Sunday, July 17, 2005

Blog from Guatemala, Part II: Visit to Anti-Mining Coalition Meeting

The following blog entry is from assistant editor Cyril Mychalejko, who is currently in Guatemala and will be there for the next few weeks. See his previous entry below. He’ll be writing for this blog regularly:

Monday night we went to a meeting in the department of Sipacapa attended by about 60 campesinos (peasants), including a few women and children, representing various communities in the area. Unfortunately we got there late because our bus broke down in San Miguel, about an hour and a half away from the destination. We had to ask around for ride. Luckily, we found someone who would drive us. The whole group wasn´t able to go but about 8 of us piled on the back of a pick up truck to enjoy a nice bumpy mountain ride. When we finally arrived we were warmly welcomed to the meeting, which had been going on for about two hours. I think it meant a lot for the people there to have some North Americans visit in solidarity. I know it meant a lot to me that they trusted and welcomed us so quickly.

Everyone at the meeting was vehemently opposed to the mine. There was recently a community consultation and referendum where the local residents took a vote to clearly state their position on the Glamis Marlin Mine. It is part of their indigenous culture to do this. Somewhere between 95 and 98 percent of the people voted against the mine. Glamis filed a lawsuit to try to stop the consultation from happening. A lower court ruled in favor of Glamis but the Guatemalan constitutional court overturned the ruling. Also, Glamis has been recently targeting outspoken community leaders with lawsuits and threatening mine workers with violence. This is a clear attempt to intimidate anyone who opposes the mine. According to people at the meeting there have also been threats circulating that people who oppose the mine will be disappeared, (kidnapped), a threat with horrifying historical context as an estimated 50,000 people, mainly indigenous, were disappeared during the genocide campaign in the 1970-80s, along with and estimated 200,000 murders.

The campesinos at the meeting expressed that they would not be intimidated to back down from protecting their land and way of life. They said that they needed to continue to organize and educate in the communities. They also expressed interest in setting up visits with Zapatista communities so that they could share their experience and knowledge with each other.

It was very exciting to be part of this pure exercise in democracy. Although these poor campesinos and Mayans are fighting against a powerful multinational corporation, the World Bank and a corrupt and repressive government, I have both hope that they will succeed. In a way they are already succeeding because they are on there way to redefining the power structure both locally and globally with their community organizing and involvement. Regardless of the outcome of this struggle, they are making long term progress for a much bigger fight to the regain their rights to self determination, outside the control of the state and transnational corporations, something we all are fighting for in both the north and south…