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