Kathryn Anderson, Susan Sellers

Guatemala-Maritimes Breaking the Silence is pleased to host Celeste Gutierrez, a community leader courageously resisting Canadian company Tahoe Resources in Guatemala, as part of the “On The Road for Justice” cross-Canada tour. She speaks Monday, March 24th, 7pm at Tatamagouche Centre with a response by Heidi Mitton, a Truro resident who has accompanied human rights defenders in Guatemala. As many on the North Shore express concern about the possibility of fracking in this area, we can gain inspiration from Ms. Gutierrez, who opposes the presence of the Escobal silver mine in her community at great personal risk. At the same time, we on the North Shore can show our support for Ms. Gutierrez’ struggle by attending this event.

In November 2013 Emma Hebb from Wallace, along with Kathryn Anderson and Wilf Bean from Tatamagouche, joined 10 other Canadians in a United Church/KAIROS Mining Study Tour in Guatemala. The group heard alarmingly similar stories wherever they went: inadequate consultation with local communities; environmental devastation; human rights violations; repression and criminalization, and deep divisions in communities and families caused by the Canadian mining companies. The group journeyed high into the mountains where Vancouver-based Goldcorp operates a gold mine. They then traveled down into the fertile agricultural lowlands where Celeste Gutierrez and many others are resisting the presence of Tahoe Resources’ Escobal Mine in the Department of Santa Rosa. A market agriculture economy thrives in this region, with farmers selling their produce, including tomatoes, sweet peppers, carrots and broccoli, throughout Guatemala and beyond. Understandably, these communities do not welcome this mine.

Their concerns include: a deficient environmental impact assessment; the use of cyanide, arsenic and other heavy metals which contaminate water sources; the mine’s heavy demand for scarce water (one hour’s use would supply a family for 20 years) and minimal accountability for long term impacts to the land and water after the mine closes.

Peaceful protest has been met with violence – mostly against leaders from the Catholic Church and community. Ms. Gutierrez will tell us stories of unjust arrests and imprisonment, along with the violence, intimidation and on going terror, including the shooting of six peaceful protesters by the mine’s former head of security in April 2013.
Efforts by communities to make their voices heard through legal means have been undermined or rejected by the Guatemalan government and Tahoe Resources. Days before Tahoe obtained its operating license, the Ministry of Energy and Mines dismissed more than 250 claims against the granting of the license by individuals concerned about potential impacts on health and water resources. Plebiscites have taken place, using municipal law. The overwhelming majority of voters have voted against the presence of the mine. Yet the Guatemalan Government and Tahoe Resources continue to ignore the will of the people.
Since all peaceful methods of opposition have not succeeded, church and community leaders are seeking international support. That is why your presence at her talk matters. We in the North Shore Breaking the Silence Committee hope to see you there.