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Guatemalan government moves to expel witnesses to police violence at U.S.-Canadian mine site

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Last week, Guatemalan authorities informed two Peace Brigades International (PBI) volunteers that their temporary residence permits were cancelled and that they have ten days to leave the country. Both volunteers witnessed a violent eviction on May 23rd at 'La Puya' -- just north of Guatemala City -- where U.S.-based Kappes, Cassidy & Associates and Vancouver-based Radius Gold are interested in developing the El Tambor mine project.

During the eviction, hundreds of police used tear gas and flash bombs against the communities of San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc who have maintained a peaceful blockade at the entrance to the mine project for over two years while they have sought dialogue with Guatemalan authorities to reach a solution. The operation permitted machinery to be forcibly introduced to the mine site. Over 20 people were injured.

"Over the following weeks [after the violent eviction], various articles with defamatory comments against foreigners and international organisations were published in Guatemalan media," states PBI in an open letter, reproduced in full below. The letter expresses concern "that the cancellation of the temporary residence permits of two of our volunteers may be related to false information on the work of international observation during the eviction which was published by the media."

"In the current context characterized by the closure of spaces for human rights defenders, we are also concerned that [the cancellation of the volunteers’ permits] undermines the possibilities of international accompaniment and observation which aims to protect spaces for non-violent conflict resolution and the promotion of human rights in Guatemala," the letter from PBI concludes.

The eviction at La Puya is one of multiple examples of violence and repression associated with Canadian and U.S. mining projects in Guatemala that diverse human rights and solidarity organizations have been accompanying for years:

The Guatemalan government's attack on PBI is a further affront to mining-affected communities that are peacefully struggling to have their rights respected and to seek justice for crimes committed. Canadian representatives should speak out against this situation, while ensuring that Canadian foreign policy is overhauled to respect the collective rights of mining-affected communities.

Find an example letter here that you can send to the Canadian Embassy in Guatemala, copied to other Members of Parliament, here.

Open Letter from PBI: Cancellation of temporary resident visa of two Peace Brigades International volunteers in Guatemala

Peace Brigades International
July 2, 2014

Peace Brigades International (PBI) Guatemala would like to bring attention to and share its grave concern following the cancellation of the temporary residence permits of two volunteers of the PBI Guatemala project working in the country. This measure was decided by the Sub-directorate for Foreign Citizen issues which is part of the Office of Migration Services (Dirección General de Migración, DGM) and the Ministry of Interior (Ministerio de Gobernación), in two resolutions dated 1st July, without stating the reasons or events that led to this decision. The resulting situation affects both individuals and their immigration status, as well as the work of international accompaniment and observation for the defence of human rights which PBI has carried out in Guatemala for over 30 years.

On July 1st  2014, two PBI volunteers, of Chilean and Spanish nationality, presented themselves at the Office of Migration Services, which had summoned them via written notice on 25th June (Received 26th June) to provide "information with regards to their temporal residency permits." In the meeting, during which the legal representative of PBI Guatemala as well as a lawyer were present, the volunteers were informed that their temporal residency had been withdrawn and that they had 10 days to leave the country. However, the resolutions lack any reasoning on the basis of specific evidence to justify the decision and fail to refer to any actions of PBI or its volunteers.

PBI Guatemala has enjoyed legal status in Guatemala since 1995* and is duly registered and accredited by the public authorities, with legal representation and capacity to act within the framework of its mandate and mission. Each PBI volunteer initiates the process of application for temporary residence upon arrival in the country in compliance with immigration law. At all times, PBI and its volunteers in Guatemala act in accord with the legal framework. National authorities are regularly informed on our work both in Guatemala and outside the country.

The two PBI volunteers to whom the resolutions refer, observed the violent eviction of the Peaceful Resistance of La Puya on 23rd May. In June, PBI Guatemala issued an alert calling for attention to these events. During the eviction, representatives of the Office of Migration Services were present but subsequently left without approaching the PBI observers, after police officers had checked their migration status by revising their identification documents, only to find them in order.

Over the following weeks, various articles with defamatory comments against foreigners and international organisations were published in Guatemalan media. We are concerned that the cancellation of the temporary residence permits of two of our volunteers may be related to false information on the work of international observation during the eviction which was published by the media.

In the current context characterized by the closure of spaces for human rights defenders, we are also concerned that the above-mentioned resolutions undermines the possibilities of international accompaniment and observation which aims to protect spaces for non-violent conflict resolution and the promotion of human rights in Guatemala. The work carried out in the country by PBI responds to the request of social organizations and actors who have the right to defend their rights and to seek international accompaniment and observation, when they face threats and attacks due to this engagement.

*Issued March 10, 1995 by Ministerial Agreement 148-95, the Interior Ministry.

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