Friday, August 22, 2008

BBC: Gold in Guatemala

From BBC:

With gold prices skyrocketing, the Mayans of Guatemala find themselves caught up in a new rush for the precious metal.

Mario Tema sits across from me, a Mayan with a mission.

We are in the town of Sipacapa in the Western Highlands of Guatemala, washing down a breakfast of tamale and beans with a cup of freshly brewed coffee.

As he tells me of the town's fight against a huge open pit gold mine, that famous picture of Che Guevara gazes at us from the wall. Here in Sipacapa, Mario Tema is an anti-mining icon.

Last year he travelled to Vancouver, where the mine's Canadian owner, Goldcorp, has its headquarters. He went to speak out against the mine at the company's annual shareholders meeting.

"After I spoke at the meeting," he says, "a shareholder approached me and he told me 'I don't care about your cause, all I care about is the money in my pocket."

Mr Tema tells me the story with a shake of his head. Do shareholders not know that his country was wracked by decades of civil war that saw more than 200,000 people killed, one million displaced, and that most of the victims were Mayan?

Do they not understand that the war was about land, how it was used, how it was exploited?

Do they not know about the massacres of entire Mayan villages by paramilitaries and right-wing death squads?

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