In February of 2012, residents of San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc (La Puya), north of Guatemala City, were struggling to obtain information about a reported mining project in their communities, which would affect hundreds of families.
Months earlier community members had been shocked to learn about the prospective gold mine – then owned by Canadian company Radius Gold and later sold to US Engineering firm Kappes, Cassiday & Associates (KCA) – in a local news article. Many were outraged that they had not been consulted about the project, which they feared could affect the health of their families; others raised concerns about the mine’s impact on the environment and water supply. Although they contacted various government agencies, residents were either ignored or deliberately misinformed about the status of the mining project.
On March 1, 2012, one valiant woman decided that she had had enough. She parked her car near the entrance to the mine, preventing trucks and mining equipment from entering the site. On March 2, 2012, other community members joined her protest, transforming the roadblock into a peaceful, community-based resistance movement that became known as La Puya. Working in shifts, residents took turns in order to maintain a human blockade 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The Guatemala Human Rights Commission (GHRC) has put together a great timeline leading up to the forthcoming 2nd anniversary of La Puya.
Please click here to see highlights from these two years of resistance which include the following:
March 1st 2012: Estela Reyes decided to block the entrance to the Tambor mine in order to prevent trucks, excavators, and other mining equipment from entering the communities. She parked her car at the entrance and refused to move.
June 13th 2012: At approximately 6:30pm, Yolanda Oqueli, an anti-mining activist from San José del Golfo, was shot in the back by two men on a motorcycle while leaving her shift at the blockade. Prior to the attack, Yolanda and other anti-mining activists had received threats and acts of intimidation. Days before the shooting, they had presented a formal complaint to the Public Prosecutor’s Office.
September 27th 2012: As part of GHRC’s 30th Anniversary celebration, La Puya community members Álvaro Sandoval Palencia and Antonio Reyes Romero are awarded the Alice Zachmann Human Rights Defenders Award, and deliver the keynote speech at the event.
December 7th 2012: At 6am on December 7th, 2012, anti-riot police arrived at the roadblock and began tearing down the banners and temporary kitchen. The Communities in Resistance laid down on the street as the police attempted to forcefully evict them.
June 12th 2013: Members of La Puya met with President Otto Pérez Molina to discuss the ongoing threats against them as well as their continuing rejection of mining activities in their region. As a result of the meeting, President Pérez Molina agreed to a new, independent environmental impact analysis of the proposed mine.
December 16th 2013: An investigation conducted by the Foundation for Community Development (FUNDESCO) found an increase in repression against the members of the organized resistance of La Puya. The organization released a report on Thursday, which stated that a climate of fear and terror prevails for the nearly 800 families involved in the resistance. According to the activists cited in the report, the government continues criminalizing peaceful resistance and favoring the transnational company.
March 2, 2014: La Puya Community Members Celebrate Two Years in Resistance
To read ‘La Puya: The Rhythm of Resistance’, click here.