Guatemala: killings linked to Canadian mineral interest?

Two Qeqchi Maya leaders were shot and killed and over a dozen wounded this week near the site of a shuttered nickel mine in Guatemala. The first shooting took place Sept. 27 on land claimed by the community of Las Nubes, which Compañia Guatemalteca de Niquel (CGN), a subsidiary of Manitoba's HudBay Minerals, also claims to own. Early reports indicated CGN's private security guards opened fire while attempting to remove families from their land. Adolfo Ichi Chamán, a teacher and community leader, was killed and at least eight more wounded by AK-47 fire.

During Chamán's funeral service, thousands marched through the streets of El Estor, demanding the company and the local police chief withdraw from the area within 24 hours.

HudBay released a lengthy statement claiming that there were no evictions, but that "protestors" went on a rampage, attacking a local police station and destroying a hospital built by US-based NGOs, wounding five employees. The Hudbay statement claims the protesters proceeded to open fire on each other.

One day after the murder of Chamán, men armed with machine guns opened fire on a mini-bus carrying indigenous educators and leaders from El Estor region to Cobán. One man, Martin Choc, was killed, and at least nine more wounded.

These killings are a flare-up in a tense area, where the track record of Canadian mining companies includes forced displacement over multiple generations, co-operation with the army, and the burning of homes belonging to indigenous residents. After a series of violent evictions in 2007, representatives of Skye Resources (later acquired by Hudbay) made similar claims blaming protesters for the violence. (Dawn Paley for Upside Down World, Oct. 1)

See our last posts on Guatemala, Central America and the mineral cartel in Latin America.

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