Testimony has begun in the trial of seven Mam Maya villagers who sought dialogue with Goldcorp/Montana Exploradora mining company in Guatemala. The seven villagers were among a group of 28 who approached Goldcrop’s local facility in Sipacapa municipality on Jan. 10, demanding talks regarding the impacts of the nearby Marlin mine. The villagers testify that the company rejected calls for dialogue, and sent private security officers to disperse them. Security officers attempted to abduct one person, fired gunshots and threw rocks at the group. Following the attack, over 600 villagers peacefully blocked the road into the mine, a protest which lasted 12 days.
Goldcorp brought charges against 22 of the 28 who initially sought dialogue, and seven of those were arrested. Antonio Felipe Bamaca Hernández, René Pérez Velázquez, Cristóbal Eduardo Pérez Hernández, Pedro Alejandro de León Castañón and Patrocinio Vicente López Hernández are being charged with “coercion.” Goldcorp claims they forced mine workers to remain inside the installations against their will for the 12 days that the protest lasted. They are also charged with “instigation to delinquency.” The charges carry a potential sentence of up to six years in prison. (Rights Action, Nov. 14; background from Bank Information Center, July 2005)
See also our recent feature, “Guatemala: Maya Reclaim Land from Mineral Cartel”