Highlights from GHRC’s 30th Anniversary Celebration and Update on German Chub Choc

From Left to Right: Rob Mercatante introduces the Alice Zachman Human Rights Defender Award, which Sister Alice Zachman herself presents to Alvaro Sandoval Palencia and Antonio Reyes Romero for their inspiring demonstration of peaceful resistance in their communities against transnational mining corporations.

Thursday, September 27, 2012 was 30th Anniversary Celebration for the Guatemala Human Rights Commission (GHRC). GHRC is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, humanitarian organization that monitors, documents, and reports on the human rights situation in Guatemala, advocates for survivors of human rights abuses and works toward positive, systemic change in Guatemala.  GHRC is also the organization with whom I traveled to Guatemala on their annual “Women in Resistance” delegation. In the year since I have moved to Washington, DC, my awareness of the human rights situation in Guatemala and the tremendous scope of GHRC’s work has grown. Eager to express my appreciation for GHRC’s staunch solidarity and advocacy on behalf of Guatemalan human rights, and how the three staff members balance their intense work in two countries with tremendous expertise and kindness, I volunteered at the Celebration. I enjoyed meeting guests and connecting with friends and fellow supporters, all of whom “have Guatemala in their hearts.”

The Celebration culminated in the presentation of an award named for GHRC’s founder Sister Alice Zachman to Antonio Reyes Romero from San Jose del Golfo and Alvaro Sandoval Palencia from San Pedro Ayampuc. The two communities–San Jose and San Pedro–are engaged in peaceful resistance against the transnational mining corporations that threaten to take away their land and livelihood. Observing Tonno and Don Alvaro’s reactions to receiving the award from Sister Alice herself, was such a beautiful moment.

September 27, 2012 also marked the three year anniversary of the date that German Chub Choc, a Mayan Q’eqchi man from El Estor, was shot and paralyzed by a Mynor Padilla, a private security guard from HudBay Minerals and the date that Adolfo Ich Chamán, a community member from El Estor was brutally murdered.  A candle lighting ceremony took place in Guatemala City to commemorate Adolfo Ich on the evening of September 27th. Throughout the day, German Chub was on my mind, and having learned from people who have Spinal Cord Injuries that the anniversary of the injury date churns up strong emotions, I wondered how he was feeling on September 27th.

My concern and curiosity about German Chub’s feelings was met with an exciting update at the 30th Anniversary Celebration. Among the many supporters of Guatemalan human rights present at the Celebration was Annie Bird, Co-Director of Rights Action, the organization that raised funds to build German’s store and is now gathering donations to purchase land and a wheelchair accessible home for German’s family. Annie told me that on Wednesday, September 26, 2012, authorities had arrested Mynor Padilla, the former chief of security of the mine, for Adolfo Ich Chamán’s murder and the attempted murder of German Chub!

To share more about this news and what it portends for German Chub’s lawsuit against the mine, Rights Action has published a press release from KLIPPENSTEINS Barristers & Solicitors, the law firm representing Adolfo Ich’s widow and German Chub in their law suit against HudBay Minerals. I have copied and pasted the press release, published on September 28, 2012 below.

In James Rodriguez’s photograph from The Peoples’ International Health Tribunal, German Chub Choc declares: ““My life has changed completely, it is very difficult. But I will not give up. And above all, I will not remain silent about what happened to me.”

CHIEF OF SECURITY AT CANADIAN MINING COMPANY HUDBAY MINERALS’ GUATEMALAN MINE ARRESTED FOR MURDERING MAYAN COMMUNITY LEADER

Toronto, Canada: Almost three years to the day after the brutal slaying of community leader Adolfo Ich at Hudbay Minerals’ mining project in Guatemala, Guatemalan authorities finally arrested the former chief of security of the mine, Mynor Padilla, on charges of murder and attempted murder.

While this is an important first step towards justice for Mayan communities harmed by Hudbay’s mining project, Hudbay has not yet been held to account and Canadian human rights lawsuits against Hudbay over the same allegations continue in Ontario courts.

“Astonishingly, Hudbay continues to argue that mine personnel were not involved in the murder, despite the fact that the brutal attack happened in broad daylight in front of witnesses who say Mr. Padilla was at the centre of an attack committed by a dozen mine security personnel,” said Murray Klippenstein, Canadian lawyer for Mr. Ich’s widow.

