Guatemalan President Admits Mining Abuse, Goldcorp Challenged, on Laws,
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, February 17 -- Abuse by mining firms of rural Guatemala,
particularly indigenous communities, has become systemic. Even
President Alvaro Colom, when asked Wednesday by Inner City Press at
the UN about the abuses had to admit that the current law "is
not suitable." Video here,
from Minute 18:32.
asked President Colom whether his government will respect the
decision of several communities to be "mine free." Colom
replied that "with respect to mines and the mining law, promoted
in 1997, honestly, it's a bad law... Not only when it comes to
royalties [but also] environment and natural resources [and] the
rights of indigenous people to give their opinion."
signatory of the UN Convention on the Rights of Indigenous People,
and Colom says his government will abide by it. He said he has not
issued a single new mining license. The former government, he said,
did authorize many, some of which have been frozen.
not enough. In late 2009, for example, Maudilia
Lopez Cardona and Carmen Mejia Aguilar on behalf of the residents of
San Miguel Ixtahuacan, a municipality in southwestern Guatemala
traveled to Canada to file a complaint with the government against
They documented that Goldcorp's "Marlin mine
water supplies and damaged homes while the company harassed
protesters." The complaint was submitted under Organization for
Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) guidelines for
multinational firms. We'll see.
President Colom, pointing finger (elsewhere) at UN
President Colom also spoke, with Secretary
General Ban Ki-moon
and then the Press, about the UN affiliated International Commission
against Impunity in Guatemala. Inner City Press previously
interviewed the head of CICIG Carlos Castresana on such topics as his
prosecution of the murders of bus drivers and his advocacy for a
President Colom on Wednesday, when Inner City
Press asked about
the rejection of the Commission's recommendation that three "corrupt"
judges not be put on the Supreme Court, cited the Commission's work
on the wiretapping law, as well as on an updated arms and munitions
law. He said he did not intervene in the placing of the three judges
on the court due to separation of powers. "If we don't want
impunity, we have to respect the division of powers," he said. Again,
* * *
Tear Gas, UN Lets Stand Sri Lanka Claim of Its Congratulations, UN's
"Good Journalism" Guide
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, February 11 -- As in Sri Lanka the Rajapaksa administration
deploys tear gas against those protesting its arrest of Sarath
Fonseka, in New York Inner City Press asked if the UN had any
comment. Video here, from Minute 8:46.
Martin Nesirky reiterated his version of Secretary
Ki-moon's telephone call to Mahinda Rajapaksa. But then did the UN
Mr. Ban, Inner City Press asked, take issue with the Sri Lankan
press release about the call, that it involved Ban
congratulating Mahinda Rajapaka, without any mention of the arrest of
Fonseka or the tear gassing of his supporters? Video here,
from Minute 8:46.
will characterize... as they see fit," Nesirky said.
what if the
press coverage adopts the government's version of the call, and the
UN is portrayed as totally (and not just partially) in bed with
human rights abuses?
Press mentioned instances where the
UN, even under Ban, has taken issue with statements by governments,
of Sudan and Zimbabwe for example. So does the silence now mean the
UN and Ban are satisfied with the Rajapaksas' summary?
what I said, don't put words in my mouth," Nesirky protested. Video here,
from Minute 10:44.
asked Nesirky for a more "philosophical" response about
when governments mis-use their communications or even photo ops with
am not a
philosopher," Nesirky. He then returned to the Sri Lanka issue,
saying that "the coverage was rather balanced," including
both the read out of the Secretary General and the government. Mr.
Nesirky said pointedly, "That's what good journalists do." Video here,
from Minute 12:40.
question of whether the UN and its spokesman should be opining on
what and how journalists should report, it seems strange for anyone
to equate "good journalism" with merely presenting side by side
the UN's version and the government's version, that Ban congratulated
Rajapaksa while he cracked down on his opponents and the independent
press. Does that mean both versions are equally true?
Sri Lankan forces use batons on protesters, UN "congratulations"
is a win - win
situation then. Ban can say he spoke about due process, and Mahinda
Rajapaksa can say he was congratulated by the UN while cracking down
on his opponents. Each side gets what it wants. Could this be Ban's
UN kabuki theater?
Ban's versions is that he called for due process. But after the call,
presidential brother and Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said
that Fonseka "is guilty" of treason, predicting a five year
sentence. When the president's brother declares a person guilty
before any trial or even showing of evidence, it doesn't sound like
"good" due process. Will the UN have anything to say?
Again, on both
February 8 and 9, Inner City Press asked Ban's
spokesman Martin Nesirky if Vijay Nambiar is, officially or de facto,
now in charge of the UN's Sri Lanka policy, given reports that calls
from the Rajapaksa administration to Mr. Ban were referred to Mr.
Nambiar. (It concerned trying to cancel a UN press conference by
Philip Alston, about summary executions by the Sri Lankan army.)
most recently a forthcoming TV documentary, have opined that
Nambiar's involvement in Sri Lanka in 2009 was inappropriately
pro-Rajapaksa, and worse. Nesirky at the Monday and Tuesday noon
briefings this week has said he would get to the bottom of the
question of the call and roles, but has not. On Wednesday there was
no noon briefing due to snow. On Thursday, still no answer was given.
And the Rajapaksa administration's
trumpeting of Ban's congratulations circulated worldwide, with no
protest or correction by Ban's UN. Watch this site.