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Guatemala: Local Self-Determination on Mining Lands

The mining industry has increased in importance in Guatemala, where given the market prices of some metals and minerals, the lands that many communities are situated are in high demand. Often these communities, especially indigenous peoples, demand a say in how their lands are used. Some consider the protests of communities where the government had authorized mining scare investment in the region while others consider that is the right of indigenous people over their territories. Here are the considerations of bloggers:

The regulations stipulated that the mining companies must pay revenues to the communities, however, progress in the region is still absent. Jorge Jacobs of El Dorado [es] points out, regarding the regulations:

Tanto dinero que se sabe que se está aportando, pero no se sabe en qué se está gastando, la población percibe solamente los beneficios que traen las inversiones de capital, como lo son los empleos directos e indirectos, y se hace la pregunta del millón: ¿a dónde va a parar todo ese dinero?

Y cualquier reglamento o ley que no sea la restitución de la legítima propiedad privada de los propietarios del subsuelo, que son los propietarios del suelo, seguirá haciendo de los auténticos dueños del subsuelo simples observadores de cómo en manos gubernamentales, y a discreción de los políticos de turno, los ingresos por minería se diluyen en un presupuesto que no los beneficia y en “obras sociales” que nadie ve por ningún lado.

We know that a lot of money that we know they (the companies) are bringing in, but we do not know where it is spent, the people only gets the benefits of the investment such as some indirect or direct jobs, and the million- dollar question is: where is the money from the revenues? And any regulation or law that does not imply the restitution of their legitimate property of the landowners of the subsoil, which also belongs to the landowners, will maintain the real owners as simple observers with how in government hands and at the discretion of the politicians at the moment, the income from the mining is diluted in a budget that does not benefit and in “social works” that no one sees.

Sharing some of his concerns, French film maker Gregory Lasalle posted on Guatemala Solidarity Network the videos made by Journalists showing how the decisions to stop mining are taken by the communities themselves. He said:

… seguimos preocupados de la manera como el (nuevo) legislativo y el gobierno de Alvaro Colom van a dar seguimiento legal a estas consultas realizadas al nivel municipal.

…we are still concerned about the way that the new congress and government of elected President Alvaro Colom will deal with the matter of legal status of the vote on a communal level.

That is because the highest authority on constitutional matters said that such polls are not legally binding as Pluriculturalidad Jurídica [es] said:

La Corte de Constitucionalidad sentencio recientemente la inconstitucionalidad del carácter obligatorio del resultado de la Consulta de Buena Fe realizada contra la explotación minera en el municipio de Sipacapa del Departamento de San Marcos en Guatemala.

The Constitutional Court recently ruled that the results of popular consultation that rejected the mining activity in the municipality of Sipacapa in the Department of San Marcos in Guatemala are unconstitutional.

Ale Oliva provides on his post Algo sobre minería… [es] some observations:

Poco o escaso beneficio de las áreas en las que se realiza la minería en comparación con el impacto que se produce. De manera directa la minería genera empleos directos e indirectos, pero en términos generales no mejora la calidad de vida de la población. Una pregunta importante es ¿Qué pasará cuando las minerías terminen sus operaciones en esé lugar?

Little or no benefit can be seen in areas where the mining activity is taking place, compared with the effects that it causes. In a direct way the mining activity creates employment, both direct and indirect, but in general, the people is not improving their quality of life. An important question is: What will happen to them when the mining companies finish their work there?

And the situation is even more complex because, according to CERIGUA BLOG [es] on their post: A trial against indigenous leaders has started

Un debate histórico ha iniciado en la sede el Tribunal De Sentencia de San Marcos, en el que siete hombres indígenas, defensores de los recursos naturales en sus comunidades, son acusados por la empresa Montana Exploradora de Guatemala, de incitación a delinquir, amenazar y agredir al jefe de seguridad de la corporación. De acuerdo con un artículo de opinión de Irmalicia Velásquez Nimatuj, publicado en el diario elPeriódico, detrás de la acusación lo que menos importa son las agresiones al jefe de seguridad, sino tratar de silenciar, a través del sistema de justicia, a cientos de hombres y mujeres indígenas, la mayoría analfabetas, que fueron astutamente persuadidos por Montana para vender sus tierras por unos cuantos quetzales.

A historical debate has begun at the District Court of San Marcos, where seven indigenous peasants, defending natural resources of their communities, are accused by Montana Exploradora de Guatemala with the charges of incitement to commit a crime, threats and aggressions against the chief of security of the corporation. But according an article of opinion journalist Irmalicia Velásquez Nimatuj, published in El Periódico, that behind the accusation, which is least important is the aggressions towrds the chief of security, is that it is an attempt to silence, using the judicial system, hundreds of indigneous peoples, most of the illiterate, that were persuaded by Montana to sell their lands for a few quetzales (national currency of Guatemala).

You can learn more about the trial on Resistencia de 7

Many Guatemalans from different backgrounds agree that the legal system is failing, that the benefits are not reaching the communities and that in the future there will be a problem, because there will be no one to pay for the damages when the companies finish their works.

1 comment

  • Cuando uno mira las noticias sobre la explotación de la tierra en Guatemala lo que pareciera verse es una enorme suela de una gigantesca bota justo antes de caerte sobre el rostro.
    La dinámica del poder se ve mucho más patológica en estos temas, estas ligas mayores de la tranza son otra cosa, cuando de la explotación del oro te dejan el 1% y retazos maltrechos de medio ambiente quiere decir que, sin duda alguna, algún supernegocio demasiado turbio está dispuesto a pasarte el borrador.
    De alguna forma, estos pantagruélicos negocios refrescan una versión bastante contemporánea de aquella famosa estrategita militar de la “tierra arrazada”, pues sí, con todo gente y recursos, quién sabe que tipo de placer experimenta esta gente cuando levanta su maldita bota para ver…

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