Indigenous Ch’orti’ Land Defender, Elizandro Pérez, Killed in Guatemala

The original in Spanish was published by Prensa Comunitaria and can be found here.

November 22nd, 2018

In the early morning of November 21st, the Center of Chórti Indigenous Campesino Organizations “Nuevo Día”, announced that they had found compañero Elizandro Pérez dead. Elizandro was the principal of the Indigenous Maya Ch’orti’ Council, originally from La Prensa, in the municipality of Olopa, Chiquimula.

Elizandro lived 400 meters from the “Los Manantiales” quarry, a mining operation dedicated to the extraction of antimony, with a permit authorized by the Minister of Energy and Mines (MEM) for thirty years. This permit was granted without a free and informed consultation with the Ch’orti’ people.

The Mining Problem

The peace and tranquility of the Ch’orti’ communities ended thanks to Incamin SA, a company created in 2013 that extracts antimony in Olopa and Esquipulas, two municipalities of the department of Chiquimula. The mining company has private land of approximately 2 square kilometers, named “Los Manantiales Quarry”. On this property, there are reserves of antimony, around 300,000 metric tons. This company is presented as “a multidisciplinary project, with experts in mining exploration and exploitation, committed to the preservation of the environment”. A slogan that contradicts the data of entire populations with health problems as a result of this project. The contamination of water and forests is a symptom of the efficient extraction of this mineral and the healthy profits for the companies that carry out the work.  

The mining activities specifically affect the communities of La Prensa, Amatillo, Carrizal, Laguna de Cayur, El Cerrón, Paternito, La Cumbre, Piedra de Amolar, Tuticopote and Tituque. Their populations assure that the company has not fulfilled the stipulated requirements set by Guatemalan legislation and International agreements, developing as such the systemic violation of human rights; the state, as is the case with other mining operation in the country, does not nothing about it.

Elizandro Pérez, Principal of the Indigenous Council

The work of community leader, principal of the Maya Ch’orti’ Indigenous Council and member of the Ch’orti’ Campesino Center “Nuevo Día”, was exhaustive. The struggle for territory and for the protection of natural resources led him to fight a legal battle and organize with other community leaders to confront this company that is working beneath serious accusations and irregularities.

Elizandro, 36 years old, had been victim of death threats and other types of intimidation since 2016. The threats were more constant this last month, and in response, the communities had made denunciations to the Public Prosecutor’s Office. There were also attempts to illegally arrest him. The community members and the organization denounced that the employees of Incamin S.A are fully responsible.

On the morning of November 21st, Elizandro Pérez was found dead. In spite of the constant intimidations and threats, the community never expected this maximum consequence.

There is information that since Saturday November 17th, he had received more aggressive threats and intimidations. These acts coincided with the entry of the machinery into “Los Manantiales”.

The Ch’orti’ ancestral authorities, the inhabitants of the eleven communities, the Ch’orti’ Campesino Center “Nuevo Día” and his family, hope that all of the attacks he received do not remain in impunity.