Photo Essay: The Peoples’ International Health Tribunal in San Miguel Ixtahuacán, Guatemala

The Peoples’ International Health Tribunal, held in San Miguel Ixtahuacán, Guatemala (July 14-15), will use community testimony, scientific research and human rights organization’s knowledge to examine how the presence of Goldcorp’s mining operations has affected community residents in Mesoamerica.



San Miguel Ixtahuacán, San Marcos, Guatemala.
July 14-15, 2012.

From left to right: Diodora Hernández, Gregoria Crisanta Pérez, and Crisanta Pérez, Mam Mayan women from San Miguel Ixtahuacán, Guatemala, have all been affected by the mining operations of Canadian-owned Goldcorp’s Marlin Gold Mine. The health tribunal will use community testimony, scientific research and human rights organization’s knowledge to examine how the presence of Goldcorp’s mining operations has affected community residents in Mesoamerica.

Day one: July 14th, 2012

Local women from San Miguel Ixtahuacán prepare lunch.

Aniseto López, from San Miguel Ixtahuacán, speaks during the inauguration of the event.

Magalí Rey Rosa (middle), Guatemalan ecologist and founder of the School for Ecological Thought (SAVIA), sits as one of the jury members.

The Jury members.

Gustavo Castro from Otros Mundos Chiapas and the Mesoamerican Movement against the Mining Extractive Model (M4): “No more mining projects in our communities! This is not the development model we want as it only brings us poverty and illnesses. The M4 has said enough!”

Carlos Amador, from the Siria Valley Environmental Committee in Honduras, declares during the event: “We must defend life with life itself! We come from the Siria Valley to give our testimony on how we have been gravely damaged by Goldcorp’s San Martin mine. It has operated for ten years, ten years of destruction and illnesses!”

Marcos Pérez Bámaca, filmmaker from San Miguel Ixtahuacán.

Miguel Mijangos, from the Mexican Network of Mining Affected-Communities (REMA), presents the Carrizalillo community case from Guerrero, Mexico, where a Goldcorp-owned mine operats. “As of June 2012, six years since the mine started operations, 100% of the households of Carrizalillo have at least one family member who suffers a mining-related illness.”

Doctor Juan Almendares, a longtime human rights defender from Honduras, has been at the forefront of social justice movements for decades: the dirty war atrocities from the 1980s involving hundreds of detained-disappeared and the mining struggles since the 90s.

Gregoria Crisanta Pérez (left), from San Miguel Ixtahuacán, greets Angélica Choc from El Estor. Gregoria Crisanta Pérez suffered severe criminalization by Goldcorp in order to halt her resistance activities. Meanwhile, Angélica Choc is the widow of teacher and Barrio La Union leader Adolfo Ich Chamán.

Carlos Amador (left), from the Siria Valley Environmental Committee in Honduras, talks with Javier de León (middle), from San Miguel Ixtahuacán, and Oscar Morales (right), from San Rafael Las Flores, Guatemala. All three live in Goldcorp-affected communities.

Patrocinia Mejía, one of the eight women from Agel, San Miguel Ixtahuacán, who was charged with sabotage by Goldcorp. All charges were finally dropped after nearly four years.

Matías López, from San Miguel Ixtahuacán, declares during the presentation of the Marlin case: “We ask that you leave us in peace! We ask that you leave in peace… back to your own countries.”

Doctor Juan Almendares declares during the presentation of the San Martin Mine case in the Siria Valley: “When we carve Mother Earth, we bludgeon our own bodies!”

Luis Mendoza, 25, worked for two years at the San Martín Mine. He now suffers serious skin disorders.

Rodolfo Arteaga, from the community of Palo Ralo in the Siria Valley, suffered grave gastrointestinal damage due to drinking from a contaminated well with heavy metals.

Sister Maudilia López, from San Miguel Ixtahuacán, sings: “Was it you, Lord, who sent the miners? They rape Mother Earth’s womb, Destroying out hillsides and taking the gold. A gram of blood is worth more than a thousand kilos of gold!”

