Lic. Augusto Jordán Rodas Andrade, Procurador de los Derechos Humanos de Guatemala
Licda. María Consuelo Porras Argueta, Attorney General of Guatemala
August 21, 2020
Dear Lic. Rodas y Licda. Porras:
We are concerned for the safety of environmental and indigenous rights defender Ubaldino García Canan and other members of the Nuevo Día Ch’orti Indigenous Association (CCCND) in Olopa municipality in Chiquimula Department. CCCND provides legal support and visibility to indigenous Maya Ch'orti' communities. They face repeated human rights violations and threats to their land, environmental, and cultural rights because of hydroelectric and mining projects in their territories (cf our letters of Dec 24 2018, July 3 2019).
On the night of August 5, Ubaldino García Canan, who serves as spokesperson for the Maya Ch'orti' Indigenous Council of Olopa, once again became a crime victim when unknown persons forcibly raided his home and his adjoined small grocery store. Because the intruders stole personal documents along with money and products, indigenous authorities suspect that Ubaldino García Canan was being targeted because of his involvement with CCCND. He has already filed several complaints before the Human Rights Prosecutor’s office due to multiple threats and acts of intimidation directed at him since 2018. The government granted him limited security measures for a period of six months in 2019.
The year 2019 was pivotal in CCCND’s peaceful organized resistance to the Cantera los Manantiales, an antimony sulfide mine in Olopa, operated by INCAMIN, S.A. Their legal concern is that they were not granted prior consultation and did not consent to the project. Their health and environmental concerns include the contamination of the Río Jupilingo and the Río Zacapa, cutting down of forests, and the appearance of skin diseases in residents. In March 2019, the Ministry of the Environment ordered the company to stop its operations. In November, after the Maya Ch'orti' communities had maintained a peaceful encampment for several months, the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) suspended the mining license. Moreover, the Court of Amparos granted the Indigenous Council a provisional protection against the risks they were exposed to as a result of the mining activities.
The majority of residents in 11 villages of Olopa municaplity (and several of neighboring Esquipulas municipality) oppose the mining project. In retaliation, they have been victimized by intimidation and violence. On June 20, Maya Ch'orti' indigenous rights defender Medardo Alonzo Lucero, a member of the Indigenous Council of Olopa and a leader in the opposition to the mine, was found dead with signs of torture in La Cumbre, Olopa.
Because of our concern for the safety of the Maya Ch'orti' communities in Olopa, we urge your government to
- carry out a thorough and impartial investigation into the raid on Ubaldino García Canan’s home and the previous threats against him, publish the results, and bring those responsible to justice
- continue your investigation into the murder of Medardo Alonzo Lucero, publish the results, and bring those responsible to justice
- consult with Ubaldino García Canan to devise and implement the necessary measures to guarantee his physical safety psychological integrity
Brian J. Stefan Szittai and Christine Stonebraker Martínez , Co-coordinators