By Jen Moore | Mining Watch Canada | August 31, 2017
The following article was co-written by MiningWatch Canada, Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA), and Earthworks.
Tahoe Resources is lobbying U.S. and Canadian authorities to intervene on its behalf following a July decision by Guatemala’s Supreme Court to temporarily suspend operations at the company’s Escobal silver mine. The decision cites discrimination and lack of prior consultation of Indigenous Xinka communities, whose ancestral territory in southeastern Guatemala is affected by the project. The country’s Constitutional Court confirmed the suspension last week in response to an appeal filed by the company’s Guatemalan subsidiary. Arguments to determine a final decision in the case were heard in the Supreme Court on August 28.
In a public letter to the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala dated August 23, 2017, Tahoe Resources accused the Constitutional Court of “potential judicial impropriety,” alleging that the judges involved in last week’s decision were manipulated. In the letter, the company also repeated slanderous accusations against people from six municipalities who have been peacefully demonstrating since June over the current and future impacts of the mine in the municipality of Casillas.
The company’s unsubstantiated accusations against the country’s highest court are concerning as Guatemala entered into another political crisis last week, with justice officials under attack. On August 25, the United Nations-backed anti-corruption unit CICIG and the Guatemalan Attorney General’s Office requested that the court strip President Jimmy Morales of his presidential immunity in order to proceed with charges linked to illegal funding of his 2015 presidential campaign. Two days later, Morales announced the expulsion of the UN official commissioned to lead CICIG, Iván Velásquez of Colombia, declaring him a persona non-grata. Within hours, the Constitutional Court reversed the action. Nine countries with diplomatic presence in Guatemala, including Canada and the U.S., released a statement in support of Velásquez and the CICIG.
Tahoe’s lobbying efforts began in July, according to a follow-up letter from Tahoe to the Deputy Assistant Secretary at the U.S. State Department. Tahoe has also enlisted support from Nevada Republican Senator Dean Heller and Republican Congressman Mark Amodei, who wrote letters to the Secretaries of State and Commerce, respectively. In both letters, the representatives allege politically motivated attacks on Tahoe’s operations in Guatemala and warn of economic and political instability and damage to US relations with Latin America if the court decision is allowed to stand. Both urge the Drumpf Administration to intervene to protect U.S. interests in Guatemala.
The Canadian lobby registry shows that Tahoe has also been very active lobbying Canadian public officials since its mine licenses were suspended in July. While records are still not available for August and are generally short on details, Tahoe lobbyists met with the Director General of Trade Commission Services, policy advisors from the office of the Minister of International Trade, the chairs of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development and the Standing Committee on Natural Resources, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the office of the Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor.
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