Mining, Repression, Rhetoric of Democracy and the Rule of Law in Guatemala

August 23rd, 2012

Published on ZNet, by Grahame Russell*, August 20, 2012.

Increasingly, over the past few years, information has been published about serious human rights violations and health and environmental harms being caused in Guatemala by (mainly) Canadian mining company operations: Goldcorp Inc, Radius Gold, Tahoe Resources, Hudbay Minerals, Skye Resources, etc. 

It is not possible to understand how these violations and harms occur, and will continue to occur, without understanding the political context. In short, global mining companies profit financially and benefit directly from the fundamental lack of democracy and the rule of law in Guatemala, both historically and on-going today. (This is true, in varying degrees, about global businesses and investors operating in many countries around the world).

Rhetoric aside about respecting the sovereign democratic will of the duly elected officials of Guatemala, about abiding by the laws and regulations that govern the country and the mining industry, impunity and corruption are the norm in Guatemala. The wealthy elites in Guatemala, including international companies and investors, act with a huge amount of impunity and have almost complete immunity from legal or political accountability.

The roots of Guatemala’s impunity and corruption go back 500 years to the European invasion of the Americas. In recent history, Guatemala’s impunity and corruption are rooted in the 1954 military coup, and in the State repression and genocide of the 1970s, 80s and early 90s.

Military coups and mining: … //

… Relationship of robbery:

  • But this is not narrowly a Guatemalan problem; it is profoundly a Canadian problem. The mining operations and struggles playing themselves out in Guatemala are examples of the global economy at work. It is a north-south business, by definition, and a profoundly unequal, unjust one. As the vast majority of profits flow north to company directors, shareholders, investors and tax payments, all the harms and violations occur where the mines operate.
  • Given the reality of historic repression, impunity and corruption in Guatemala, it is extremely difficult and dangerous for Guatemalans to demand accountability from their own government and powerful economic sectors. And yet, they keep on struggling, peacefully, in defense of their community well-being, water sources, forests and lands, for real democracy and for a functioning and fair legal system. Repression – including shootings, killings, illegal forced evictions, jailings on trumped up charges – continue unabated.
  • Ultimately, it is Canadians – the direct and indirect beneficiaries of these mining operations – who have as much, if not more responsibility to challenge and change these relationships of mining operations, harms and violations, and unjust enrichment.

(full long text).

*(Grahame Russell is a human rights lawyer and co-director of Rights Action).

Links:

Rights Action.org;

Rights Action in Guatemala;

UK media lines up behind campaign to extradite Assange and silence WikiLeaks, on World Socialist Web Site WSWS, by Julie Hyland, August 22, 2012: The British media has played a venal role throughout the ongoing efforts to witch-hunt and silence WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. But it has plumbed new depths following the decision by Ecuador to grant his request for political asylum.

Google News-search for assange wikileaks on 22.08.2012.

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