Sakura Saunders, editor of, transcribes the event in English.

Day two: July 15th, 2012

Once again, the hosts in San Miguel Ixtahuacán prepare food for the hundreds of visitors.

German Chub Choc, from El Estor, gets ready for the second day. On September 27, 2009, Mynor Padilla, former chief of security for the Guatemalan Niquel Company, local subsidiary of Canadian Hudbay Minerals, shot German point blank on the back. Moments earlier, German had witnessed how Padilla murdered local anti-mining leader Adolfo Ich Chaman. After struggling for his life for several months, German recovered but he is now paraplegic.

Angélica Choc, widow of Ich Chamán, prepares for the second day of the Health Tribunal.

Crisanta Pérez, from San Miguel Ixtahuacán, prepares the offering in the main hall before the activities begin.

A spiritual invocation takes place before the second day’s activities.

Rosa Elbira Coc Ich, from El Estor, lights a candle during the spiritual invocations. Rosa Elvira is one of the 12 women from the Maya Q’eqchi’ community of Lote 8 who were gang-raped by State security forces and CGN employees during the violent evictions of January 2007.

The delegation from Cabañas, El Salvador, shares the tragic experience the community has suffered due to Pacific Rim’s the El Dorado gold mine. Numerous activists in defence of their territory have been murdered. In addition, the Canadian company has sued the State of El Salvador for damages after its license was revoked due to environmental concerns.

A woman from San Pedro Ayampuc, Guatemala, shares the community’s experience with the El Tambor mining project. For over four months, community members from San Pedro Ayampuc and San José del Golfo have been blocking the entrance to the mine. On June 13th, local leader Yoli Oquely, was shot point blank after several threats were issued to stop leading the resistance.

Congressmen Amilcar Pop (left) and Carlos Mejía listen to the testimonies.

Alfonso Ortíz Gómez, from San Idelfonso Ixtahuacán, Guatemala, and member of the Highlands Peasant Committee (CCDA), describes the long-term effects of mining in his community of La Cumbre: “In over 50 years of mining in our municipality, we have had hundreds of work related deaths due to illnesses and accidents.”

Angélica Choc, along with the delegation from El Estor, describes the atrocities suffered by the Q’eqchi’ Mayan people of the region since the arrival of a Canadian-owned Nickel mine in the mid-1960s. Currently, three legal cases are being processed in Canadian courts connected to these grave human rights violations: The Murder of Adolfo Ich Chamán, German Chub Choc’s shooting, and the case of Rosa Elbira and the 12 women from Lote 8. More information on the legal cases here.

“Do we really have a peace accord? Or is this another war? Because these are the exact same tactics that are being used today!” declares María Magdalena Choc, from El Estor.

“Where is the justice for the death of my brother-in-law Adolfo Ich? Where is the justice for German? Where is the justice for the Lote 8 women brutally gang-raped by so-called security forces? Why hasn’t the arrest order for Mynor Padilla been carried out? Some of us are aware, but when will we wake up as a people and see the damaged caused to us Guatemalans by transnational corporations?” declares María Magdalena Choc.

“My life has changed completely, it is very difficult. But I will not give up. And above all, I will not remain silent about what happened to me.” German Chub Choc, shot on September 27, 2009, by Mynor Padilla, former chief of security for the Guatemalan Nickel Company.

The jury, made up of distinguished individuals with a diversity of backgrounds and experiences including activists, scholars, spiritual leaders, journalists, and medical professionals, found Goldcorp guilty of human rights violations, health harms, and environmental contamination.

“We find Goldcorp guilty for its activities in Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico, which we find to be seriously damaging to the health and the quality of life, the quality of environment, and the right to self determination of the affected Indigenous and campesino communities.” Read the complete verdict here.

Video summary of the event by Caracol Producciones (video in Spanish with English subtitles) HERE.

Health Tribunal main page.

Versión en español aquí.