Senator Dean Heller and Representative Mark Amodei must stop meddling in the sovereignty of Guatemalan communities on behalf of international mining conglomerates and focus on the issues concerning Nevadans. Recently Sen. Heller and Rep. Amodei sent letters to the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Commerce respectively on behalf of Tahoe Resources, a Canadian mining corporations with an office in Reno. Tahoe has been lobbying the U.S. and Canadian governments to intervene in a case, within Guatemalan courts, that temporarily suspended two of its mining licenses in the country. This was a result of a lawsuit filed against the Ministry of Mining and Mines in July of this year over a lack of consultation with indigenous Xinka communities near the mine and the discrimination these communities have faced in the process.
Tahoe, Heller and Amodei echo the same themes in their appeals: supposed concern for the economic and political well-being of Guatemalans. The time for concern for the people and lands of Guatemala should have been when the municipalities of Mataquescuintla, Nueva Santa Rosa, Santa Rosa de Lima, and Casillas held plebiscites, prior to Tahoe being granted permits for exploration, where the majority of community members voted against having the mining operations to begin with. Indigenous and non-indigenous communities see mining operations near their home as more trouble than they’re worth and a threat to their sovereignty, health, and culture. These concerns have been utterly ignored by the Guatemalan government, U.S. Senator Heller, U.S. Congressman Amodei and corporations like Tahoe Resources.
In a letter by Tahoe, community members are described as unwilling to engage in dialogue, and “intimidating” for their use of civil disobedience tactics to defend their communities. Amodei has called local organizations “anti-development NGOs…discouraging foreign investment and disrupting business”. In an article by the Daily Caller he is cited as stating that an increase in drug trafficking in that region of country makes Tahoe’s operations necessary. He argues that mining is a more viable option and will bring stability and prosperity in the region. For him closing the mines are threat to, “Guatemala’s economy, security and to U.S. interests”.
Such statements are ahistorical and obfuscate a more complex reality. There is a dark history to what Tahoe, Heller, and Amodei are engaged in. The political and economic instability that Guatemalans are facing today is tied to the foreign intervention that they are calling for. The U.S. has consistently intervened in the politics and economics of Guatemala and other Latin American countries for decades using the same arguments; it’s in the interest of the people of said country and the U.S. U.S. interest has been codeword for rapacious corporate interest that regrettably continue to put profit before people.
In 1954, then Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and his brother CIA Director Allen Dulles leveraged their power and influence to get the U.S. involved in staging a coup in Guatemala, ousting the democratically elected Jacobo Arbenz. This led to decades of U.S.- backed military rule. The coup was done after the United Fruit Company lobbied politicians to intervene to protect their interest in the country that was engaged in reforms that would benefit Guatemalans more broadly. Indeed, both of the Dulles brothers had close ties and investment in the company which used their positions to see to it that it wouldn’t be hindered.
This history puts what Tahoe and our elected representatives are doing in perspective and removes the veneer of benign action. International human rights organizations like, Network with Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA), have called on Tahoe to stop the attacks and slander against Xinka communities, the Xinka parliament, and Centre for Environmental, Social, and Legal Action (CALAS); furthermore, NISGUA has called on Canada and U.S. embassies in Guatemala to support human rights defenders following suspension of Tahoe Resources Escobal mine. Tahoe’s actions are creating a dangerous situation by blaming communities who are protesting for their rights as outside agitators. There have been multiple assassinations of community leaders who have opposed Tahoe including the brutal murder of Jeremey Abraham Barrios Lima. Lima was the executive assistant to a lead lawyer on the multiple Tahoe legal suits. These communities are not “anti-development”. They are against a specific type of development that is neither sustainable nor democratic. We must listen to the Guatemalan people who have overwhelmingly voiced opposition to mining as a means to development. We must reject U.S. political intervention in favor of massive corporations at the expense of people and the environment. While United Fruit Company and Tahoe Resources represent different industries, both corporations have leveraged wealth and influence to make the United States Government a battering ram for their interests.
Call to Action
We call on Nevadans to stand up against Tahoe Resources and the double standard applied to the mining industry internationally.
- Reach out to Congressman Amodei and Senator Heller to ask for them to rescind their letters and attempts to interfere in Guatemala’s Supreme Court decision(s) that place their people over profit first.
- Visit Network with Solidarity with the People of Guatemala’s website for more updates, reports, or to donate. Also follow their twitter account @NISGUA_Guate.
- For more information you can also reach out to MiningWatch Canada.
- Sign up for The Progressive Leadership Alliances of Nevada’s newsletter and find out more about the international effort to stop Tahoe Resources from undermining the Guatemalan people and ways for you to get involved with mining accountability locally, regionally and internationally.
- Come by one of Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada’s offices in Reno or Las Vegas to learn more in-person.