By Sandra Cuffe
In the highlands of San Marcos, in the municipalities of San Miguel Ixtahuacán and Sipakapa, is the infamous Marlin project, a gold mine that since the end of last year is already being exploited by Montana Exploradora SA, a subsidiary of the Canadian transnational -American Glamis Gold Ltd.
From San Marcos to Colombia: the regional integration of gold and bullets
Analyzing the role of militarization as an integral aspect of control of territory, resources, and peoples, this article casts doubt on the alleged fight against drug trafficking in mining districts. Compare with Plan Colombia in that South American country the current situation in San Marcos, Guatemala, where in the same department in which the People of Sipakapa remains firm in its resistance to the Marlin gold mine of the Canadian-American transnational Glamis Gold The participation of the United States Army in raids and fumigations of poppy crops was recently announced within the framework of the Maya Jaguar Plan.
Just as apparently there is a lot of terrorism where oil fields are located, suddenly there are the worst sources of drug trafficking where there are strong mining interests. Whatever the pretext, the latest news from the Marquean highlands in Guatemala should encourage some reflections on the background of militarization and the so-called regional integration, which is nothing more than the continuation of the historical project of exploitation and control in Mesoamerica: control of territory, control of resources, and control of the Peoples.
The Marlin mine, imposition of a mining district in indigenous territory
In the highlands of San Marcos, in the municipalities of San Miguel Ixtahuacán and Sipakapa, there is the infamous Marlin project, a gold mine that since the end of last year is already being exploited by the company Montana Exploradora, SA, a subsidiary of the transnational Canadian-American Glamis Gold Ltd. This business, supported by the World Bank and the governments of Guatemala and Canada, has developed despite strong opposition at the national, regional and local levels, the clearest manifestation of which was the overwhelming rejection of the activity. mining company in its territory expressed by the People of Sipakapa in the community consultation held on June 18, 2005.
As a public statement from Sipakapa of March 4 that is being disseminated and supported by various organizations ('We demand the closure of the Marlin mine') points out, “this mining exploitation does not only affect the Mayan Sipakapense and Mam peoples of San Marcos , but it will affect the entire western highlands of Guatemala, since they intend to constitute this entire region in a mining district. "
According to data from the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) compiled by Luis Solano and the magazine Inforpress Centroamericana, only in the Marquean highlands there are 16 current mining licenses (one for reconnaissance, fourteen for exploration and one for exploitation), and three exploration licenses. in process. There are eleven municipalities directly affected in San Marcos, including Tacaná, Ixchiguán and Tajumulco.
Chronicle of the announced raids
On March 7, the newspaper Siglo Veintiuno published an article ('In the framework of the Maya Jaguar Plan, the US is involved in raids') in which the Minister of the Interior, Carlos Vielmann, announced the 'support' of the US military for the raids that they had several national institutions planned for Tajumulco, San Marcos. The announced objectives were to disarm the population, eradicate the poppy planting and solve both the drug problem and the territorial conflict between Tajumulco and Ixchiguán.
Reportedly, due to opposition from the local population, the Guatemalan and US military were unable to enter the town of Tajumulco, so they stayed outside on the street, searching vehicles in vain for weapons. But it always deserves to make the same reflection that the National Front of Struggle in Defense of Public Services and Natural Resources made in a recent statement ('The cure is more expensive than the disease'): “In the first place, even if foreign troops did not come , it is frankly absurd that it is announced in advance where the aforementioned raids are going to be carried out, because with this, those who have something to hide are alerted to hide it elsewhere. "
Also noteworthy is the mention of the resolution of the territorial conflict between Tajumulco and the neighboring municipality of Ixchiguán as a challenge for military intervention. According to the same article from Siglo Veintiuno, as a result of an eviction this February in the Once de Mayo village, Ixchiguán, part of an almost centennial territorial conflict, in the same village “a temporary substation of the combined forces was installed (95 police officers and 50 military), with the directive to protect people and ensure the conservation and custody of goods that are in danger. "
Perhaps, that was the true guideline of the intervention of the military and police forces in Nueva Linda? Will they also protect Sipakapenses and ensure the conservation and custody of assets that are in danger from the mining company? Do they watch over all indigenous peoples and communities whose territories are in danger from landowners and transnational corporations?
What is certain is that in Guatemala the combined forces have demonstrated their commitment to ensuring the custody of property. That became clear on January 11, 2005 when Raúl Castro Bocel, a local indigenous Kaqchikel inhabitant who was protesting in Los Encuentros, Sololá, was assassinated over the passing of a cylinder destined for the Marlin mine. The cylinder was guarded by more than 1,000 soldiers and hundreds of police officers, while at a press conference in the capital, President Berger declared "we have to protect investors."
