On July 30th, 2019, lawyers representing four Guatemalan members of the peaceful resistance to the Escobal mine announced the conclusion of the precedent-setting lawsuit against Tahoe Resources, recently acquired by Pan American Silver. The resolution includes a public apology by Pan American Silver in which the company takes responsibility for the shooting and the violation of the peaceful protestors’ human rights.
The settlement of the lawsuit, however, did not resolve any of the underlying issues of the Escobal mine. Shortly after Pan American Silver’s acquisition, affected communities demanded the company respond: Why would Pan American Silver, which has branded itself as a socially responsible company, buy a mine that clearly violated Xinka Indigenous rights in Guatemala from the start, and continues to violate their rights today?
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On April 27, 2013, Tahoe Resources’ private security opened fire on peaceful protesters outside the Escobal silver mine, in the municipality of San Rafael Las Flores in southeastern Guatemala. The seven victims, allegedly shot at close range and while attempting to flee, filed a lawsuit in Canadian courts against the company for its role in the violence. Four men have continued as plaintiffs in the suit.
Alberto Rotondo, former military officer from Peru and head of security for Tahoe at the time of the incident, was previously under arrest in Guatemala awaiting trial for allegedly ordering security guards to fire at protesters and then covering up the evidence. In November 2015, he fled the country, since which time he was rearrested in his native Peru. Guatemala has initiated an extradition process in order to eventually continue with his prosecution.
But the lawsuits in Guatemala and Canada are only a small part of the bigger picture.
With its flagship operation in Guatemala, Tahoe Resources Inc. is a silver exploration and development company that lists on the Toronto and New York stock exchanges, with its head office in Reno, Nevada, USA. Since it arrived in the region, community leaders opposing the mine have faced repression, criminalization and violence. Despite the conflict – or perhaps because of it – Tahoe rushed to put the mine into operation before establishing reliable mineral reserves, bringing its underground mine into operation in January 2014.