URGENT ACTION : GUATEMALA: State must immediately stop the excessive violence against defenders of the Maya Q’eqchi’ people in peaceful resistance against the illegal nickel project in El Estor.

After twenty days of peaceful resistance against the illegal mining of their ancestral territories and the Guatemalan State’s failure to enforce the Constitutional Court’s ruling to immediately halt the mining, hundreds of State security agents are using excessive force to evict Maya Q’eqchi’ fishermen and indigenous authorities in El Estor, Izabal, Guatemala. In addition, journalists and human rights observers on site are being threatened and harassed to silence what is happening in the area, especially related to the lack of compliance with the Constitutional Court’s order to immediately stop operations at the mine site due to the lack of consultation with the communities.

October 24, 2021

We condemn the excessive use of violence by Guatemalan state security forces against Mayan Q’eqchi’ fishermen and authorities who are asserting their legitimate rights to peaceful assembly and protest against the illegal mining operations of the Swiss-Russian Solway Group at the Fénix-Pronico nickel mine in El Estor, Izabal.

Defenders and journalists covering the protest have been tear-gassed, beaten and threatened by the excessive police and military contingent, and reports that more security is on the way to the area raise the alarm of more attacks and more illegal evictions. There are verified reports that the Police are entering the neighborhoods in search of social movement leaders and Maya Q’eqchi’ community members who filed a successful writ of amparo against the mine’s operations.

In June 2020, the Constitutional Court ordered the Guatemalan State to close the operations after ruling that the Ministry of Energy and Mines granted an exploitation license to Compañía Guatemalteca de Níquel (CGN) – then owned by Canadian Skye Resources – in 2005 without consulting the affected communities. Operations at the mine have continued over the years, first with Hudbay Minerals, also of Canada, and currently through Solway Group, a Swiss-Russian consortium. During the ownership of each company, there have been acts of serious violence and systematic human rights violations against indigenous rights defenders.

  • We demand that the Guatemalan State immediately cease the brutality against defenders and journalists.
  • We demand immediate compliance with the Constitutional Court’s ruling by the State of Guatemala and Solway Group and that operations be halted until a consultation is held, with full participation of the affected communities.
  • We demand an end to the use of the State of Siege and other tactics to foment fear and encourage eviction from Q’eqchi ancestral territories.