Glyphosate - 'it is recommended to use with caution'
Apart from the raids in Tajumulco, in recent months the media has been announcing the misnamed military 'support' of the United States, both of troops and of light aircraft and other equipment, to spray poppy crops in the Marquense highlands. Although the negative impacts of spraying on the environment, other crops and health have been scientifically documented from time to time, not as many reactions to the news that have come out have been heard.
On February 16 of this year in El Periódico (‘They will fight poppy crops by air in San Marcos’), journalist Luis Ángel Sas quoted statements from the Minister of the Interior Carlos Vielmann about the imminent fumigations. He warned that they were only waiting for the arrival of planes from the United States to start the spraying with glyphosate of some 200 hectares of land, stating that the previous Friday in an overflight they identified the poppy crops in the municipalities of Tajumulco and Tacaná. He also cited the director of the National Civil Police, Erwin Sperisen, who warned that if the vegetable or other crops "are in the middle of the poppy plants, they will necessarily be affected."
In the same article, Gustavo Mendizábal, head of the Norms and Regulations unit of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, points out that the use of Glyphosate is allowed, only that “it is recommended to use it with caution. It is a chemical that acts on contact and directly attacks the broadleaf plant system. It does not cause harm to people. " Sas also explains that in Colombia, where the same Glyphosate and the same type of planes are used to fumigate coca and poppy crops, the impacts it produces on people have been reported, such as vomiting, headache and stomach pain, diarrhea and possible long-term effects such as cancer and malformations in newborns.
In fact, on June 13, 2003, the Superior Administrative Court of Cundinamarca, the second most important court in Colombia, declared that the fumigations with Glyphosate for the eradication of coca and poppy crops violate the collective rights to a healthy and ecologically balanced environment. and public safety and health. Both the State Council and the Constitutional Court had already issued judgments prohibiting fumigations in indigenous territories and demanding compliance with the Environmental Management Plan required by the Ministry of the Environment. These decisions set important precedents, officially recognizing the risks posed by Glyphosate fumigations to health, the environment, and peoples' rights.
However, on June 14, 2003, the president of Colombia, Álvaro Uribe, abusively and even illegally, declared that as long as he is president, the fumigations will continue. Uribe added on another occasion that whoever opposes the fumigations in any part of the country will be seen as sympathizing with terrorism.
From the few opinions that have come to light in Guatemala, it seems that even for organizations that in other matters such as mining are not afraid to criticize the government's position, on this issue no pronouncements have been heard, much less criticism. Without denying the tremendous power and control that drug trafficking has, nor denying the likelihood that the government would respond with accusations of being drug trafficking sympathizers to anyone who criticizes the fumigations, is it that no one doubts that they ask the US military for their support to expel Is a large amount of Glyphosate in community crops, with negative impacts on the environment and health, the best way to combat drug trafficking?
On February 19 of this year, the Free Press (‘Tajumulco and Ixchiguán, en la mira’) took up the news, announcing the fumigations for the municipalities of Tajumulco and Ixchiguán. The issue appeared again on the front page of the same newspaper on March 2 ('Amphetamine transfer'), when next to the Government's statements about the need for a large-scale anti-drug operation in San Marcos, the director of the Antinarcotics Program for the Americas of the US Department of State, Antonio Arias, about a report on the matter and his "fear" that drug trafficking "violates the borders of Guatemala through the trafficking of chemical drugs." Although, according to reports in the media, poppy bushes are bought and carried for processing in laboratories in Mexico, then it is irresponsible to report a fear about chemical drug trafficking (drug trafficking) as a justification for the fumigation of crops (production) .
The Maya Jaguar Plan, fumigations, weapons and cyanide?
Both the raids in Tajumulco and the fumigations that are intended to be carried out in various municipalities of San Marcos are part of the Maya Jaguar Plan, a program of joint operations of the military forces of Guatemala and the United States with the supposed purpose of combating drug trafficking in the Guatemala territory.
