January 8 and 9, 2007. Part II of III.
Issue: Land / Mining
Barrio La Revolución. El Estor, Izabal.
The morning of the 9th began like the previous day, with a large combined caravan of Police and Army forces headed towards an indigenous community in order to evict its residents from ancestral lands. The territories have been leased out through government concessions to the Guatemalan Nickel Company (CGN), the local counterpart of Skye Resources, a Canadian-based mining company.
It was at this time, however, when employees of CGN entered the eastern side of the community and began burning hut after hut. As community members pleaded to stop the burning of homes, public prosecutor Escobar argued that as he did not encounter anyone on that end, he had already handed over the legal rights to CGN and they could so as they wish. Nevertheless, Mr. Escobar promised residents to be refunded for the materials lost.
In what clearly seemed intimidation tactics, employees of CGN, who belong to the neighboring town of Mariscos, had painted their faces black.
As homes burned, an elderly man sobbed: “I am sad because my little home is gone.”
After the burning of the eastern half of the community, dozens of soldiers rushed the community and took position along the periphery.
It must be noted that the 1996 Peace Accords which ended Guatemala’s 36-year civil war clearly state the prohibition of Army personnel with regards to internal affairs. A number of these soldiers, however, have taken what seems a permanent residence inside the grounds of the Fenix Mine and participated in these evictions. Such actions mark clear violations of the 1996 agreements.
In this photograph taken on December 19th, 2006, Don Alfonso and his wife pose proudly in front of their small hut (please see previous entries regarding Barrio La Revolución).
These are the remains of what once was Don Alfonso’s home.
Despite the destruction, Don Alfonso returns in an attempt to salvage the tin roofs and anything else which may have endured the ravaging.
Lastly, residents pleaded for their food source by asking the public prosecutor and company representatives not to destroy their crops so they could pick the fruits of their labor in the coming weeks. Their petition was denied.
With their homes destroyed and source for food soon to follow, some residents slowly began leaving the community.
Many of the younger residents, however, have vowed to return: “Our parents were born here and evicted in the 1960s. These lands belong to us”, stated a young community leader.
Memorial photo of what once was Barrio La Revolución. The red graffiti on the tree reads: “CONIC continues the Mayan struggle.”
Versión en Español aquí.
In Japanese: 日本語で。