Pedersen, Alexandra. “Landscapes of Resistance: Community Opposition to Canadian Mining Operations in Guatemala.” Journal of Latin American Geography 13:1 (2014): 187-214.

“No to mining, yes to life.” The photo above is from a 2008 protest toward mining operations in San Marcos, Guatemala. The article accompanying this photo is from a Canadian independent news site article reporting on the vast amount of opposition to mining interests in Guatemala. I chose this photo because it depicts the extent of community members’ opposition – it is literally an issue of life or death.

Alexandra Pedersen presents the ongoing issues surrounding a Canadian mining company’s presence in Guatemala. Canada and the Guatemalan government work in tandem to exploit Guatemala’s natural resources, claiming its benefits to economic development. Community members have expressed their opposition to the specific mining project El Tambor in central Guatemala, but have not seen any withdrawal from the area, in fact even suffering government and police repression. Pedersen focuses on a community that was organized in early 2012 out of this resistance – El Puya – who set up camp in the El Tambor area and ran a 24/7 opposition community toward the neoliberal attempts at economic development in the area. The author’s reliance on community members, human rights defenders, NGOs and citizens for information offers an insight to the tensions in the area. The voices of these groups are often silenced by those in power – the government and multinational corporations. Pedersen argues that mining in the face of community resistance violates human, environmental and legal rights because the mining companies act in spite of this resistance to further advance their own economic gain.

At the end of the article, the author, who is Canadian, calls Canada out for being complicit in the human rights violations occurring in Guatemala and urges her country to withdraw. A strength of this article is the author’s connection of the violence and repression surrounding the present-day mining debacle to Guatemala’s violent past – its dictatorship, repression of the people, and forced neoliberal development. She argues that the climate of fear has been carried over from the dictatorship years to the present day, when the government and police forces are using fear and violence as instruments of repression.

This article’s focus on human rights violations in Guatemala connects to our course in that the author focuses more on the lived experiences than the claims of the benefits of development through mining. By drawing from individual, NGO and community interviews, Pedersen presents the emotions, crises and violence that is actually happening in the context of the El Tambor mining project. Also, Guatemala’s history of repressing human rights defenders in addition to its “enemies” is a topic often discussed in our course. This article will be helpful as a starting point in my research of mining and its implications in Guatemala.

Tags: mining, Canada, neoliberalism, environmental rights, human rights, Guatemala, 2000s, Central America

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