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World Bank Mining Project in Guatemala
O n January 11, Guatemalan President Oscar Berger spoke to a group of reporters in Guatemala City about ongoing protests against a World Bank mining project in the northern part of the country. He said that his government had to establish law and order. "We have to protect investors," said Berger.
Hours later the Guatemalan military and police forces armed in riot gear opened fire on protesters, murdering one person and leaving dozens injured. Berger's comments about establishing law and order in Guatemala to protect investors, and the ensuing violence and state repression, are not isolated incidents. Rather they illustrate the violent forces employed to secure the expansion of capitalist globalization.
Glamis Gold, a mining company incorporated in Canada with headquarters in Reno, Nevada, was given a $45 million loan from the World Bank to construct and operate a gold and silver mine in San Marcos, Guatemala, 90 air miles from Guatemala City in the country's western highlands. Two of the towns directly affected by the project are San Miguel Ixtahuacán and Sipacapa, whose populations are 98 percent and 77 percent indigenous.
The Guatemalan government ratified International Labor Organization Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, which ensures (at least on paper) indigenous people's land rights and rights to self-determination. Articles in the Convention state that indigenous communities must be consulted and allowed to participate in decision-making processes in any matters concerning their land and lives.
The World Bank has similar procedural "safeguards" to ensure only projects with "broad community support" are approved. Unfortunately, the ambiguous language coupled with lack of independent oversight and enforcement mechanisms allows transnational corporations like Glamis and global institutions like the World Bank to set their own standards.
According to Sandra Cuffe of Rights Action, a human rights and community development organization, local community members described consultations as presentations by Glamis where local residents were asked to sign or mark a sign in sheet as proof of the consultation. She is the author of a report on mining and neoliberal reforms in the two countries titled, "A backwards, upside-down kind of development: Global actors, mining and community-based resistance in Honduras and Guatemala." Cuffe works in Honduras, has traveled to Guatemala, and has monitored Glamis's mining operations in both countries.
Graham Saul, International Program Coordinator for Friends of the Earth Canada, has been monitoring the project and agrees the "consultation" process is largely a charade. "Consultation is more of a public relations exercise than a meaningful legal process. It gives companies like Glamis and the World Bank cover [where they can say]: ‘Yes we consulted and yes there is popular support'," said Saul.
Needless to say, both institutions claim the project has broad support. But an article in the Guatemalan newspaper Prensa Libre contradicts their claims. The article cites a survey conducted by the Vox Latina Institute in which 95 percent of people surveyed in San Miguel Ixtahuacán and Sipacapa opposed the mining project. A majority of people believe that mining would harm the environment and not benefit their communities.
The local communities sustain themselves largely through farming and raising livestock. As a result of the project, which is in its construction phase, many of the people have been evicted and relocated from land they have lived on for generations. "They don't have any say on whether they want to be moved, where they are moved to, and what kind of housing they will receive," said Cuffe.
There have also been reports that one community, which was relocated, went weeks without access to drinking water.
But the human rights violations just begin there. The mining project will bring long-term social and environmental destruction. The open-pit mining operations will consume vast amounts of water, which could make water used for irrigation of farmland scarce. Glamis is not required to pay for the use of water. Any water that is left for local communities to use for farming and livestock and the immediate ecosystem can also be expected to be contaminated by cyanide, which is used for the extraction of gold and other harmful chemicals and debris associated with open-pit mining. Alcohol, prostitution, sexual assault, and rape are commonplace in mining camps in Latin America.
Glamis and the World Bank counter that the project will bring employment for many locals, though most of these jobs will be terminated after the construction phase. Glamis is also building infrastructure that includes roads, new homes, schools, and medical clinics. Guatemala will also receive up to 3 percent in royalties.
Jamie Kneen, communications and outreach coordinator of the Canadian NGO Miningwatch, calls this window dressing. "If you're destroying productive farm land, dislocating people, and destroying water supplies you're going to need more than a school to compensate," said Kneen.
He added that in ten years the mine is expected to be closed and Glamis is not obligated to fund the maintenance and operating costs for the infrastructure projects that the company touts as benefits. Whatever paltry royalties the Guatemalan government will gain from the project can be expected to be tied up repairing "unforeseen" environmental damages. He said that the so called benefits Glamis are offering is nothing more than an exercise in public relations.
"It's a lot easier to buy public relations. When you add it up it amounts to very little money," said Kneen, "nothing compared to the value of the resources extracted or reasonable royalties."
"Bread Today, Hunger Tomorrow"
O n December 3, more than 2,000 indigenous farmers and villagers gathered to block a convoy traveling on the Pan-American Highway carrying mining equipment from reaching the Marlin site. This organized opposition resulted from what many local people perceived as lack of consultation and access to decision making along with the widespread belief that the project would destroy their environment and way of life. Though the numbers dwindled, the blockade lasted 40 days until January 11, when Guatemala's Interior Ministry deployed the military and security forces to "protect investors."
The security forces used tear gas and fired their AK-47s into the crowd. Raul Castro Bocel, a 37-year-old campesino from Solola, was killed. The company issued a press release stating, "Glamis is saddened that this criminal activity may have resulted in injury and loss of life."
Glamis wasn't referring to the criminal activity of the Guatemalan military and police forces, who, when they fired into the demonstration, violated provisions of that country's 1996 Peace Accord, which ended Guatemala's 36-year civil war. Provisions in the Peace Accord were established to guard against the state-sponsored violence that had resulted in a genocidal campaign on the country's indigenous people.
Glamis blamed the confrontation on "anti-development activists" and their "misinformation" rousing the local population. Its press release went on to reconfirm that "the project continues to be strongly supported by local residents."
