Friday, August 15, 2008

Indigenous anti-mining organizer assassinated in Guatemala

Assassination of Local Anti-Mining Leader Leads up to the International Day of Indigenous Peoples

Support Justice for Indigenous Leaders and the Struggle for Self-determination of Indigenous Communities Throughout Guatemala

NISGUA is sad to report the following piece of news regarding the assassination of Antonio Morales, ex- Municipal council member of Colotenango, Huehuetenango in Western Guatemala. Antonio Morales, a Maya Mam community leader, was killed Thursday morning August 7, 2008.
Just over a month ago, on June 23, 2008 the municipality of Colotenango became one of 26 municipalities to reject mining on their territory through a community referendum. The assassination occurred one day before the International Day of Indigenous Peoples (August 8th). On this day rural communities and organizations were planning mobilizations throughout the country and particularly in Western Guatemala to voice their resistance to mega projects such as hard metal mining and hydroelectric dams, and defend their right to autonomy and self-determination.
Below you will find a communique from the Center for Human Rights Legal Action regarding the recent assassination.Below you will also find a communique sent out by the Peoples' Council of San Marcos declaring their resistance to transnational corporations and the destruction of the environment that sustains life.To participate in other urgent actions in support of communities resisting mining on their territories in the face of threats, and to demand that Canadian Mining Companies and the Guatemalan government work to STOP THE REPRESSION AGAINST ANTI-MINING ACTIVISTS in Guatemala visit:
The Center for Human Rights Legal Action- CALDH- condemns the assassination of our compañero of the Maya Mam people, Antonio Morales, resident of the community Tixel, municipality of Colotenango, department of Huehuetenango, Guatemala. Four gunshots (to the left and right sides of his thorax, near his heart, and in his right arm) took Morales´ life in front of his house, on the Interamerican highway, near the Chanjon bridge.
Antonio was a member of the Committee for Campesino Unity (CUC), characterized for being a very active person in the struggle for the rights of indigenous peoples, the defense of natural resources, respect for the community referendums, and especially in resistance to open-pit mining in the department of Huehuetenango. He served as First Councilman in the municipality of Colotenango, in the previous period, therefore having recognition from the community. In previous days, Morales had informed people of threats made against him by armed groups that operated in the region. These events are added to the intimidation and constant threats that human rights activists have received for the work they do in defense of human rights.WE DEMAND that the Public Ministry investigate the cowardly assassination of Antonio Morales and that the judicial bodies charge the material and intellectual authors of his death.
WE DEMAND that the Guatemalan government guarantee the life and security of those who promote human rights in the country. We are in solidarity with the family of Antonio Morales, all the members of CUC, the campesino movement, and indigenous peoples.FOR THE RIGHT TO A JUST COUNTRY!*Guatemala, August 8th 2008.*
2. The Peoples’ Council of San Marcos, Guatemala That there may never be a people, nor two or three, that are left behind the rest.-Pop Wuj (Mayan spiritual teaching)August 9, 2008 — International Indigenous Peoples Day To: the three powers of the Guatemalan State—Mr. Álvaro Colom, President of GuatemalaMr. Arístides Baldomero Crespo Villegas, Chair of the Congress Mr. Oscar Humberto Vásquez Oliva, Chair of the Supreme Court of Justice The Peoples’ Council of San Marcos, in harmony and consensus with all the other peoples of the Americas/Abyayala, are filled with hope as we say to you on this Indigenous Peoples’ Day: Our Guatemala is a country where social relations are rooted in a dynamic interdependence with nature. It is a country where the sacredness of life marks the daily steps of the indigenous peoples that coexist with it — from the deepest rituals to the simplest tasks.As peoples, we continue to be excluded from development and decision-making. This happens in spite of our many experiences with democratic participation, including certain historical moments in which we found ourselves obligated to carry out tremendous sacrifices to confront oppression — an oppression which continues to present obstacles to the development of our country; an oppression which has reached an intolerable point.The imposition of transnational mega-projects — such as chemical open-pit or underground metal mining, hydroelectric dams, and the related problems of access to, use of and ownership of land — only brings us destruction, repression, and death. We see that “development” policies only benefit shameless speculating businesspeople, who are not obliged to pay taxes proportional to the wealth they obtain from these projects or proportional to their foreign capital. This occurs with the approval of every government administration. The government also carries out various development programs, directed by businesspeople serving in the public sector, whereby government resources are designated to rural areas and the indigenous and peasant populations; but these programs have very little impact because they do not have sufficient resources, nor do they contribute to the independence and self-sufficiency of the people that these programs are supposed to benefit. The government impedes our efforts to reconstruct the social fabric because it seeks partisan, sectoral gains and makes the population conform.Despite the historical marginalization and discrimination