Goldcorp on Trial: First Ever People’s Health Tribunal Shows Commonalities Throughout Mesoamerica
“A few years ago, our people, the people you can see around you, we began to realize what was happening,” Maudilia López told the hundreds gathered to attend the first ever People’s Health Tribunal in San Miguel Ixtahuacán, Guatemala. The event was packed, even as some attendees spilled out of the entrance of the crowded room, others shuffled to find a spot.
The International Peoples’ Health Tribunal (IPHT) took place on the second floor of the parish hall of San Miguel Ixtahuacán, a municipality in Guatemala’s Western Highlands of roughly 60,000 people, a majority of whom are Maya-Mam. San Miguel Ixtahuacán is the main site of the Marlin mine, an open pit gold mine that is one of the most important projects of Canadian gold mining giant Goldcorp Inc.
The gathering, held on July 14-15, was the result of an organizing effort originating from communities affected by the Marlin mine. Also present were people affected by Goldcorp’s Los Filos mine in Mexico and its San Martín mine in Honduras, as well as representatives from throughout Central America (El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Panama), who provided a regional examination and critique of the resource extraction model and its effects on communities.
“For now, we will ask, before this community, that you will swear to arrive at a conclusion based on what you have heard people say,” López continued, turning her attention to the panel of judges in front of her.
Sitting in front of the audience were the Tribunal’s twelve judges on a panel comprised of prominent human rights defenders and ecologists, health specialists, and scientists from five different countries. Among them was Robert Goodland, a Canadian Tropical Ecologist who worked for 23 years as an environmental consultant to the World Bank; Dr. A. Chicas, doctor, public health specialist, and Secretary of the Ethics Board for the Medical Profession in El Salvador; Jesús Lara Chivarra, indigenous authority of the Wixarika Nation (Mexico) and member of the Wirikuta Defense Front; Yolanda Chalí of the Association for Community Health Services of Guatemala; and Rachel Sieder from the Center for Advanced Studies in Social Anthropology, Mexico. They travelled from both north and south to listen to dozens of ordinary people, technical experts, women, men, mine workers, indigenous leaders, and even children, tell how open pit mega-mining has impacted their lives.