Oxfam is deeply concerned about the kidnapping and murder of a local leader who was abducted with three others following a community vote on a mining project owned by San Rafael, SA, a subsidiary of Canada’s Tahoe Resources.

The four leaders were kidnapped on Sunday, March 17, from the village of El Volcancito in the San Rafael Las Flores municipality of the Department of Santa Rosa. One of the hostages, Exactacion Marcos, was found dead the next day.

Local groups had organized a community consultation in which citizens cast votes in favor or against the mining project known as “The Escobal.” The project is located 2.5 kilometers east of the San Jose, municipal head of San Rafael Las Flores. Its operations would impact more than 3,000 people living in the area.

After the consultation, the four leaders, known for defending the rights of local citizens, were kidnapped. Rigoberto Giron and Rodolfo López Aguilar managed to escape. A third man, Roberto González, a community administrator and Xinca parliament president, was released the next day.

Oxfam is calling on the government of Guatemala and the national justice system to investigate these crimes quickly and effectively, and to prosecute the perpetrators. Oxfam also urges the government to end the persecution of those who are making legitimate demands for social justice.

Threats to people’s security, criminal activities, and violence around mining projects are all on the rise, yet the government continues to grant licenses without respecting the free, prior, and informed consent of the people who could be affected by the projects. This is increasing unrest across the country.

Oxfam expresses its support for and solidarity with the victims of last week’s violence and with the local and national organizations that are facing threats because of their defense of the public’s legal right to know and decide what happens to the natural resources of their country.
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