By: Maria Reyes, Consultant for communications support for the SAGE project 

The Indigenous Xinka people claim the right to self-determination and to free, prior and informed consent.

The Peaceful Resistance communities of the Xinka people in Santa Rosa, Jalapa and Jutiapa have fought for their right of self-determination; along with the right to pursue their own economic, social and cultural development, including the right to structure themselves freely.

When the Guatemalan government permitted the extraction of minerals through the Escobal project, there was no consultation with communities in the department of Jalapa, Santa Rosa and Jutiapa, going against the International Labour Organization Convention 169 and other international agreements recognizing the rights of Indigenous peoples to prior consultation – such as the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples stated in Articles 3 and 4 (UNDRIP) (see footnote).

A direct consequence of the Escobal mine concession has been the systematic violation of Xinka human rights – including the right to self-determination, as well as the right to free, prior and informed consent. For more than a decade, these communities have banded together to resist violation of their rights.

In September 2018, the Constitutional Court of Guatemala (CC) declared that the Escobal mine remain closed until the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MEM) consulted with Xinka people from the three departments. A court order declared that the Guatemalan government must investigate all possibilities regarding inclusion of the Xinka and their legitimate representative (the Xinka Parliament) in the consultation process, following international protocols as indicated in ILO Convention 169 and the UNDRIP.

However, consultation with the Xinka has been riddled with irregularities, which have been denounced by the Xinka Parliament on various occasions. In a report presented to the Attorney General’s Office on Human Rights in 2019, observations and recommendations were made to the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MEM) and to the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (MARN) concerning serious errors in the consultative process that violated due process and the rights of the Xinka people. Guatemala’s Attorney General’s Office (the PDH) recommends that MEM guarantee that the elected delegates of the Xinka participate in all aspects of the consultation – a guarantee that also includes a delineation of the land being impacted.

In the almost two years since the Constitutional Court’s ruling, discriminatory and exclusionary practices against the Xinka people have persisted, negating the spirit of the consultative process. As well, there’s been an increase in threats and criminalization against those who oppose mining in the Xinka territory — undermining parameters of independent, open consultation and, in fact, casting doubts on the process itself.

By defending their territory, communities in the departments of Santa Rosa, Jalapa and Jutiapa will continue to ensure that the spirit of the Convention and international standards of consultation are followed with reference to Xinka land.

Footnote 1:

Article 3: the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous recognizes the right to self-determination, which includes ”the right to freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”

Article 4: affirms the Indigenous “right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs.”