Action Alert: Community Leader Murdered by Private Security Guards in Guatemala

  A long-standing land dispute between the Guatemalan Nickel Company (Compañía Guatemalteca de Níquel, CGN) and communities settled on land also claimed by the company recently erupted into violence. A break-down in negotiations and a number of attempts to illegally evict one community most recently resulted in an attack against community members carried out by armed groups, including private security guards contracted by the company. The attack, in the north-eastern municipality of El Estor, department of Izabal, resulted in the death of community leader Adolfo Ich Xaman and a number of gun-related injuries suffered by other community members.

Historical Context:

The Fenix mining project, currently managed by the Guatemalan Nickel Company (CGN), subsidiary of the Canadian company HudBay, has a long history of conflict and human rights violations. The first site was first explored in the 1960s and later the company EXMIBAL renewed both exploration and extraction operations under favorable conditions granted by the military regimes of the 1970s and 1980s. The UN-sponsored Historical Clarification Commission (CEH), set up to document human rights abuses committed during this time, documented numerous cases of serious human rights violations implicating employees of the subsidiary EXMIBAL.

In the past few years, a series of conflicts have arisen between the communities settled on land adjudicated to CGN by the Guatemalan state. The company has claimed ownership of the land where the families live, which has led to a number of violent evictions carried out by private security forces, although the company did not present official property titles for the land at the time of the evictions. The most recent violence is just one example of the government authorities’ failure to resolve agrarian conflict in Guatemala.

Recent Events:

The most recent events more specifically involved the community Las Nubes, one of the communities settled on land claimed by CGN. In prior negotiations between the company, the community and the government, the governor of Izabal agreed to resettle the families from Las Nubes. Some families accepted the offer, which reportedly included promises of land, roads, a school, a health center and Q25,000 per family. After resettling in the new location, however, the families realized that the rest of the agreements had not been fulfilled, so many returned to Las Nubes.

On September 23 the head of CGN’s private security force, CGN representatives, the governor’s office and the Secretariat for Agrarian Issues arrived in Las Nubes. The representatives reportedly warned some of the women present that they would have to move, and that if they refused to do so, they would be evicted. The representatives threatened to kill the women’s husbands if they failed to vacate the premises and also forcibly entered some of the houses to take pictures.

On September 25, CGN security guards returned to Las Nubes with members of the National Civil Police. The private security guards reportedly fired shots into the air and attempted to damage the community center, stopping only when community members approached them to protect the center. The police did not intervene, even when the private security guards started to spray tear gas and pepper spray and to fire rubber bullets against community members.

On September 27, the governor of Izabal arrived, accompanied by approximately 150 members of CGN’s private security force. Although she listened to the community members’ complaints about the lack of compliance with the negotiated resettlement, the governor insisted that there would be no aid or projects if the community did not resettle immediately. On the other hand, she promised to send immediate aid if the community resettled that same day. Community members then questioned the governor’s possible agreements with the company and criticized the fact that the governor was not accompanied by any of the corresponding state authorities during her visit. Community members told her that they did not need her help. Shortly thereafter, the governor left.

Meanwhile, after hearing about the intimidation and threats in Las Nubes, representatives from neighboring communities had gathered on the highway in front of the company’s land. When community members from Las Nubes joined the group, the company’s private security guards opened fire on the group. At the same time, another armed group close by also started shooting at the community members gathered on the highway.

Adolfo Ich Xaman, teacher and leader of the community La Unión, was in a meeting close by when he heard the shots and ran to rescue the children who might still be in their houses close to the company’s property fence. According the information available, the head of CGN security saw him and called him over to talk to him. When he reached the security guards, he was beaten and attacked with a machete and afterwards dragged onto company property, where he was shot and murdered by CGN’s guards.

Four other community members were detained and held by security guards, but managed to escape later that day. Of the 12 people injured in the shooting that day, at least one remains in serious condition.


Send appeals in Spanish and/or your own language to Guatemalan authorities, with copies to your respective embassies and the Canadian transnational company Hudbay (see attached sample letters).

