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The people of Guatemala's fight for Justice and Integrity of Creation

by Sr. Evie Vazquez, icm

The people in “La Puya” (the name of a tree and the name the people gave to their place of resistance between the Municipalities of San Jose del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc in the Department of Guatemala) have been resisting the gold mining industry (Cassidy Gold Corp.—Canada and U.S.A.) for 4 years and 4 months now.

La Puya

We can literally argue with any government official that God’s creation: all kinds of trees, mother earth and all it can produce, waters from rivers, brooks, even the ocean, are all for humanity and the rest of creation. This earth, this planet, is the only common house, the only common home, for all humanity: for men and women, children, and senior citizens to have a dignified life with justice and peace, and God’s creation for all is to be respected, enhanced, reproduced for the coming generations, protected, and safeguarded forever and ever.

 

After three years of resistance, from 2011 to 2014, peacefully impeding heavy machinery from entering the area, on May 23, 2015, specialized anti-riot police entered the area with tear gases, heavy long sticks, along with their guns and clubs, and tried to force the people to evacuate.  However the people laid on the ground across the dirt road:  women and children up front and the men behind and for quite some time the people firmly remained on the dirt road.  By late afternoon the police finally forced themselves on the people and threw tear gases on the people, injuring many and dispersing the crowd.  This was denounced, but the government saw these peaceful protestors as terrorists and thus criminalized them. Incredible their way of thinking! The machines continued to go in, containers with materials, etc. but the people remained, just to let them know that “we are not in agreement with the gold-mining industry here in our territory and in all of Guatemala”. They received food staples from different solidarity groups and religious who accompanied them at times during the day or at night.

la Puya people

Then on May 23, 2015, the leaders in “La Puya”, having seen the people in the city demonstrating and calling on all corrupt officials in the government to resign, and seeing the infamous behavior of this government, again blocked the entrance with a large sign describing their continuous resistance.  A few days later a high-ranking official and another agent, along with police all over the area, talked with the leaders of the people informing them that their duty was to ensure the free movement of the miners and equipment, etc. After an hour of dialogue the leaders of La Puya consented that the miners could enter and leave via the sides that are open.  They simply do not want machinery to enter.  The official consented to the proposal of the people of La Puya to wait until Wednesday, when a dialogue at a higher level was programmed, for sure a dialogue with the President.  The leaders of La Puya even said: “We want to believe in you again as police authorities”.

Tuesday morning at 5 am  I received a call from the secretary of CONFREGUA (The Conference of Religious of Guatemala) telling me that 400 police agents entered the area of  La Puya on Tuesday at  2 am.  So three of us went immediately to “La Puya”.  Upon arriving we saw that there were police all over the area. They had taken down the people’s sign and stood in line protecting the entrance to the mine.  The people were on one side where they had their cooking area and belongings.

The police betrayed their own words, and when Carmen, the secretary of CONFREGUA, saw one of the police who had participated in the dialogue with the leaders confronted him:  “What happened to your words of agreement yesterday?” he simply turned away.

Greediness, selfishness, unjust economic models, rich people who are never satisfied with enough, greedy business leaders, managers, and contractors who never pay just wages, etc., and to top it all high off officials in government who are involved in illicit negotiations, personal enrichment, narco-trafficking, etc. are the cause of the situation we are now in.   The poor are even poorer, and the creation of a new group of poor people (“los nuevos pobres”) is the latest trend and words here in Guatemala. 

As mentioned before, the people came in the thousands in Central Park in Zone 1 of Guatemala City and demanded the resignation of corrupt government officials: the President of Guatemala, congressmen, judges, lawyers, all those involved in corrupt businesses. The CICIG (Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala or International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala), a UN organization, was  investigating the SAT (Superintendencia de Administración Tributaria or Superintendency of Tax Administration) for ten months, exclusively in the area of customs in the ship freights of containers coming from abroad—import and export.  Millions of quetzales robbed and distributed among their own (even one South Korean and one Arab involved).  And for two months now many corrupt government officials have been discovered and imprisoned.  Their underground name was “La Línea”—“The Line”.  But the first one to be involved in this was Roxana Baldetti, the Vice-president of Guatemala, who was in South Korea at that time, receiving an honorary degree for her work with scholarships for young students here in Guatemala. 

While in South Korea she called her private secretary, Carlos Monzón, who had travelled with her, and asked him if he knew what was happening in Guatemala.  Thus alerted, he has now become a fugitive from the law, as he is the leader of “La Línea” (“The Line”).  Upon the arrival of the Vice-president, the demands of the people grew.  The CICIG investigated her too.   A few months later she resigned as Vice-president.  For the last three months many government officials have been sent to prison or legally denied to leave the country.  Even Supreme Court judges are being questioned.  The investigations continue.

On September 6 we will have presidential elections.  Congressmen and mayors are to be elected.  At this point, many corrupt candidates are being denied their candidacy, as practically all are corrupt.  The people of Guatemala have demonstrated years before and have awakened, as has been said, but this time the people are already fed up, “hartos” in Spanish.  They cannot take it anymore.  The internet has been used extensively to spread the news and animate more people to participate in the demonstrations every Saturday at 2 pm.  The demonstration of July 4th, that started at 2 pm, ended in a “candlelight vigil” until 9 pm, walking from the park to Congress, and many signs read “Resign from Darkness”.

manifestazion

In these two human situations: the people defending mother nature against the gold mining industry and the thousands who clamor in the park every Saturday against corrupt leaders and yearning for justice, new government leaders, and an honorable State in Guatemala, these people stand on HOLY GROUND, and their cause is a just one and a plea for righteousness and justice. 

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