Honduras: Anti-Mining Activist Threatened

Honduran anti-mining activist Carlos Amador, who has been active in opposing mining by Canadian firm Goldcorp, is facing intimidation.

From May 7-22, Carlos Amador will be on a speaking tour in Ontario in the lead up to Goldcorp Inc’s Annual Shareholder Meeting, May 19th, in Toronto. Carlos will be speaking along with Javier de Leon, from the Goldcorp Inc affected communities in Guatemala, and Karen Spring of Rights Action.

You can read a Jan. 2010 interview with Amador about Canadian mining in Honduras and resistance to it here.

You can watch presentations at an April 2010 panel discussion in Toronto, “From Honduras to Haiti: The Unfolding Imperialist Strategy in the Americas,” here.

Below is an article from Rights Action about the threats against him and the background to them.

By Annie Bird and Karen Spring

April 29, 2010

On April 13, 2010, 15 armed police arrived at the middle school where Carlos Amador, a teacher and founding member of the Siria Valley Environmental Committee, works. They approached the school with guns raised in attack position.

When they were unable to find Carlos, the police next went to his house which they also approached with raised guns and interrogated his two minor daughters as to his whereabouts.

At his home, the police left a citation calling Carlos to meet with an investigator for the National Office of Criminal Investigation.  Upon arriving at the meeting and in contrary to regular legal proceedings, the investigator took Carlos along with a lawyer from COFADEH, a human rights organization, to the district attorney’s office where he was questioned about the Committee’s work in the Siria Valley.  These questions included, “who are the leaders of the committee”, “where do they live”, “when does the committee meet”, etc.

These acts of intimidation against Carlos and his family occur at a time when death squad violence and repression by State security forces are being carried out across Honduras against those who have opposed the military coup.

While most members of the Committee support the coup resistance movement, the mining company (Goldcorp Inc’s subsidiary Entre Mares) shipped some workers and other locals on buses – giving them $20 cash each – to staged protests in favor of the June 28, 2009 military coup against the elected government of President Zelaya.


This intimidation against Carlos Amador and Siria Valley Environmental Committee also occurred following a violent confrontation between security guards and five communities in the municipality of El Porvenir, which resulted in one death and two injured people.

On April 7th, armed security guards from a private security company reportedly owned by the Raudales Urrutia family attempted to bring in heavy machinery to conduct logging on a 600 hectare plot of land owned by the communities in El Porvenir.

Community members claim that the Raudales Urrutia family illegally obtained “title” to the land two years prior and, in fact, have no right to the land or the trees.  These five communities hold land titles dating from the year 1800, and the communities have been soliciting that the Institute for Environmental Conservation declare the area a protected area.  The forested hill sits between the five communities and is the source of drinking water for those communities.

The sub-soil mineral rights below this particular 600 hectare plot were conceded years before by the Honduran government, with no prior consultation with or consent from the local communities, to Goldcorp subsidiary Entre Mares, which has been trying to expand their gold mining operations in Siria Valley despite strong community resistance.

The close relationship the Raudales Urrutia family maintains with Goldcorp leads neighbors to believe the family will permit Goldcorp/ Entre Mares to expand their operations onto the plot.


Just one day before the confrontation in Siria Valley, Canadian ambassador to Honduras, Neil Reeder, along with Patrick Downey (from Canadian mining company Aura Minerals Inc.) and investor David Petroff met with regime leader Pepe Lobo to express interest in increasing Canadian investments in the mining and textile sweatshop industries, amounting – the Canadians claimed – to $700 million in investments.

During their visit, no mention was made of the repressive political situation in Honduras or the illegitimacy of the Lobo government.

Armed aggression by paramilitaries and private security guards at the service of landholders with dubious legal rights over lands have increased dramatically across Honduras, fueled by favorable (and quite brutal) political conditions ushered in by the June 28, 2009 military coup.

These ‘favorable’ conditions continue under the presidency of Pepe Lobo.  His regime is comprised almost entirely of the same people who planned and carried out the military coup.

All six military generals who spearheaded the coup were not only exonerated of criminal responsibility in a sham trial in January 2009, but continue to occupy key government positions.


Goldcorp, having completed exploitation of their first tract, the Palo Alto y Tajo la Rosa concession, is apparently anxious to begin exploitation of neighboring concessions, such as the area whose clear cutting spurred the conflict earlier this month.

Goldcorp Inc’s superficial and controversial closure plan was rejected by neighbors as it did not take adequate measures to cleanup the massive use of cyanide nor the dangerous presence of heavy metals, such as arsenic, lead and mercury, among others, which have been demonstrated to exceed internationally established standards in Siria Valley water systems, and in the bodies of the residents. Goldcorp’s Closure Plan was not accepted by the administration of then President Manuel Zelaya, which in April 2009 created an inter-institutional commission to examine the plan and the impact of Goldcorp’s operations in the region.

