Opponent of Vancouver Mining Transnational Gunned Down in Guatemala
On June 13th, 2012, after a month of receiving death threats regarding her opposition to a mine in her community, Yolanda Oquely Veliz, 33, was shot three times last night by gunmen on a motorcycle as she left a community roadblock near the entrance to Vancouver-based Radius Gold Inc.’s El Tambor gold mine in San José del Golfo, Guatemala. She is currently in stable, but serious condition.
Radius Gold, whose head offices are at Suite 650, 200 Burrard Street, Vancouver, faces staunch opposition to its mine by local residents who fear the open pit gold mine will pollute their water, and damage their lands.
In early May, Guatemalan president Gen. Otto Perez Molina sent troops to San Jose del Golfo to assist Radius to bring machinery to its mine site, in the face of widespread community opposition.
Radius is one of several Canadian companies involved in serious conflicts with communities in Guatemala, where opponents of their mines face threats, attacks, sexual violence and murder. Other Canadian mining companies operating in the country include Vancouver’s Goldcorp and Tahoe Resources, and Toronto’s Hudbay Resources.
For more information about Yoli and San Jose del Golfo’s struggle against Radius Gold visit MiMundo.org
Amnesty International met with Ms. Oquely earlier this year due to concerns about the safety of El Tambor opponents in the face of ongoing threats. Amnesty has created an urgent action regarding the attack. Please take a few moments to send a message to the Guatemalan authorities.
You can also take action by joining the Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA in denouncing the attempted assassination of community leader and anti-mining activist, Yolanda “Yoli” Oquelí.
CUC Video Link: A 7-minute film (Spanish only), Otra Vez La Mina (Once Again, Mining), in which Yolanda Oquelí speaks about the conflict with the Radius Gold mine in San Jose del Golfo.
Update: June 25, 2012. Via email from Emilie Smith:
Today we able to pay a brief visit to Yoli in Guatemala City. She is in recovery still, but stable, though experiencing quite a bit of pain. She suffered a single bullet wound entry in her back, and the bullet is still lodged near her spine, and between a kidney and a lung. A decision was made by doctors not to operate, and to see how her body reacts.
This has, of course, been a terribly difficult experience, and she is continuing to struggle, with the physical, emotional and spiritual aftermath. However, she describes herself as a fighter. “Ever since I was a girl, when kids picked on other kids, I stood up for them,” she says. She is determined to continue supporting the struggle for the land and water in her community of San José del Golfo, and says that above all the movement must remain peaceful: no machetes, no rocks, no violence. At the same time, she said, the people must act with determination, and wisdom. “We are gentle but not stupid.”
Yoli said how grateful she was, for all of the attention, love and prayers that have been directed towards her in these days of trial. She said, that no matter what, the struggle must continue.
“It’s not like it was in the 1980s or 1990s,” she said. “Now we know our rights, and we are going to fight for them.”