Guatemala: mineral interests behind massacre?

Kaqchikel indigenous authorities in the central Guatemalan pueblo of San JosĂ© Nacahuil, just outside the capital, are protesting the government’s response to a Sept. 8 massacre in which 11 residents were killed and 15 injured as gunmen shot up a cantina. Some of the bodies were found in the bathroom where patrons attempted to hide from the attack; others were chased out into the street and gunned down. Governance Minister Mauricio LĂłpez told reporters the killings could be the work of youth gangs or maras linked to the drug trade. But traditional Kaqchikel leaders issued a statement reading: “We are strongly opposed to the statement of the Minister of the Governance that blamed gangs, which is completely false. It is premature to make statements without having initiated an investigation.” (Global Voices, Sept. 10; AFP, Sept. 9; BBC News, AP, Sept. 8)

The statement speculated the attack could be linked to a protest encampment being maintained by village residents at the community of La Puya, outside the gates of the Tambor gold mine, owned by US-based Kappes, Cassiday & Associates (KCA). The protest camp has been ongoing since March 2012, and in June of that year a protest leader was shot and gravely wounded by unknown gunmen near the camp. KCA subsequently bought out its former Canadian partner in the mine, Radius Gold, which cited a corporate strategy “to divest problematic assets.” (San JosĂ© Nacahuil lies within San Pedro Ayampuc municipality; the mine straddles the border with San JosĂ© del Golfo municipality to the east.)

On July 9 of this year—ironically, the same day that President Otto PĂ©rez Molina announced a two-year moratorium on mining operations—another local activist, Santos Fidel Ajau Suret, was gunned down as he was leaving the protest camp.  (UDW, July 15; NISGUA, July 12)

There are also questions about possible involvement of Guatemala’s national police force in the massacre. San JosĂ© Nacahuil in 2005 expelled the National Civil Police (PNC) from the pueblo and formed a “community police” force, but on the day of the massacre a PNC patrol car entered the village, allegedly to investigate an anonymous tip-off about an imminent attack. Residents said PNC troops visited the cantina just before the massacre, and by some accounts tried to shake the owner down for money. (Revolution is Eternal, Sept. 10; Guatemala Solidarity Network, April 26)

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  1. Guatemalan anti-mine protest vigil dispersed

    In the pre-dawn hours of May 23, the protest encampment that local residents had maintained for two years outside the gates of El Tambor mine site at La Puya village was dispersed by National Civil Police troops who used tear-gas and detained several. The dispersal of the vigil, led by local woman, allowed miner KCA to intriduce heavy machinery to the site. (UDW, Prensa Comunitaria, May 24)