“It is time for Hudbay to own up to what happened on its watch at its mining project. Now that the man that Hudbay allowed to be put in charge of security has been arrested for murder, we hope Hudbay changes its unsupportable position, makes amends, and takes real, concrete steps to ensure that similar severe human rights abuses never again are committed at one of its projects.”

It is alleged that Mr. Padilla was on duty as chief of security at the Canadian controlled mine when he, together with other security personnel, surrounded, beat, hacked and finally shot Mr. Ich in the head in an unprovoked attack.  On the same day, Mr. Padilla is also alleged to have shot and paralyzed German Chub in a similar unprovoked attack.  Shockingly, Hudbay has confirmed that its subsidiary continued to employ and pay Mr. Padilla for at least a year after the murder while he was a fugitive from justice.

Hudbay continues to face three related corporate accountability lawsuits in Ontario courts which allege that poor management and oversight by Hudbay and its predecessor corporation led to the killing of Mr. Ich, the shooting of Mr. Chub, and the gang rapes of 13 Mayan women committed by mine company personnel at the Canadian owned and controlled mine.

“We hope that Mr. Padilla is swiftly brought to justice,” said Mr. Klippenstein.  “But as a Canadian company, HudBay still needs to answer in Canadian courts the allegations of human rights abuse at its mines.”

The first major hearing in the Canadian lawsuits is expected in March 2013.

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Learn more about the Guatemala Human Rights Commission and the 30th Anniversary Celebration

1. Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA. September 29, 2012. http://www.ghrc-usa.org/

2. Guatemala Human Rights Updates. September 29, 2012. http://ghrcusa.wordpress.com/

Learn more about the peaceful resistance efforts in San Jose del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc

1. “Winner of 2012 Alice Zachmann Human Rights Defender Award Announced.” Guatemala Human Rights Updates. September 17, 2012. http://ghrcusa.wordpress.com/2012/09/17/winner-of-2012-alice-zachmann-human-rights-defender-award-announced/

2. Rodriguez, James. “2012-05. Third Month of Resistance Against a Radius Gold-owned Mine in Guatemala.” MiMundo.org. June 4, 2012. http://www.mimundo.org/2012/06/04/2012-05-third-month-of-resistance-against-a-radius-gold-owned-mine-in-guatemala/

Learn More about German Choc, Adolfo Ich, and the lawsuits against HudBay Minerals

1. Klippensteins, Barristers & Solicitors. Choc v. HudBay Minerals Inc. & Caal v. HudBay Minerals Inc. September 29, 2012. www.chocversushudbay.com This link is to the official website of the three lawsuits–for Adolfo Ich’s murder, German Chub’s attempted murder, and the gang rape of 11 women from Lote Ocho against CGN, the Guatemalan subsidiary of HudBay Minerals.

2. Rodrigues, James. “2012-09. In Memoriam: Adolfo Ich Chamán.” MiMundo.org. September 27, 2012. http://www.mimundo.org/2012/09/27/2012-09-in-memoriam-adolfo-ich-chaman/ This moving two-minute slide show commemorating Adolfo Ich is set to music played by Adolfo Ich himself. The Ich-Choc family provided the audio file to MiMundo.org.

3. Rodrigues, James. “2012-07-14. The Peoples’ International Health Tribunal: San Miguel Ixtahuacán 2012.” July 14, 2012. http://www.mimundo.org/2012/07/14/2012-07-14-the-peoples%E2%80%99-international-health-tribunal-in-images/ This powerful photoessay from MiMundo.org provides powerful visual coverage of German Chub along with a delegation from El Estor speaking out at The People’s International Health Tribunal about the atrocities suffered at the hands of CGN, the subsidiary of HudBay Minerals.

4. Schmidt, Rachel, Adele Hinkley, and Lee K. Toepfer. Defensora. http://www.indiegogo.com/defensora The upcoming documentary film”Defensora” documents the struggle of Mayan Qeqchi peoples in El Estor to reclaim their ancestral lands, to promote community development and environmental well-being, and to seek justice and remedy for the murder, shootings and rapes that HudBay Minerals committed. This link to the five-minute trailer is very powerful, and features German Choc speaking about his reasons for pursuing the lawsuit.

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