The World Bank also posted a statement on its website in response to the murder and state repression. It stated that the Bank was "in frequent contact with the company and the government as concerted efforts were being made to find a peaceful resolution."
Conspicuously missing was any mention of the World Bank having any dialogue with the local protesters. Then again, why would it change its practices at this point in the project?
The Catholic Church in Guatemala has been an outspoken critic of the mining project and has been heavily involved with the organized resistance to it. It is also not immune from the violence. The Guatemalan Human Rights Commission announced that a former intelligence officer reported being offered $50,000 by an anonymous person to assassinate San Marcos Bishop Alvaro Ramazzini. Berger responded by putting the bishop under government protection. Ramazzini has been a vocal supporter of campesinos' organizing efforts against mining.
Despite the atmosphere of intimidation, local opposition to the mining project has not only sustained itself but continues to grow. Reuters reported thousands of Mayan Indians gathered for an anti-mine march organized by the Catholic Church shouting, "Bread today, hunger tomorrow," to express their belief about the benefits of the mining project.
"We don't want gold; what we want is to defend our way of life and our water," peasant farmer Timoteo Tujil told Reuters. It's not just the way of life that needs to be defended. On March 13 Alvaro Benigno Sanchez, the 23-year-old son of an outspoken critic of the Marlin project was shot and killed by an off-duty security guard working for a local company hired by Glamis.
Protecting Free Trade
B ilateral and regional free trade agreements are another mechanism used by transnational corporations and northern governments to open new markets and protect the investors who pillage them. Coincidentally, Glamis is no stranger to "free trade."
Glamis is suing the U.S. government for $50 million in lost profits under investor rights provisions contained in Chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement due to the decisions of the federal government and the state of California to halt one of the company's open pit mining projects, which lie on sacred Native American sites in the southern part of the state.
This has interesting implications for Glamis's project in Guatemala. The Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), which is essentially an extension of NAFTA, contains similar investor rights provisions. This raises the question as to whether Glamis could use the same arbitration process, which includes no public access or oversight, should the growing resistance to the Marlin mine succeed in ending the project.
Thousands of protesters, including indigenous farmers, trade unionists, and students, converged on the country's capital in early March when CAFTA was set to be voted on by lawmakers. The vote on the free trade deal, which has little public support outside of government officials and wealthy landowners, had to be postponed due to the ongoing demonstrations. Protesters were demanding a national referendum to let the people decide what is best for them and their country. President Berger, never shy to "protect investors," again sent in troops to quell the protests. What ensued was the murder of two more countrypeople and more violence. Amnesty International reported that two journalists were threatened with death if they continued covering the anti-CAFTA demonstrations.The Guatemalan Congress voted overwhelmingly in favor of CAFTA and Berger ratified the agreement on March 15.
Bishop Ramazzini issued a statement articulating why the demonstrators were opposed to the free trade agreement at a press conference during the protests. "CAFTA was negotiated behind people's backs and this is the reason that people today are now protesting. It is based on the logic that favors profits over human rights and sustainability," said Ramazzini. "It's clearly intended to facilitate the accumulations of capital to complement and lock into place the neoliberal reforms carried out by the governments in the region."
CAFTA has also been ratified by the other Central American countries in the region and awaits approval by the U.S. government to finalize the deal. Despite widespread opposition to CAFTA in the United States, largely due to the debilitating effects NAFTA has had on the U.S. and economy, workers' lives, as well as strong disagreement from the sugar industry, a vote is expected in May. Some Republican lawmakers are breaking ranks with the president on this issue but the Administration and free trade lobbyists representing transnational capital are cashing in favors and cutting deals as CAFTA is recognized as a stepping stone to passing the Free Trade Area of the Americas.
Silence is Golden
T he global response to the violence and violations of international law in Guatemala has largely been muted. The media's coverage in Canada (home of Glamis) has been sparse at best. There have been no constructive responses by Northern governments. Canadian Ambassador to Guatemala James Lambert wrote an op-ed published in Prense Libre extolling the virtues of mining as a tool for development by comparing mining projects affecting indigenous populations in Canada to potential ones in Guatemala. "Through sustainable development of our mining resources, these communities are creating the economic, cultural and social infrastructure necessary to secure their future and the future of their children," wrote Lambert.
The claim that indigenous communities have benefited is dubious at best, while the comparison of Canada to Guatemala is completely inappropriate due to the gross economic, social, and political disparities between those two countries.
The U.S. government in turn has rewarded the Guatemalan government for its commitment to neoliberal reforms by resuming military aid to the country for the first time in 15 years with a $3.2 million package; this in the wake of the recent murders and violence and a State Department human rights report released in February which criticized Guatemala's National Civil Police to be the worst human rights violator in the country.
Global civil society must engage in solidarity work with the people in Guatemala as the World Bank, Glamis Gold, and the Guatemalan government have forced them to fight for their lives and way of life. We must make it clear that the violence, repression, exploitation, racism, and environmental destruction inherent with the nature of capitalist globalization are unacceptable. In the U.S., defeating CAFTA must be a priority because of both the short term and long term implications in stopping this "backwards, upside-down kind of development."
A spokesperson for transnational capital, Jorge Arrizurietta, president of Florida FTAA, put it best when he recently said, if the campaign to approve CAFTA "is not successful, the FTAA is for the history books.... The free trade movement will be stalled."
If we do our work right, stopping both is within our reach.
Cyril Mychalejko is the communications director of the Florida Fair Trade Coalition (www.flfairtrade.org).
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
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BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; firstname.lastname@example.org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
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LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
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ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: email@example.com; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
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WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; email@example.com; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: email@example.com; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.