Mexican Chiapas anti-mining organizer murdered

Objet : NEWS/MX: Chiapas anti-mining organizer murdered

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Chiapas Anti-Mining Organizer Murdered
Posted by Kristin
Bricker<>  - December
1, 2009 at 6:05 pm

Mariano Abarca Led a Growing Movement to Kick Canadian Mining Companies Out
of Mexican Communities

320/MarianoAbarcaChicomuselo.jpg] Mariano Abarca Roblero, one of Mexico's
most prominent anti-mining organizers, was shot to death on the evening of
November 27, 2009, in front of his house in Chicomuselo, Chiapas.  He left
behind a wife and four children.  Another man was wounded in the shooting.

The incident comes just days after Abarca filed charges against two
Blackfire employees, Ciro Roblero Perez and Luis Antonio Flores Villatoro,
for threatening to shoot him if he didn't stop organizing against Canadian
mining company Blackfire's barium
mine<>  in Chicomuselo.  According to
a formal complaint filed by a government employee who works in the
Chicomuselo municipal building, Roblero Perez arrived at the municipal
building to say that he had gone to look for Abarca to "fuck him up in a
hail of bullets."   He also reportedly said that Abarca and other people
were on a list of people Blackfire management wants to hurt.  Blackfire
public relations manager Luis Antonio Flores Villatoro was mentioned in the
government employee's complaint as one of the people responsible for the

Ejido* authorities from the Nueva Morelia ejido in Chicomuselo county took
the complaint seriously and helped Abarca launch an investigation.  The day
before the murder, Roblero Perez and Flores Villatoro were summoned to
testify regarding the alleged death threats, but they failed to appear.

A History of Harassment

Even though local authorities acted to try to protect Abarca, the Mexican
Network of People Affected by Mining (REMA) blames the Chiapas state
government for failing to protect the mining leader.  On the contrary, the
state government seems to have been complicit in Blackfire's legal
harassment of Abarca.

On August 17, 2009, unidentified armed men in unmarked cars kidnapped
an-mines-chicomuselo-chiapas-mexico>  as he was leaving an elementary school
in Chicomuselo.  He had visited the school to request permission on behalf
of his organization, REMA, to use the building for an anti-mining meeting
scheduled for August 29-30.

The kidnappers turned out to be police.  They had arrested Abarca on charges
filed by Blackfire regarding a June-July 2009 highway blockade REMA set up
to prevent the passage of Blackfire trucks.  REMA was protesting the
company's failure to comply with promises it allegedly made regarding
community development projects and environmental
article=033n1est>.  According to community leaders, Blackfire's open-pit
barium mine uses too much of the area's scarce water resources.  They are
concerned that the pollution could effect their crop cultivation in the near

The acting on Blackfire's formal complaint, the state government charged
any-freed-chiapas-mexico>  with attacks against public roadways, criminal
association, organized crime, and offenses against the peace. Theoretically,
organized crime charges are reserved for drug, arms, and human traffickers,
and other members of Mexico's expansive mafia network.  However, the Chiapas
government has been known to accuse activists and community organizers of
-war-repression-hits-zapatistas-and-other-campaign>  in order to take
advantage of restricted due process
ime-exception-mexicos-two-track-justice-system>  for people accused of
organized crime.

That is what happened in Abarca's case.  The organized crime charged allowed
the Chiapas government to imprison him under the highly controversial and
international criticized legal instrument of "
riano-herran-salvatti-former-mexican-drug-tsar-and-chiapas-attorn>" or
pre-charge detention.  Under arraigo, the government can arrest a suspect
and isolate him or her for months while it pressures and sometimes tortures
the person into confessing.

The state government detained Abarca for eight days before it ceded to
international public pressure to release him.  Abarca was released and the
charges were dropped due to lack of evidence.  His lawyer, Miguel Angel de
los Santos, criticized the Chiapas government for ceding to the mining
company's pressure to arrest Abarca.  "There was no legal justification for
his arrest and detention. Preliminary investigation began on June 12th, two
days after the blockade, and was only just beginning to come together. The
investigation had not advanced," he told Proceso in August following
Abarca's release.

Structural Adjustment Strikes Again

Social discontent regarding mines in Mexico has been steadily building over
the past ten years, beginning when the effects of a World Bank-mandated
mining sector deregulation scheme were first felt.  A confidential World
Bank document entitled " Implementation Completion Report: Mexico Mining
Sector Restructuring
Project<>," which Narco
News makes available to the public, outlines exactly how a nine-year loan
project drastically transformed Mexico's mining sector.

The project, first proposed by the Word Bank in 1989 and quickly adopted by
the Mexican government, aimed to deregulate the mining industry in Mexico.
The Bank proposed the project because, as its Implementation Completion
Report (ICR) explains,

Past lending of the Bank for mining in Mexico was oriented towards specific
investment projects, with direct lines of credit to the sector... The
lessons learned from those operations were that the continued development of
the mining sector required increased access to land rights, reduced
ownership limitations, revision of the tax legislation, a restructuring of
existing institutional setups, as well as policies that stimulate private
investment in mining by both domestic and foreign firms.  The Bank Mining
Sector Review identified an inadequate regulatory and institutional
framework as the major constraint to increase private investment and further
growth of the sector.