against our peoples, we have used our own creative capacities and resistance to dominant power structures through our own ways of life, our own economy, and our own solidarious organization to maintain ourselves and develop. This allows us to live at one with our values within the social and natural order, which is also at one with the cosmos, nature, and humanity.Trusting in the democratic processes that we have also pushed forward, raised up, and participated in, we have engaged in constant dialogue and consultation with our families, communities and peoples about the origin and destiny of our resources, goods and services. The next generations are our responsibility, and it falls on us and them to reaffirm our commitment to conserve this triple-harmony: humanity, nature, and cosmos.In the recent presidential elections, Mr. Álvaro Colóm offered that his government would establish a “social democracy with a Maya face.” We believed this and we voted for him. But the few initiatives that he has implemented towards this end have been left behind as a result of the weight that historical repressive powers still represent in this country. Our peoples are a force that has been continually disregarded and manipulated by those power structures that historically and currently comprise the Guatemalan state. The Colóm administration’s strength and power is rooted in its closeness to, dialogue with, and commitment to the poor and excluded who gave him the opportunity to be in the position of power that he holds today.In the name of this commitment by the President to undertake his government service with preference for the poor, peasant farmer, and indigenous peoples, we demand on this International Day of Indigenous Peoples:
Judicial Branch:Do not criminalize the struggles of indigenous peoples with regards to issues of agrarian land, mining and hydrolelecric projects.Executive Branch: Declare the contracts and licensing for exploration and exploitation of chemical metal mining harmful to the country; Make legally binding the 27 community consultations that have already happened, as well as those that will happen in different municipalities across the country; Carry out diversified hydroelectric projects and without impacting the flow of rivers. Respect prior community consultation; We want access to land, not to the way of the market. We want a solution to the agrarian conflicts and labor conflicts and a canceling of the agrarian debt; Reallocate public programs towards contributing to the economic independence of the indigenous and peasant farmer population; Comply with the obligation of applying the laws of International Labor Organization (ILO) convention 169, an international legal instrument with constitutional backing that regulates fundamental collective rights of indigenous peoples; Create policies and laws that include elements of holistic rural development and that prioritize small and medium economies, farm workers, and peasant farmers.
Legislative Branch:We declare you responsible for the creation of laws that directly prejudice against indigenous peoples and peasant farmers and benefit another sector.MOST URGENTLY:Judicial Branch: That you suspend the arrest warrents against: GREGORIA CRISANTA PEREZ BAMACA, CRISANTA HERNANDEZ PEREZ, PATROCINIA MATERO MEJIA, CATALINA PEREZ HERNANDEZ, OLGA BAMACA GONZALEZ, MARIA DIAZ, CRISANTA YOC Y MARTA PEREZ, indicated with the penal code identification number [1908-2008], under the purview of the Fifth Assistant to the Court of First Instance for Criminal and Narcotics Activity and Crimes against the Environment in San Marcos, for the existence of an unfounded resolution and lack of motive as required by law. That you respect the right to possess land for the inhabitants of Caserio San Francisco, San Pablo, and San Rafael Pie de la Cuesta, which are being affected by the implementation of hydroelectric projects and private companies.
Executive Branch: That you cancel the agrarian debts of 12 communities; create programs for land access with an alternative way to secure funding for land for 38 groups; that you resolve nine agrarian conflicts and 2 labor conflicts that are part of the peace institutionalization; and that you redirect public programs towards families that have been victimized by the food security crisis and the government’s inefficiency in addressing their agrarian and labor requests. The socio-economic and political crisis in which we find ourselves can provide your government with an opportunity to reconstruct our country, if you take this crisis on with dialogue and by working with the people. If you address this crisis with the interests of the powerful sectors in mind, it may be the last opportunity that we have to build ourselves as a country. Do not be intimidated by traditional elite and transnational powers that roam in this country — those who hold themselves captive and discredit legitimate actions in defense of the people and who force the state to defend their interests at all cost, even when defending their interests is detrimental to life itself.

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Censored News is published by censored journalist Brenda Norrell. A journalist for 27 years, Brenda lived on the Navajo Nation for 18 years, writing for Navajo Times, AP, USA Today, Lakota Times and other American Indian publications. After being censored and then terminated by Indian Country Today in 2006, she began the Censored Blog to document the most censored issues. She currently serves as human rights editor for the U.N. OBSERVER & International Report at the Hague and contributor to Sri Lanka Guardian, Narco News and CounterPunch. She was cohost of the 5-month Longest Walk Talk Radio across America, with Earthcycles Producer Govinda Dalton in 2008:
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