40 Year Nickel Mining Nightmare Continues
GUATEMALA: HUDBAY MINERALS & THE SHOOTING OF ADOLFO ICH,
HAROLDO CULUL & OTHER MAYA QEQCHI PEOPLE
By Daniel Sosa, for
(Angelica Choc, widow of Adolfo Ich, looks at banner
denouncing assassination of her husband in El Chupon, an impoverished of Mayan
Qeqchi people. "Adolfo Ich Chaman, assassinated by CGN. Mining industry is
responsible". CGN = Guatemalan Nickel Company, subsidiary of HudBay
On Sunday, September 27, 2009, Adolfo Ich Chaman, a Maya Qeqchi
teacher from the community of La Union, El Estor, was killed by members of
security guards hired by CGN (Compania Guatemalteca de Niquel), a Guatemalan
subsidiary 98.2% owned by HudBay Minerals, a Canadian Nickel company.
(Canada Pension Plan) owns, as of March 2009, 882,000 shares of Hudbay, worth
$5,000,000. Many other North American investors have funds invested in
More than two months after the attack, a number of the six campesinos
wounded that day by HudBay security guards are still in critical
condition. With no healthcare security, and living in endemic poverty and
facing violent evictions by the mining company, their injuries due to mining
company repression have left them in a state of despair.
On a recent visit to
El Estor, we met with Haroldo Culul and Adolfo Ich's widow, Angelica Choc, to
talk of their health situation, after the September 27 repression.
Culul, a now unemployed 30 year-old teacher from Barrio la Union in El Estor was
shot in his shoulder by Hudbay/ CGN's security guards. According to the
doctor that attended him, he might lose the use of his right arm. Living
in already harsh conditions, Haroldo is increasing his debts in order to pay for
minimal health care.
Harold spoke with us about what happened on September 27,
2009. Haroldo was attending a community meeting in La Union with the El
Estor mayor. They were meeting to plan the reconstruction of their
Community Hall that had been destroyed in previous violent forced evictions
carried out on behalf of the mining company.
"We are just poor campesinos,
why do they come to harm us? Why do they come to violently evict us from
our homes? Would Canadians like to be evicted from their homes by
Guatemalans? I don't think so. But that is what they are doing to
us: Canadians evicting indigenous Guatemalans from their own lands."
September 27, around 3:30 in the afternoon, we heard gunshots near "La
Maya". Friends that were close called upon us to come but when we got
there, we were rapidly surrounded by a squad of 30 to 40 elements from the CGN
private security company. They forcedly tried to get us in La Maya, but we
managed to hide behind small trees. Bullets were flying and my shoulder
was hit by a bullet. That's where our friend Adolfo was beaten, macheted
and killed. May he rest in peace. I ran until El Chupon where I got
"This is very painful to tell this story as we are innocent
people. With the death of Adolfo, the people of El Estor suffered a great
Prensa Libre (October 3, 2009) newspaper: "The day Adolfo
was buried, hundreds of people from El Estor walked in the streets to say their
last goodbyes". "Teacher Killed in El Estor Was a Leader". On the
protest sign: "CGN Shed Blood of an Innocent: Teacher Adolfo Ich".
Haroldo Culul what message he has for CGN in Guatemala, Hudbay Minerals in
Canada and the Canadians investors regarding the attack and repression they
faced and have been facing for a long time.
"First, let the international
community, Canada and the shareholders know: Sirs, while you are comfortably
living in your country, at ease in your homes, you might think that Guatemala is
a free country. It is not. Unfortunately, you came here to kill us,
to kidnap and harm us for your benefits. Canadian shareholders, please be
conscious of what is going on. Leave our country in a pacific way.
It is a call of heart; as you are human, we also are human, but unfortunately
you have violated our right to be free. We feel proud to be Guatemalans
and indigenous, but only when we and our rights are respected. We demand
the respect of an international agreement that the Guatemalan government has
signed: the ILO Convention 169."
"I don't know if you remember, or if you
even know it, but CGN has done violent and illegal evictions, here! In our
houses! We live here, we were born here. we do not come from a foreign
country! On the other hand, you just come to deceive the people of El
Estor. Unfortunately, you have violated our rights. Today, we hear a lot
about weapons in El Estor... but who got weapons here in the first place?
You brought weapons, the Canadian company did."
* * *
Haroldo speak, Angelica Choc was sadly looking at the ground. I knew it
would be hard for her to remember her husband's last words.
Adolfo had 5 children together. They are between 6 to 23 years old.
With absolutely no income, she told me that she didn't know how she would
provide her youngest child support to go to school.
When I ask her if she
could speak, she took a deep breath and looked me in the eyes.
"It is very painful to remember such shocking
tragedy. One never expects this to happen. I was also attending this
meeting on September 27th, regarding the reconstruction of our Community
Hall. When we heard the gunshots, we left the meeting together, Haroldo,
Adolfo and me. As they were marching faster than me, they got to our
house. When I arrived at my house, they were leaving and I asked them
where they were going. His last words were: "I'll be back soon
"I tried to follow them, I ran but I never caught up with
them. I stood there for a while, I saw the security guards shooting
directly at the community, where there were children, women and real
persons! I told them to stop. At this time, I couldn't see Adolfo
anymore as he was further along, with Haroldo. I went back to my house
thinking about my 6 year old child and the rain of bullets around us; my son
could have been hurt if he would have come out. So I ran to my house where
I found my mother. We sat together and time went by. The gunshots were
"Then, a group came yelling: "the prof was killed, the prof was
murdered." I didn't believe them and I went in my room, I sat down and told them
that they were lying. Another group came and said: "the prof, the prof,
they killed him!"
"At this moment I wanted to go out running. I ran but
I fainted and fell. According to the companeros, they got me back to my
house. That's when I realized. people were getting from everywhere crying
(In El Chupon, one of a number of subsistence Qeqchi
communities that have already been evicted, over the past 4 years, and are
facing potential future violent evictions in El Estor, the community mayor and
leaders denounce the death of Adolfo Ich Chaman: "C.G.N. [Guatemalan Nickel
Compnay, subsidiary of Hudbay Minerals] Author of Massacre of: Adolfo Ich
Chaman, September 27th 2009, Communities 100% Against Mining").
crying as she remembered the scene of the tragedy. Her older son went on
his motorbike to carry his father back on his shoulder. Angelica didn't
want to see him and two months later, she still can't believe what happened: "To
date I don't believe it and I still wait for him; for me he is not
(Adolfo' widow, standing by the sign: "Mining Out of
El Estor: No Exploration and Exploitation")
Near the end of the interview, I
asked her what message she would like to give to the President of Hudbay
"It's a shame what they came to do, all the way from Canada; it's a
shame for Canada to know that Canadian are linked to murders here in Guatemala,
leaving families in mourning, children without their father. the blunt truth is
that it's a shame. This should be analyzed and the Canadian Prime Minister
should do something about this. I hope this message gets to him; he should
demand these companies to pay for all the harms they have done. They have
to pay, and then leave our country. They do not deserve to be here and we
will not let them work, never! Never will we let them continue! And
like Haroldo said, if they want to evict us, like they already tried to, a time
will come where we will be the ones doing the evictions. Now, we ask them
to leave pacifically our town because we already have had a lot of patience with