Life in a Gold Town in Guatemala

Three years ago, Diodora Hernandez, a tiny Mayan grandmother and farmer, was shot in the face by two men.

They were hired to make her sell her small plot of land to Goldcorp, a Canadian mining company. If she refused, they were to kill her. After three months in hospital, she miraculously survived, blind in one eye and deaf in one ear.

Last year, I was sent to Guatemala as part of a delegation with the non-governmental organization Rights Action, and I had the privilege of meeting Diodora and many other courageous Mayans.

Diodora told us that she was more adamant than ever that she must not sell her land, which was left to her by her grandmother. Many farmers around her have capitulated to intimidation and threats and have given up their land for less money than it would take to establish themselves elsewhere. Her own family is against her decision.

The Whitehorse group of Amnesty International hopes to shine a light on the harms to health, community, and environment by transnational industrial mining, and its implications for Yukon communities.

Whitehorse will take part in a worldwide screening of Gold Fever, a documentary about the arrival of Goldcorp Inc. to Diodora’s remote Guatemalan village. The film will be presented at the Old Fire Hall on Oct. 16.

The film contends communities and families are being destroyed to produce profits for foreign companies. And our own Canada Pension Plan invests our contributions in these mines.

With Rights Action we toured several Canadian mines in Guatemala. We learned that anyone resisting the transnational mining corporations’ search for gold and other minerals on their land has suffered enormously. Many have had their homes destroyed, have had relatives murdered, or have been left injured and disabled. Women are systematically raped by agents of the mines. It is reminiscent of the Guatemalan government’s genocide tactics of the 1980’s, which were supposed to have ended.

In addition, environmental and health regulations for mining in Guatemala are nearly non-existent, or are easily ignored.

Amnesty International, along with the Alpine Bakery and the Yukon Film Society, will present this prize-winning film Gold Fever on Wednesday,Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. at the Old Fire Hall, with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. Admission is by donation.

Following the screening, Rights Action co-director Grahame Russell will lead, via Skype, a discussion of the film and the issues involved in Canadian mining.

Whitehorse resident Tory Russell, who has also toured several Guatemalan mine sites and met many of the courageous people in the film, and I will be available to discuss what we have witnessed.

For more information, contact me at [email protected] or Tory Russell at [email protected].

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