Allegations of brutality highlighted by protest at Hudbay shareholders' meeting

| May 22, 2015
Photo: Megan Devlin

Angelica Choc confronted Hudbay Minerals at their shareholder meeting this morning as supporters of the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network rallied below.

She's part of an 11-plaintiff suit against the corporation for alleged brutal attacks against Guatemala's Indigenous Q'eqchi' population in El Estor.

Choc says that during a community protest over forced evictions on September 27, 2009, her husband and community leader, Adolfo Ich, was surrounded, beaten, hacked with machetes and then shot to death by Hudbay security personnel. She's looking for justice.

Fellow plaintiffs German Chub and Rosa Elbira joined Choc in the boardroom. Chub uses a wheelchair after being shot at the same protest where Ich was killed. He still has the bullet lodged close to his spine. Elbira is part of a group of 11 women who allege they were gang raped by Hudbay personnel and police during an illegal forced eviction.  

Hudbay's president denies the allegations.

"When the president of Hudbay spoke inside the meeting he denied everything," Choc said in an interview afterwards. "He said 'it will be borne out in court.' I thought to myself: good. It will be borne out in court. I will bring my story to court and I don't have to be worried because that's where the truth will be heard."

Cory Wanless, one of the lawyers handling the case, said that Hudbay's strategy so far has been "blanket denial."

"Interestingly, they have not provided their version of what happened," he said. "They've provided no explanation as to how German ended up with a bullet lodged next to his spine [or] how Adolfo Ich ended up with machete wounds to the head and to the arm and a bullet wound to the head."

He said his clients journeyed to Canada to confront that denial directly.

"I noted that [the shareholders] were watching us, they were thinking and they were listening. It's possible that many of them did not know our stories before," said Chub.

"Hudbay knows that on September 27, the only people with handguns and shotguns were mine company security personnel," said Choc. "And yet, it denies that its security forces were involved."

She says that for Indigenous people like herself, justice is an uphill battle.

"It is those with wealth that are heard, not those that are poor. When you're standing up against a corporation it is very hard to achieve justice," she said.

Canadian mining companies are responsible for 75 per cent of the world's mines, and have a notoriously record when it comes to human rights.

Rachel Small, an organizer with the MISN, says the case of Chock vs. Hudbay is a groundbreaking case. She hopes it will pave the way for similar suits in the future. 

Though Choc's story was the focus of the rally, supporters alleged that Hudbay's transgressions are far from isolated.

Earlier this month, Manitoba Hudbay workers at the company's Flin Flon and Snow Lake operations went on strike. Those workers were also present at the shareholder's meeting.

"There really is no pardoning what has been done to us," said Choc. "But we hope that brothers and sisters in Canada will take into consideration our fight and we can work to make sure that this doesn't happen again."

A press release from Hudbay can be read here. Hudbay did not respond to a request for comment before press time. 

Megan Devlin is rabble's news intern for 2015. She hails from Toronto, but she's starting her Masters in Journalism in Vancouver. She got her start in journalism working at the Western Gazette where she was a news editor for volume 107 and online associate editor for volume 108.

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