Under-mining Mayan resistance: the mining practices of Canadian corporations in Guatemala, their impacts & resistance

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Godoy, Edgar Saúl

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University of Guelph

Abstract

Currently the Canadian-U.S. company Glamis Gold Ltd., supported by the World Bank and the Canadian and Guatemalan governments, has established gold mining operations in the Mayan indigenous communities of Sipacapa and San Miguel Ixtahuacan in the department of San Marcos, located in Western Guatemala. The World Bank, the mining company, the Canadian and the Guatemalan governments frame this mining project as rural community sustainable development that will benefit the inhabitants of these communities. This project has been challenged nationally and internationally due to its failure to comply with basic human rights legislation, such as the Peace Accord on Indigenous People's Rights and the International Labour Organization's (ILO) Convention 169 on the Rights of Indigenous and Tribal Populations in independent countries. This convention establishes that communities must be consulted prior to the initiation of any development project that will impact upon indigenous peoples. In recent years, there has been strong resistance to the mining project on the part of indigenous communities in San Marcos, Guatemala who are challenging the lack of community consultations before the establishment of mining operations. Mayan communities are also voicing their concerns about the potential environmental, social, economic and cultural effects that this mining project is likely to bring. Drawing on fieldwork conducted in Guatemala during the months of July and August of 2005 this thesis analyzes the positions of Glamis Gold, and the Canadian and Guatemalan governments on the one hand, and the resistance of Mayan communities on the other. In analyzing the position of Glamis Gold Ltd. and the Canadian and Guatemalan governments, the thesis argues that international investments related to mining development projects in Guatemala have been directly linked to exploitation and violence, particularly since the 1960s and against indigenous peoples. This thesis also argues that Mayan resistance seeks recognition of cultural differences and thus challenges hegemonic definitions of nationhood. The Mayan struggles include self-government and collective use of land for the reproduction of indigenous identity, and directly undermine the neo-liberal drive towards privatization and individualization. This thesis' contribution is its unique analysis of current Mayan resistance to the Canadian-owned Marlin mining project. Drawing on Gramsci's theory of hegemony and counter-hegemony and social movements literature the thesis demonstrates how the current resistance is utilizing the national and international laws to promote alternatives proposals of development. This thesis also demonstrates that while innovative, Mayan leaders today are, as in the past, linking their struggles against international investment with their struggle for the preservation of their land, culture and identities.

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gold mining operations, Mayan indigenous communities, mining practices, Canadian corporations, Glamis Gold Ltd., Guatemala, resistance

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