Last June, I got asked to help with translation for folks working on a documentary about the international declaration on human rights. They were interviewing communities impacted by Canadian mining in El Estor, Guatemala. CBC’s Peter Mansbridge read articles 1,2,3 of the declaration. Then he read article 7 to Angelica Choc, an Indigenous Maya Q’eqchi woman whose husband was murdered by the security of Skye Resources (later Hudbay Minerals).
**Article 7. All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.**
He asked if she thought this was true. She laughed. Then shook her head, looking sad, no. Adolfo Ich was murdered 12 years ago and there has been no justice while the company sold and moved on, making millions for shareholders.
While I was in El Estor, I found out that the young son of Eduardo Bin had died after an illness that, if there was a functioning public health system in Guatemala, he likely would have recuperated from. Eduardo is a small-scale fisherman, an Indigenous Maya Q’eqchi man from the same town as Angelica who has been speaking out against the contamination that the nickel mine (with the very long Canadian legacy, now owned by Russian/Swiss company Solway group) has caused. Since Adolfo was killed and the women from Lote 8 were gang raped during the violent evictions to make way for the company and German Chub was left in a wheelchair after being shot by mine security, three university students were also found dead after doing research at the mine. The violence and plunder of these communities by foreigners is overwhelming, but good business for Canada, Canadians, and Canadian companies.
Just days after his son died, I got a phone call from Eduardo Bin. He had been arrested, there were trumped up charges against him, stemming from him denouncing contamination of the lake that was impacting his ability to meekly provide for his family through fishing. He has been in jail ever since. Others have also been charged.
Tomorrow, Eduardo Bin will be in court again, defending his right to exist as an Indigenous man, demanding his rights be respected so that he and his family can humbly survive with dignity. No, Article 7 doesn’t apply to the Indigenous Maya Q’eqchi. Angelica and German and Eduardo and Carlos and the women of Lote 8 know very well that there are many above the law and that discrimination works against them in every system that governs their life. Yet they are the ones who will risk everything for a more just and dignified life. And we all owe gratitude to the warriors who won’t back down because they are ones protecting us all. We are with you, Eduardo.
Jackie McVicar is a long-time Guatemala solidarity activist.