Activists call on Vancouver mining companies to stop violence in Guatemala and Mexico

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      Human-rights activists are calling on two Vancouver-based mining companies to “publicly order an absolute halt to all violence” against people opposed to their operations in Guatemala and Mexico.

      Melanie Schambach, Maryann Abbs, Alejandra López, and Sara Kendall made the demand in a letter they delivered on June 19 to the downtown offices of Radius Gold Inc. and Fortuna Silver Mines Inc.

      The four activists were acting in the wake of recent attacks that targeted anti-mining protesters in Guatemala and Mexico.

      One of these cases involved the shooting of Yolanda Oquely Veliz on June 13. The 33-year-old Veliz was shot by men on a motorcycle after she left a blockade near the entrance to Radius Gold’s mine in San José del Golfo, Guatemala. She survived the attack but remains in serious condition.

      They also cited the shooting of Bertín Vásquez Ruiz and Guadalupe Vásquez Ruiz on June 16. The two opponents of Fortuna Silver’s operations in Mexico were wounded.

      Schambach, Abbs, López, and Kendall were able to meet Simon Ridgway, chair of both Radius Gold and Fortuna Silver, and Ralph Rushton, president of Radius Gold, on June 19. Schambach said she was disappointed by what they heard from the two mining executives.

      “They are saying that it’s just a small group of protestors [in Guatemala and Mexico], that the NGOs are lying, and…that they’re actually giving women opportunities of work,” Schambach told the Straight in a phone interview.

      Rushton said that Radius Gold has heard about the shooting of Veliz. He described it as a “very unfortunate event”.

      “We condemn any violence,” Rushton told the Straight in a phone interview. “It’s terrible. It’s not something that we support in any way shape or form.”

      Rushton said that he could not speak for Fortuna Silver. Earlier this year, Fortuna Silver president Jorge Ganoza told CTV News that the company is not linked to the murder of anti-mining leader Bernardo Vasquez in Mexico on March 15.

      In their letter to Radius Gold and Fortuna Silver, the four Vancouver activists expressed concern about the potential for further violence. “Those Latin American community members who are opposing your companies where they live are at grave risk,” they wrote. “From this moment forward, any violence suffered by people who criticize the mining projects will be obviously linked to the companies themselves.”

      Oscar Morales of Guatemala was one of the guests who attended the recent annual general meeting of Amnesty International Canada at UBC.

      In an interview on June 17, Morales said that he has a message for Canadians. “We’re trying to explain to Canadians that we’re peaceful communities and that our resistance isn’t against Canadian society,” Morales told the Straight. “It isn’t against the Canadian people. It’s against Canadian companies that try to operate mines in our country without consulting with us or respecting our lives.”




      Jun 20, 2012 at 6:24pm

      Harper corp. fascism need I say more


      Jun 20, 2012 at 9:27pm

      It is high time for Fortuna Silver and Radius Gold to take a firm stand and demand that all violence against demonstrators stops. I have personally seen polluted streams in Central America caused by Canadian companies, and I feel strongly that these companies must respect the population and their rights, in the countries they operate in.

      Frankly, I feel none of this would happen without the tacit approval of the companies in question, who could close operations down if they wished.

      Ray I

      Jun 21, 2012 at 1:59pm

      Those companies are abiding by local laws. Beyond that their "obligation" is to their shareholders like pension funds and RRSP holders.

      G. Jones

      Jun 28, 2012 at 8:15am

      I am not sure what an NGO is; that is not explained by Mr. Pablo.

      But there is obviously no benefit to the mining company or its executives to murder people in a country where they operate only under the view and with the tolerance of the government. Executives in mining companies have seen such protests many times by the time they reach executive status, and are not panicked by them. Indeed, the most recent shooting apparently occurred on or immediately adjacent to the mine property, when an action was in process. No sane person acting on instructions from a mining company executive would ever do something like that.

      It would seem to be far more likely that these events were a consequence of some disgruntled employee or former employee, or by someone, either in the protester group or some local job seeker, who thought they had lost, or might lose, employment or some financial benefit connected with the advancement of the mine.

      Another possibility, less likely, but more likely than a mining company plot, would be a political shooting, which seeks to justify action against mining based upon the occurrence of violence at the mine site, or theorizing, as these protestors do, that the mining company is responsible for the violence in some way.

      Perhaps once the shooters are questioned, more can be learned; apparently the most recent shooting occurred in a location where a number of protesters were present; undoubtedly witness statements are under review.

      Martin Dunphy

      Jun 28, 2012 at 12:33pm

      G. Jones:

      NGO = nongovernmental organization

      unknown man

      Jul 3, 2012 at 11:02am

      Another company using the strong arm approach on the citizens of Guatemala