Mexico: police break up blockade of Goldcorp mine

On Jan. 24 the government of the north-central Mexican state of Zacatecas sent about 200 riot and ministerial police to remove some 30 campesinos and their relatives from an entrance they were blocking to the Peñasquito open-pit gold mine in Mazapil municipality. Campesinos from the Las Mesas ejido (communal farm) and the Cedros annex began blocking the entrance on Jan. 16 to get attention from state and federal authorities for their demand to reopen negotiations with the mine's owner, the Vancouver-based Goldcorp Inc., about the rent the company is paying to use ejido land. In addition to removing the protesters, the police arrested two campesino leaders, the brothers Epifanio and Mónico Morquecho, and took them to the prison in Concepción del Oro municipality, 40 km away; they were charged with damages, looting and extortion, based on a criminal complaint from Goldcorp.

The Peñasquito mine occupies 5,400 hectares in the Mazapil Valley, including 240 hectares Goldcorp rented from the ejido in 2006 for 30 years in exchange for a one-time payment of 10,000 pesos (about US$744) per hectare. Goldcorp "took advantage of our ignorance," the ejido members told a reporter on Jan. 24. The campesinos' blockade was mostly symbolic, since the mine's employees and trucks could use at least three other entrances. The state government reportedly ordered the large-scale police operation against the protesters after Goldcorp threatened to suspend work at the Peñasquito and withdraw its investments in the state. (La Jornada, Mexico, Jan. 25)

Wounded protester dies in Mexico City
In other news, activist and theater director Francisco Kuykendall ("Kuy") died on Jan. 25 after suffering a cardiopulmonary arrest. A supporter of The Other Campaign, a political movement inspired by the rebel Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), Kuykendall was one of two protesters seriously injured during demonstrations in Mexico City against the inauguration of Enrique Peña Nieto on Dec. 1, 2012. His skull was fractured when he was hit by a police projectile—either a rubber bullet or a tear gas grenade—and he never completely recovered. Kuykendall's friends and colleagues said his death was an example of the impunity that continues in Mexico, as well a message from the government intended to intimidate dissident groups. (LJ, Jan. 26)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, January 26.