By Ellen Moore
On July 21, at about 2am, members of the National Police (PNC) attacked the 15 – 20 men, women and children present at the peaceful encampment in Casillas, located about 15 kilometers from Tahoe Resources’ Escobal Mine in Guatemala. The PNC was escorting two tanker trucks carrying fuel for the mine – operations that have been temporarily suspended since July 5, for lack of consultation with Indigenous Xinca communities.
Reports from community members indicate that four people were poisoned by pepper spray and three others were beaten by police and had to be taken to the hospital. It does not appear that anyone was arrested or detained but concern remains that there is an ongoing investigation aimed at criminalizing members of the peaceful resistance.
The 24-hour community check-point of mine-related traffic has been in place since June 7 to protest environmental impacts of operations, recent seismic activity that they believe is related to explosions at the mine, heavy transport of vehicles, social conflicts, and the failure to respect the results of the 18 municipal and community referenda. The encampment suffered another violent attack on June 22 when riot police used tear gas and beat some protesters with batons while they were running away.
Local news reports indicate that hundreds of members of the resistance have regrouped at the community-run check point in Casillas to continue to peaceful protest and calls are growing for the Guatemalan State to explain why it is protecting Tahoe’s mine even after suspension.
Community groups will file complaints with the Public Prosecutor’s office (MP) over two issues:
1. the timing of the eviction, which took place outside of the hours of 6am and 6pm, the parameters during which police evictions are permitted,
2. what work is occurring at the suspended mine for which fuel is required.
Rafael Maldonado, lawyer for the Center for Legal, Environmental and Legal Action (CALAS), stated that he believes the police action in Casillas was illegal. Tahoe’s Guatemalan subsidiary, Minera San Rafael, requested authorization from the Supreme Court to carry out certain work at the mine, but it was not authorized because it lacked all of the required documents.
Since the suspension, Tahoe Resources’ suppliers, workers and the Guatemalan Industrial Association have engaged in a smear campaign against CALAS and their supporters, putting those legally and peacefully opposing the mine at greater risk of further violence. The attack comes just two days after thousands of Xinka Indigenous people from three departments surrounding Tahoe’s mine marched in the capital to demand respect for their identity and an end to mining operations in their territory.
Watch a video of the National Civil Police protecting a truck carrying fuel for Tahoe Resources’ Escobal Mine – which was supposed to immediate stop operations following a court order for not having consulted with Indigenous Xinca Peoples.