This story is over 5 years old
News

Police Violently Evict the La Puya Peaceful Mining Resistance

Seven activists are in the hospital.

by James Rodríguez
26 May 2014, 6:00am

Photos by the author

Since March 2012, hundreds of local community members from San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc, Guatemala, have peacefully blocked the entrance to US-based Kappes, Cassiday & Associates’ El Tambor gold mine. Locals argue the industrial project will consume their already short supplies of water and believe there was no appropriate consultation process regarding the installation of the mine.

Earlier this year, the resistance gained a partial victory when P&F Contratistas, a local heavy machinery company, broke its contract with KCA because the US company had failed to pay them. After numerous attempts by the mining company to add new machinery to the site, police officers violently evicted protesters on May 23, 2014.

Over 300 police officers showed up at dawn to guard the sole excavator. Hours of dialogue ensued, with women singing and praying for the police to retreat. At 1:45 PM, police carried out the eviction, but the fight wasn't over yet. Led by the courageous women who have placed themselves at the forefront of the struggle, the resistance set up in front of the mine’s gate and refused to move.

Resistance leader Yolanda Oquelí, who unknown men tried to assassinate in June 2012 because of her involvement with the resistance, warned that the Guatemalan government will be held responsible for any blood spilled.

Women prayed and read the bible as they attempted to convince the police officers to retreat.

Once the eviction order began, at 1:45 PM local time, the resistance set up near the entrance to the gold mine.

Oqueli broke down as she sang and prayed while the riot police approached. She held a bottle with vinegar to help reduce tear gas's side effects.

The police fired dozens of tear gas canisters, injuring numerous locals. According to Asociación Mujeres Transformando el Mundo, a women's group, seven activists are in the San Juan De Dios Hospital, including María del Rosario Rosales who is in her first trimester of pregnancy. A tear gas container allegedly landed on Eva Alvarez Díaz's head, giving her a skull fracture. Police officers also apprehended four locals. At this time, it's unclear where they are being held. Despite this weekend's events, the resistance has vowed to rebuild the camp and continue their fight.

James Rodríguez is an independent documentary photographer based in Guatemala. He publishes at MiMundo.org.