– Demanding an immediate and thorough investigation into the armed attack on community members that resulted in the murder of Adolfo Ich Xaman and at least 10 gun-related injuries for other community members.

– Demanding the immediate issuance of arrest warrants against those responsible for the attack.

– Demanding that government authorities take immediate actions to guarantee the safety of the communities affected by the conflict with CGN, including the disarmament and general control of armed groups operating in the region.

– Asking that the government resolve the land conflict between CGN and neighboring communities, in particular that the government resolves questions of ownership and property titles, ensures the legalization of the communities’ land titles, and guarantees that the communities can exist in a sustainable way.

– Calling for the cancellation of CGN’s license and the company’s immediate withdrawal from the country, given the direct involvement of the company, through their contracted private security guards, in serious human rights violations and the company’s impact on the increased tensions in the region.

– Calling for thorough investigations into the actions of the Governor of the Department of Izabal, in particular her role in the negotiation process with the communities.



Esteemed Mr. Minister/ Mr. President/ Mr. Public Prosecutor

I am writing to you regarding the attack carried out by armed groups, including security agents from the Compañía Guatemalteca de Niquel (CGN), against community members of the municipality of El Estor, in the department of Izabal. Community leader Adolfo Ich Chaman was brutally murdered in this attack, and several other community members were injured.

According to information I have received, this incident is the result of a long history of conflict in the department. This information also shows that CGN’s presence in the area has decisively contributed to the conflict—a part of which is the territorial dispute between the community of Las Nubes and the company. Throughout this history, there have been a series of threats and intimidations made against community members. State officials have not made the necessary investigations or interventions. To this is added the questionable role taken by the Governor of the Department.

From the information received, the case of community leader Adolfo Ich Chaman stands out. He was beaten and macheted by the company’s agents. He was then dragged into the company’s grounds where he was murdered by firearm by the security guards of the CGN.

Therefore, respectfully and politely, I would like to request:

– an immediate and exhaustive investigation into the armed attack on community members that resulted in the murder of Profesor Adolfo Ich Chaman and that left more than 10 people with firearm injuries.

– an immediate issuance of arrest warrants for those responsible for these acts.

– that immediate measures be taken by the government authorities to guarantee the safety of the communities affected by the conflict with CGN and a disarmament and control of the armed groups circulating in the region.

– that a solution be found to the conflict around land ownership in the communities, that this solution guarantee the legalization of the community’s lands and a space for sustainable living.

– the cancellation of CGN’s license and their immediate withdrawal from the country, due to their direct involvement in human rights violations through the contracting of private security agents and paramilitaries, as well as their impact on the increase in conflict and tensions in the region.

– exhaustive investigations into the role and actions of the governor of the department in the negotiation process undertaken with the communities.


Name/ Address

Send to:
Guatemalan Minister of the Interior
Sr. Raúl Antonio Velásquez Ramos
Ministro de Gobernación
6ª Avenida 13-71, Zona 1
Ciudad de Guatemala
Telefax: (00502) 2413 8658

President of Guatemala
Lic. Álvaro Colom
Presidente de la República
Casa Presidencial, 6ª Avenida 4-18, Zona 1
Ciudad de Guatemala
Telefax: (00502) 2221 4423 / (00502) 2238 3579

Attorney General and Head of the Public Prosecutors Office
Lic. José Amílcar Velásquez Zárate
Fiscal General de la República y Jefe del Ministerio Público
8ª Avenida 10-67, Antiguo Edificio del Banco de los Trabajadores, Zona 1
Ciudad de Guatemala
Telefax: (00502) 2411 9124 / (00502) 2411 9326

With copies to:

United States Embassy in Guatemala
Attn: Steve Steger
Guatemala, Guatemala
Fax: 502.2332.4993

C/O Manager Investor Relations
Dundee Place, Suite 2501
1 Adelaide Street East
Toronto, Ontario, M5C 2V9, Canada
Peter R. Jones, Chief Executive Officer and Director
Michael D. Winship, President and Chief Operating Officer
John Vincic, Investor Relations and Corporate Communications, 416.362.0615,