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On the first day of the Solidarity Mission organized by Friends of the Earth International and the Transnational Institute (TNI) of The Netherlands, which aims to reclaim the rights of communities affected and resisting open pit metal mining in Guatemala and El Salvador, the delegation visited Marlin gold mine, owned by Canadian corporation Goldcorp.
Even though it started operating only five years ago, the effects can already be seen, including: deaths, water privatization, poisoning of the river, eviction of peasant and indigenous population and criminalization of those who defend their territory.
The delegation, which include newly elected Friends of the Earth chair, Jagoda Munic, the 2011 Goldman Prize laureate Francisco Pineda, TNI member Lyda Ferrero, together with activists from Colombia, Honduras, Costa Rica, Brazil, Argentina, Guatemala, Spain and Philippines arrived in the Parrish of San Miguel Ixtahuacán to meet with a dozen activists that provided their testimonies about the resistance and its consequences.
One of them was Crisanta Perez, member of the Frente de Defensa Miguelense, against whom Montana corporation filed several accusations. Montana is a subsidiary of Canadian corporation Goldcorp.
Crisanta together with seven other women of Mam communities organized around the municipality of San Miguel Ixtahuacán, were prosecuted for damage against the company when the corporation threw high voltage power lines to the industrial plant through their lands, by placing high voltage power lines and electricity posts above their houses.
The persecution led to her exile to Mexico, far from her children and community and her later detention when she was going back to her community to give birth.
“After all that process we were released but we are not really free because the judge told us that we should spend two years with disciplinary measures, so we cannot enforce our rights”, said Crisanta.
She also described the recent confrontation with the corporation as a result of the drillings to find water amid the community water wells that could lead to new accusations.
“Those water springs give us life. Our grandparents lived there, they would wash their clothes there, and this is our concern”, she said.
Men and women from Mam communities provided clear testimonies of environmental and human rights violations, including the right to proper food, access to water and education. They also claim that the mining corporation has hired people from the communities to defend the company’s interests, which has led to division and conflict.
“They want us out of the communities and we cannot live anywhere else”, said Crisanta. Resistance to mining has had the fundamental support of the parish of San Miguel, as well as of several other organizations.
However, Crisanta criticized that the support it sporadic because of the worsening of the situation under the current government of military Otto Pérez Molina. Marlin-Montana has a relatively small area for exploitation (20 square km), but its environmental and social effects are felt from many miles around and they even reach Mexico.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, the international delegation will visit seven political prisoners who were arrested after the uprising of Santa Cruz Barillas against the installation of a hydroelectric plant by Hidralia. The group will provide its first impressions of the tour in a press conference on Thursday afternoon.
Photo: Víctor Barro (Friends of the Earth Spain)
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