Established in Guatemala in 1998, the Maya Jaguar Plan has been expanded several times since the first joint operations in the country, where sometimes the Southern Command has simultaneously developed the misnamed “humanitarian” New Horizons program, which has been denounced in several Latin American countries for being a form of makeup of the US military, so that the communities get used to the presence of foreign troops. In fact, this is how Victor Manuel Gutiérrez describes the Maya Jaguar Plan in his article 'Guatemala: the United States and our politics', explaining that the Plan “makes this [military occupation of our territory] official and allows the displacement of foreign military and intelligence apparatus throughout the national territory without any control. "
On December 6, 2005, the Congress of the Republic approved a decree to extend the term of the Maya Jaguar Plan until 2008, after the term had already been extended until 2005. But while since the Plan has been for the entire Guatemalan territory, all the latest news about it have been about operations specifically in the Marquean highlands.
In its statement, the National Front of Struggle in Defense of Public Services and Natural Resources asks about the location of the military intervention: “Why are they present precisely in San Marcos, a department where the population of one of its municipalities , in full and beautiful exercise of its dignity, rejected, after a broad and participatory consultation, exploration and mining? What's next in this interventionist career? Destroy opium laboratories in Río Hondo, Zacapa? "
Perhaps there will be another pretext (perhaps there is Osama) for Río Hondo, where last year in a consultation of neighbors at the municipal level, the population, in another beautiful exercise of dignity, rejected a hydroelectric dam in their territory. The truth is that the militarization of the area that is intended to be a regional mining district is not a coincidence.
As Inforpress summarizes in its prologue to the new book 'Guatemala, petroleum and mining in the bowels of power' by Luis Solano, “the extractive industry has been a target of military intelligence in the world, since the two most desired raw materials, the oil and gold are key pieces of the international reproduction model of capitalism. " In addition, it notes that "from the capital invested in these industries, financing flows have come out to support State terrorism."
The regionalization of Plan Colombia
It is clear that the militarization of the mining districts is not a phenomenon only in San Marcos, rather in that department we are only beginning to see the beginning of a pattern already well known in Izabal, where from the 1960s to the 80s the International Nickel Company (at that time, the main partner of EXMIBAL of Guatemala) together with several repressive dictatorships tried to continue with its mining business at all costs. Although militarization accompanies mining throughout the world, the example of Colombia is worth examining for the parallels in the pretext of the fight against drug trafficking.
Apart from this similarity, it is also worth noting that in the last two years there have been many signs of narrowing between the Mesoamerican countries and Colombia, more now than ever with the appointment of the latter as an observer country in the Plan Puebla Panama. In addition, there are several joint military operations between Colombia, the United States, and Central American countries on ‘security’ issues and of course to combat drug trafficking and terrorism. In fact, during Colombian President Uribe's visit to Guatemala in January of this year, the two governments signed a Security Agreement and agreed to create a binational joint commission to exchange information and coordinate actions in the framework of the global fight against drug trafficking.
According to the CERIGUA bulletin, during his visit to the country, Uribe declared that “in the event that Guatemala manages its inclusion in the 'Plan Colombia' for US assistance to combat drug trafficking and other security problems, the Guatemalan government authorities can count on with the Colombian collaboration. "
"In military cooperation agreements, for example Plan Colombia, they prioritize mining and oil exploitation areas to supposedly combat drug trafficking," explained Francisco Ramírez, from the Workers' Union of the state-owned Minera de Colombia (SINTRAMINERCOL) in a presentation to the CENSAT organization. "Plan Colombia is supposed to combat drugs, but what it really does is position groups militarily and paramilitary that are going to protect the oil and mining infrastructure of North American and European companies."
“One thing to note is that as part of Plan Colombia they said they were going to build three anti-drug bases. The first is in the South of Bolívar, this supposedly anti-narcotics base protects an oil well belonging to the Bush family, the mine that the small miners are contesting with Anglogold and Conquistador Gold Mines and the Caño Limón Coveñas de la Oxy pipeline. In the North of Santander and in Tolima it is the same. "
In his book 'La Gran Minería en Colombia', Ramírez details some of the atrocious human rights violations in the mining districts up to 2002, such as the 535 homicides registered and the more than 35 thousand people forcibly evicted by paramilitary operations. Colombians and Americans in the South of Bolívar, where one of the anti-drug bases is located. It indicates that since the government of Álvaro Uribe came to power, an indigenous person has been assassinated every five days, most of them in areas where natural resources are exploited.
“In the mining districts, between 1995 and 2002, each year there have been an average of 828 homicides, 142 forced disappearances, 117 injured, 71 people tortured, 355 death threats and 150 arbitrary detentions. In addition, there have been 433 massacres, ”continues Ramírez.
