Today, May 2, 2013 at 12am, a State of Siege came into effect in the municipalities of San Rafael Las Flores and Casillas in the department of Santa Rosa and the municipalities of Jalapa and Mataquesquintla in the department of Jalapa. Article 2 of the Governmental Decree 6-2013 states, “by virtue that in the municipalities… a series of serious acts of sabotage have affected the productive activity of individuals and the government, have violently used explosive materials for a particular use, have violently attacked military and civil authority and have reduced the mobility of citizens by blocking the highway access points of the aforementioned municipalities. All of these acts put constitutional order, governability and state security in visible danger.”


On account of this act, the government of Otto Perez Molina has suspended the validity of basic guarantees and human rights to mitigate a conflict, which has at its root a breach of constitutional responsibilities. Minera San Rafael, subsidiary of Tahoe Resources of Canada, operates in the territory of San Rafael Las Flores and Mataquescuintla. Since the exploration phase of this project, the communities directly affected, including the municipal seat where the mine will operate, have solicited the right to free, prior and informed consultation.


The imposition of the mining company has an undeniable social and environmental impact given that it will be operating in a populated area. In addition, there are three legal complaints by people whose houses are near sites where rock will be pulverized and processed to extract silver). In an act of peaceful resistance, the communities of the area have documented and submitted legal complaints to the Minister of Energy and Mines and the Public Prosecutor’s Office for contamination, and to the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office for threats and aggression, while publicizing the complaints before public opinion. On April 3, the Guatemalan Government authorized the exploitation license to the mining company and on April 29 a royalty agreement was signed.


Since July 2012, we have observed a change in the tactics used by the company, which now includes the criminalization of civil leaders, the religious authorities and the social organizations that accompany them. In response to the protests carried out on private property directly affected by the mine, the company has accused the human rights defenders as invaders and destabilizers. These kinds of actions have started to generate a great deal of unrest in the social environment and have led to members of the Xinca Parliament becoming involved in the resistance.


In November, we observed with much concern people mobilizing to detain and steal explosive materials while en route to the mine. This act was repudiated by social organizations involved in the resistance as well as human rights organizations that demanded the recuperation of these materials. In January 2013, a well-organized armed group carried out an operative in San Rafael Las Flores, in a community near the mine, which led to the death of a member of the private security of the company and invoked terror in the population. This act was never clarified and since this time, CALAS, CODIDENA, the Xinca Parliament and others have denounced the existence of an illegal group operating in the region. This illegal group is responsible for these acts and a series of actions against the population that has left them in a state of anxiety. This anxiety began again on March 17 with the kidnapping of three members of the indigenous (Xinca) community of Xalapan and the murder of another.



Despite these denouncements, the government maintained its position to blame non-violent leaders and social and human rights organizations for these acts. On April27 the company’s private security shot live ammunition at the protesters, which led to the serious injury of one and minor injuries to six others. At this time, the Public Prosecutor’s Office acted quickly and captured the head of security for the mine believed responsible for the acts.


On April 29, several community groups decided to block the highways at four points to protest the signing of the royalty agreement and the lack of attention being paid to the situation. A group of people from the community of [Laguna] El Pita captured 23 police officers. A confrontation with the security forces ensued, resulting in the death of a police officer. After several attempts, the police were liberated but the community seized their weapons. These acts were repudiated by UDEFEGUA and other social organizations.



The human rights defenders who have maintained the resistance and their conviction that the law and the government will eventually validate their rights had nothing to do with these movements. Many of these people tried to help mediate both with the liberation of the police and the roadblock.



It is with much concern that we point out that for months now, UDEFEGUA and other local and international organizations have warned about the absence of a real dialogue, as national interests are being subordinated to those of the companies. This has generated a context whereby groups not associated with human rights defenders could use the guise of the social struggle to justify violence to the benefit of personal and malicious interests at play in the region. However, Guatemala’s government continues to insist on singling out human rights defenders as problematic, meanwhile avoiding intervening in the conflict.


The imposition of the State of Siege has demonstrated that in addition to arresting those responsible for the detention and kidnapping of police, human rights defenders are having their homes raided and surrounded. We hope that during this month a real process of disarmament takes place in the area and that the groups generating violence are found, instead of more violence against human rights defenders who today find themselves in two struggles: on one side, against the government and the company, and on the other side, against people who opt for violence to resolve their conflicts.



UDEFEGUA reiterates its rejection of all forms of violence and its conviction that the struggle for human rights should be done from a stance of non-violence.



UDEFEGUA continues its support for community, religious and social leaders from San Rafael Las Flores and Santa Rosa; as well as for social organizations from Jalapa, Santa Rosa and the country as a whole, who seek respect for the rights of indigenous peoples, and all Guatemalans, to a healthy environment. We are aware of their non-violent struggle and the situation of criminalization and stigmatization attempting to link them with unrelated activities.


UDEFEGUA calls on the Congress of the Republic not to uphold the State of Siege given that what is really happening is a problem of prevention, investigation and criminal persecution, accompanied by a social conflict exacerbated by the illegal action of public functionaries who favour private interests.



UDEFEGUA calls on community members of the mountain to collaborate with the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Police to allow for the investigation and criminal prosecution of those who commit crimes in the area, particularly those who could be involved in the illegal group that operates in the region and commits acts of organized crime like kidnapping, drug trafficking and femicide.


Guatemala, May 2, 2013


Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, UDEFEGUA – Guatemala


For the Right to Defend Rights!