Member of Congress and former national coordinator of the Comite Campesino del Altiplano (CCDA) held a congressional hearing on March 21 to question the Guatemalan Ministry of Energy and Mines, Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources, the Ministry of Culture and Sport, the Ministry of Finance and the Human Rights Ombudsperson’s Office on the ongoing work of the consultation of the Xinka people regarding the Escobal mine owned by Canadian company, Pan American Silver, and their subsidiary Minera San Rafael. As this is a congressional hearing, the ministries are under oath and lying would be an act of perjury. Members of the Xinka Parliament and Xinka community were also in attendance.

Photo: Congressional hearing on March 21, 2019

Photo: Congressional hearing on March 21, 2019

The Ministry of Energy and Mines failed to send a representative to the session, sparking harsh words from Juracan, who stated the lack of attendance is yet another demonstration of racism against Indigenous peoples in Guatemala. Juracan stated his office would be taking action against the Ministry for failure to appear at the hearing.

Juracan questioned the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources as well, but it was quickly clear that the representatives were not familiar with the Constitutional Court’s sentence outlining the consultation and when asked directly if the Ministry had yet to consult with the Xinka people, they were forced to admit that they had not.

Even more alarming was the Ministry of Culture and Sports, who was asked to speak about the preservation of the Xinka ceremonial site located inside the Escobal mine project. The Xinka community held a ceremony on February 27 at the site, but were forced to ask for permission by government authorities to enter the area, and were watched by security guards during the entirety of the ceremony. During questioning, the representative from the Ministry on numerous occasions referred to the ceremonies as “Mayan” until Juracan stated that the Xinka people are not Mayan. There had been no inspection of the site since the mine opened, and have been relying on reports by the company on its status.

At the end of the hearing, members of the Xinka Parliament and community were given a chance to respond to the ministries. Oralia Villalta from Jumaytepeque started by saying, “I am very unsatisfied and uncertain after hearing your positions. You are part of the people of Guatemala.”

Lawyer for the Xinka Parliament, Kelvin Jimenez called out the Ministries for perjury after they stated they had been following the Constitutional Court sentence during the process. He stated, “I invite the [Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources] to read the international standards on consultations…Maybe it was not you yourselves as officials who approved the [Escobal] license, but your attitude since the sentence has been only to the benefit of Minera San Rafael.”

The hearing was recorded and you can find it here (in Spanish).