One of the Bank's main goals for the project was to open up Mexico's
previously protected national mining industry to foreign companies; the Bank
listed "open the sector to foreigners" as its first "strategy to restructure
the sector."  It hoped to do so by privatizing state-owned mining companies,
slashing taxes, awarding mineral and land rights to private companies, and
facilitating foreign companies' ownership of Mexican land in order to
"contribute to the increased exploration and exploitation of the vast mining
potential of the country, to take advantage of Mexico's strategic location
near the United States and Canada."

The Bank proposed a set of changes to Mexican law in its Mining Sector
Report, and the Mexican government--at that point still under one-party
rule--rushed to implement them under a plan called the National Mining
Modernization Program.  In just four years (1990-1994), the legal framework
for mining in Mexico underwent a radical change.  Before the ink on the new
laws was dry, the Bank began to dole out money to private mining companies
to "help finance the surge in demand for investment funding that was
expected to result from the improved policy and institutional setting for
mining operations."

The Bank was thrilled with the results of the National Mining Modernization
Program and its subsequent loans.  According to the Bank, over the course of
the project, which ended in 1998, over 8.7 million hectares of land were
released and 17,220 new mining concessions were granted.  As a result of the
legal changes mandated by the loan, the time required for processing mining
concessions went down from 5 years to 5 months, and the Mexican government's
backlog of about 14,000 concession requests that were pending since 1989
disappeared virtually overnight.  The Bank was so pleased with the results
of the Mining Sector Restructuring Project that it wrote, "Future Bank
participation in the sector does not seem justified anymore, in view that
mining exploration/exploitation is now open to domestic and foreign

The Bank's structural adjustment of Mexico's mining sector has played a key
role in the battle for " land and
d-territory.html>" (as the Zapatistas refer to it) in the country.  Private
ownership, increased economic pressure on small and subsistence farmers, and
top-down "development" projects are acutely felt in mineral-rich
communities.  According to Gustavo Castro Soto of the Chiapas-based
non-profit Otros Mundos<>, "Beginning in
2000, almost 10% of the national territory has been ceded to transnational
companies through mining concessions." REMA
encuentro-rema-chiapas-declaracion-de-chicomuselo.html>  that in Chiapas,
15.21% of the state's total territory has been ceded through mining
concessions.  Many of those concessions don't expire until the year 2050.
If the social unrest that frequently follows mining concessions is any
indicator, Mexicans are not willingly handing over their land to foreign
mining companies.

Mining Industry Under Fire

Mariono Abarca's murder comes at a time that the mining industry in Mexico
is feeling the heat from Mexico's social movements.  Inspired by the
national movement of communities affected by hydroelectric dam projects,
mining-affected communities are joining forces in a unified front against
destructive mining practices.

In  2008, representatives from Chicomuselo travelled to the state of Jalisco
to found REMA during the First Encounter of the Mexican Network of People
Affected by Mining.  Representatives from mining-affected communities in
eleven states and the Federal District participated in the historic event:
Chihuahua, Sonora, Nayarit, Jalisco, Oaxaca, Chiapas, Guerrero, Mexico City,
México State, San Luis Potosí, Coahuila, and Veracruz.  REMA agreed at that
meeting to raise consciousness about the social and environmental effects of
mining.  It also pledged<>  that member
organizations would support each other in their struggles against
destructive mines in their communities.

One of the most high-profile joint actions that REMA carried out was a
protest encampment in front of the Canadian Embassy in Mexico City this past
July.  Abarca and representatives from other communities affected by
Canadian mining companies participated in the encampment, which demanded the
withdraw of Metallic Resources/NewGold, a Canadian company, from Cerro de
San Pedro, San Luis Potosi.  At the protest, Abarca spoke about Canadian
mining companies' contamination of traditional water sources.

Following the protest, mining-affected communities won a temporary victory:
just last month, a federal judge ordered that the Cerro de San Pedro mine be
closed<>  because the mining
company had failed to comply with environmental stipulations.  The closure
comes after ten years of struggle waged by a broad coalition of San Luis
Potosi civil society organizations, which include organizations linked to
Mexico's center-left Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) and groups affiliated
with the Zapatista's Other
Campaign<>.  They
opposed the gold mining project because, in addition to environmental
concerns, the Cerro de San Pedro is an official historic monument.  NewGold
has promised to appeal the

In Chiapas, Abarca led a previously mentioned highway blockade that
prevented Blackfire trucks from entering and leaving the Chicomuselo mine
this past June and July.  The community was protesting the company's
excessive use of scarce water supplies, its failure to follow through on
commitments it reportedly made to the community, and its back-door
&article=033n1est>  that allowed it to purchase 13.5 hectares of ejido land
without the required approval of the ejido assembly.    Blackfire claims it
lost $120,000 pesos ($9,334
mpany-freed-chiapas-mexico>  as a direct result of the blockade.

This past August, REMA held its Second Encounter of the Mexican Network of
People Affected by
-encuentro-rema-chiapas-declaracion-de-chicomuselo.html>  in Chiapas.
Guatemalan communities who are resisting mining projects traveled to Chiapas
to participate and share their experienes.  Abarca helped organize the
Encounter, and as previously mentioned, it was during the Encounter's
organizing process that state police kidnapped Abarca and charged him with
organized crime at Blackfire's request.

A communique<>  signed by 25
Mexican organizations from six states and Mexico City holds Blackfire's
owners responsible for Abarca's shooting and any resulting violence in the
region.  They call for a protest encampment outside of the Canadian Embassy
and the Ministry of Economy headquarters in Mexico City on December 3 in
solidarity with the people of Chicomuselo.

*An ejido is commonly-held land traditionally managed by assembly.

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