In Guatemala, one of the worlds biggest silver deposits reaps millions for the Canadian owners but for local maqui berry farmers the price is their land and also their lives
D eep underground, buried in the lush hillsides of southern Guatemala , lies a veritable treasure trove: silver, tonnes of it, one of the biggest deposits in the world.
But its above ground in which the really dangerous activity goes on. On the dusty highway, about 50 peasant farmers stand praying in a group, a makeshift roadblock intended to quit trucks reaching the mine. They have been violently dispersed by law enforcement teargas. Now they fear the particular army might move in.
The contrast couldnt be greater: the mine taken out more than $350m (270m) worth associated with silver last year. The protesters, guys, women and children turning out for 12-hour vigils, eke out a living simply by farming coffee, maize and little herds of cattle.
This is a perennial frontline in a deadly battle fought against by land rights activists towards corporate interests in Guatemala, the clash of interests that have produced the country one of the most risky places in the world for environmentalists , according to the NGO Global Witness.
Since the year 2010 at least 41 people have been murdered including eight at the Canadian-owned my own, Escobal .
Although a handful of hitmen have been prosecuted regarding the the killings, none of the conspirators has been detained.
Some argue that the existing pattern of oppression has hyperlinks to Guatemalas unresolved past. Throughout the civil war, forced disappearances plus extrajudicial killings were used to subjugate poor rural communities in order to protect land rights for the elites.
Right now, says Ramn Cadena Rmila, Main America director of the International Commission rate of Jurists, the repression much more subtle but the end results are similar: countryside communities forced to defend their property.
Three organs of the state the legal courts, congress and executive branch interact to authorise forced evictions, declares of siege, false charges plus arbitrary detention in order to generate fear and kill rebellion in neighborhoods opposed to extractive industries, said Cadena.
You will find currently at least 307 active exploration licences in Guatemala, mainly within rural indigenous regions, according to Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) figures . Almost six hundred more are under consideration. At least thirty-two hydroelectric dams are operational, along with dozens more under construction or even assessment.
Against that, about two mil people have participated in plebiscites given that 2010, voting overwhelmingly against eco destructive projects such as mines, signing and dams. Their voices are largely ignored.