One war, a thousand faces
Although being in an open conflict, these details of Colombia may seem more like the Guatemala of the 80s than the Guatemala of today, but the psychological and social effects that the military intervention or even just the military presence in the current context, nor the effective low intensity warfare.
"They have programmed our death, studying us, studying when we have gold, when we have minerals, studying our psychology, how we are going to react," emphasized Dr. Juan Almendares of the Mother Earth Movement in his presentation at the Resistance Table. Mining of the V Week for Biological and Cultural Diversity, Mesoamerican event held in Colotenango, Huehuetenango, Guatemala, from March 6-9 of this year.
In recent weeks, there have been reactions of great concern in Guatemala due to a story that appeared in the magazine Inforpress Centroamericana on March 3 ('Canadian companies begin uranium exploration') about two mining exploration licenses granted by the MEM on March 16. January to Gold-Ore Resources, a Canadian transnational that has been exploring in Central America for years. Furthermore, according to the consortium of the same companies, Gold-Ore, along with Pathfinder Resources Ltd. and Santoy Resources Ltd., two other companies also based in Vancouver, have been exploring for uranium in Central America since at least 27 January 2005.
It was not known where exactly they were looking for it until February 16, 2006, when the consortium announced in another press release that they were exploring for uranium in the municipality of Esquipulas, Chiquimula, a municipality whose territory is now 32% covered ( 169 square kilometers) for the two licenses. According to the Inforpress article, the Vice Minister of Energy and Mines, Jorge García, said “that he was not aware of the uranium exploration projects in the country, [although] upon seeing the copies of the licenses, he expressed concern about the affair."
He is not the only one who should be concerned, since according to the data compiled by Luis Solano and Inforpress, it is not only the exploration for uranium in Esquipulas, but also the licenses granted for the rights to explore for the minerals of the platinum group and / or rare earths in about ten departments. Among these is a large part of San Marcos, including the municipalities of Tacaná, Ixchiguán, and Tajumulco.
“These companies investigate gold, but they also investigate strategic minerals, they just don't have to tell us, until now they do it publicly in Guatemala. We are countries, from Chiapas to Costa Rica, with strategic resources, ”explains Dr. Almendares.
"We are important to the war."
The diabolical trinity - TLC, PPP and Plan Maya Jaguar
Although it is true that militarization and mining go together, it should be noted what they have to do with other regional initiatives, such as the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and the Puebla Panama Plan (PPP). Always using the mining industry as an example, it can be seen how these aspects of regional integration of control strategies complement each other.
"The Maya Jaguar Plan, together with the Puebla Panama Plan and the Free Trade Agreement, constitute a diabolical trinity," is considered in the statement from the National Struggle Front. "They are, all three together, a malignant and well-hatched joint: NAFTA in the economic sphere, the Puebla Panama Plan in terms of infrastructure and the Maya Jaguar Plan in the military field."
In reality, NAFTA not only represents the economic, but rather represents the international consensus of the neo-colonial powers that establish policies and laws in favor of transnational companies both at the national and international levels. In most of the world, the governments of Canada and the United States and multilateral institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, together with the transnationals themselves, have promoted reforms of mining legislation and policies, defining the guidelines.
"Influence peddling for the approval of laws has been the most common form of impunity for the transnationals involved," denounces Inforpress in its preface to the book "Guatemala, oil and mining in the bowels of power."
The Free Trade Agreements consolidate this impunity and ensure, through the chapters dealing with investment 'rights' and the respective supernational courts, that there are serious consequences for any government instance that tries to change something that could affect investments .
The Puebla Panama Plan is about the construction and integration of the necessary infrastructure for transnational corporations. As for mining, it takes up large amounts of water and energy, and it occupies good roads that go directly to good ports. All these aspects are key axes of the PPP, which consists of financing infrastructure according to the logic of trade and transnational businesses by International Financial Institutions, which in the end are loans that future generations of Mesoamerica will end up paying.
“The PPP is a strategic plan for the circulation of commerce, but also of resources (water, genes, etc.). And that always entails the military strategy, ”explained Dr. Almendares in Colotenango. "The fight against mining is within the framework of military and geopolitical strategy."
The laws, infrastructure, or control of territory and resources are of no use to companies, if they do not control the Peoples. For this reason, in the case of Colombia, Francisco Ramírez describes the military as the third phase, "to give a military response to those who oppose mining exploitation."
And in the case of the Marquense highlands, here it is concluded that the objective of the Maya Jaguar Plan is exactly that.
Solidarity Platform with Chiapas, Oaxaca and Guatemala /
* Sandra Cuffe, Rights in Action