A woman who opposes a Canadian mining operation has been shot in Central America
August 13, 2012 - Yolanda Oquelí, an outspoken campaigner against the effects of a mining operation on her community, was shot and seriously wounded on June 13.
She survived the shooting, but her life and personal safety continue to be at risk.
News of this shooting hit us very personally, since an Amnesty International research team met with Yolanda in May, while in Guatemala investigating human rights impacts of other Canadian mining operations in the region. I'm sure you share my concern for her continued recovery and our outrage that this violence is allowed to continue.
A great deal of mining in Guatemala takes place on Indigenous land, without proper standards of consultation or consent, and has introduced deep divisions and conflict within communities.
It has led to a pattern of violence and intimidation that has to stop. Please speak out for Yolanda.
Here is what we know about the shooting:
Yolanda was driving home around 6.30 pm on June 13 after taking part in a protest outside the site of a proposed open pit gold mine in San José del Golfo, about 35km from the centre of the capital, Guatemala City. As she approached her house, two men on a motorbike cut across her path and fired at her with a pistol. Yolanda was hit by a bullet which lodged close to her liver. Three other bullets hit her vehicle. According to local press, a .38 pistol was used in the attack.
Yolanda Oquelí is an activist and leader of the organization Frente Norte del Área Metropolitana. Her organization has been protesting against a proposed mining project in her community. The mine site is known as El Tambor and covers parts of the municipalities of San Jose del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampic. A protest has been maintained outside the entrance to the mine since March 2012. Those opposing the mine claim that local communities were not consulted about the project or its potential impact on local water supplies.
The mine is operated by Exploraciones Mineras de Guatemala, S.A., a local wholly-owned subsidiary of the Canadian company Radius Gold Inc.
As a result of her work as a human rights defender, since August 2011 Yolanda Oquelí has filed several complaints with the Public Prosecutor’s office about threats and harassment against her and other activists, including threatening phone calls, her house being vandalized with paint, and death threats. The most recent complaint had been filed on 11 May.
Though Yolanda has survived this attack, she is still in serious danger. The assailants have not been caught and their identity remains unknown. The safety of Yolanda's family is also of grave concern to us.
Amnesty International Canada
P.S. In 2010 it was Deodora, a friend of another activist, Carmen Mejía, who believes she was shot because she refused to sell her land for the expansion of another Canadian mine. Amnesty International has documented a pattern of intimidation and violence committed against individuals in Latin America who speak out against mining operations, and is calling for governments in the region to ensure that mining operates in ways that strengthen human rights protection and do not cause or contribute to human rights violations. Until such measures are put in place, we must speak out vigilantly to protect the courageous human rights defenders who speak up for their communities, at great personal risk. Please take action and tell your friends that we need to speak out together and find a solution before these acts of intimidation cost the life of another activist.