On March 18, 2010, Goldcorp announced to the press that the Closure Plan had been approved, although authorization of the plan had not actually yet been obtained.  Another hurdle faced by Goldcorp was a moratorium on new mining operations that the militarily ousted government of President Zelaya brought into force.

The moratorium was enacted through a presidential decree issued by the President Zelaya in 2007 which banned the exploitation of new mining concessions using certain techniques.  A 2008 ruling by the Supreme Court supported the Presidential Decree, finding sections of the 1998 General Mining Law, that was approved by the corrupted Honduras Congress during a “state of emergency” following Hurricane Mitch, to be unconstitutional.

This highly unpopular 1998 mining law ushered in a fire sale of mining concessions.  A new mining law is needed by mining companies to define the procedure they must follow to enter into exploitation of the concessions they hold.

On April 27, 2009 President Manuel Zelaya proposed a mining law that banned open pit mining and the use of certain chemicals, such as cyanide, in the refining process.  This law would have made impossible any expansion plans by mining companies, such as Goldcorp.

In February 2010, the post-coup Congress began debating a new mining law.


A myriad of legal actions have been presented against mining interests in Honduras, yet only the constitutional challenge has been ruled upon.  The Siria Valley Environmental Committee alone has advanced at least 25 legal actions.

In 2000, criminal contamination charges resulted in arrest warrants against a Canadian Simon Ridgeway, legal representative for Entre Mares, the local company that owns the San Martin mine, a company now subsidiary to Goldcorp.  The arrest warrant was never carried out, and in a similar way the investigation or prosecution of many other charges has never advanced.

This impunity (the lack of investigation or prosecution of grave crimes) and politically motivated biased and false legal actions carried out to intimidate rights defenders, such as the April 13, 2010 actions against Carlos Amador and his family, are the tools with which the politically and economically influential have been able to sustain illegal land titles or activities.

These illegal actions – within the justice system – are some of the many reasons that a massive movement in Honduras is calling to draft a new constitution.

Past acts of violence that some believe to be associated with the Goldcorp’s San Martin mine also remain covered up by impunity. In 2005, outspoken mine opponent and Committee member Jose Coello was shot while traveling, but not robbed and was not known to be involved in any personal conflicts; his murder has not been clarified.

In 2003, Teodoro Martinez, a Tulupan indigenous community leader who had opposed Entre Mare’s plans to use community water for gold refining, was beheaded.  Many blamed the mine for the still unclarified death.

The Grupo Golan security company, in charge of Entre Mares (at the time owned by Glamis Gold) security at the time of Martinez’s killing, was blamed for an atmosphere of terror in the area.
(The Golan security company was also employed by the Glamis Gold, now Goldcorp Inc. subsidiary Montana Exploradora, in Guatemala. In 2005 a Golan security guard shot and killed the son of a mine opponent in Guatemala.  In 2007 a neighbor of the Goldcorp mine in Guatemala who opposed that mine was also beheaded in the same manner as Martinez, and some neighbors suspected mine involvement.)

Beyond harmful mining operations, another example of impunity across Honduras and the region has been the irregular acquisition of land titles by politically influential, wealthy and powerful strongmen.  Over the history of Honduras, this has generated tremendous levels of poverty, violence and political instability.

Historically, international military interventions in favor of business interests (originally and most notably in the banana sector), particularly interventions from the United States, have long wreaked havoc on Honduras.

Canadian mining interests are now also clearly lending political support to the June 28, 2009 military coup and the subsequent regime, the latest chapter in the long history of repressive interventions to subvert attempts by Hondurans to build a real democracy and rule of law, to build a just and fair economic-development model, and to defend their fundamental human rights against transnational economic interests.

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SPEAKING TOUR, ONTARIO (CANADA), MAY 2010:  “Community resistance to harmful mining in Guatemala & Honduras” – with Carlos Amador (Honduras), Javier de Leon (Guatemala) and Karen Spring (Rights Action).  To host an event, contact Karen: spring.kj@gmail.com, 416-951-0319

DELEGATION TO HONDURAS, JUNE 26-JULY 4:  First anniversary of June 28, 2009 oligarchic-military coup against the elected government (For information, contact Annie: annie@rightsaction.org)

NEW BOOK: “CODE Z59.5: There Is Only One People Here”, by Grahame Russell.  Code Z59.5 is a series of diary excerpts (comments, facts, quotes, etc.) from the 1990s and 2000s, related to the author’s work in Central America, Mexico and North America, in defense of human rights.  TO ORDER: info@rightsaction.org

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