OTTAWA and SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, May 6, 2013 /CNW/ - Documents
released from the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and
International Trade (DFAIT) in response to a request under the access
to information act reveal that Canadian authorities put public
resources at the service of Calgary-based Blackfire Exploration despite
connections with suspects in the murder of a local activist, mine
suspension, and widely reported allegations of corruption.
"Our analysis of these documents found that mere days after a damning
report about the company was circulated to the highest echelons of the
Canadian government, Canadian authorities sought advice for the company
about how to sue the state of Chiapas under the North American Free
Trade Agreement (NAFTA) for having closed the mine," observes Rick
Arnold who participated in a 2010 fact-finding delegation to Chiapas.
"It's as if people's lives don't matter to the Canadian Government,
only narrow commercial interests."
On November 27, 2009, Mariano Abarca was murdered in front of the
restaurant that he owned and operated in the town of Chicomuselo in
Mexico's most southerly state of Chiapas. Abarca was a father of four
and an active citizen who had fought for lower electricity rates. At
the time he was murdered, he was leading a fight against Blackfire's
barite mine given concerns over social and environmental impacts.
One week after his murder, Chiapas environmental authorities suspended
the mine. Days later, the Globe and Mail reported that Blackfire had
been making payments into the personal bank account of the mayor of
Chicomuselo. An RCMP investigation into the allegations is ongoing.
"From these records, we learn that even before my father's death, the
Canadian Embassy was closely monitoring the conflict in Chicomuselo,"
remarks José Luis Abarca, son of Mariano. "But they completely
disregarded the concerns that my father and others were raising, giving
credence only to the company's version of the story. One has to wonder
how things might have been different today, if they had taken us
DFAIT records show that the Embassy received 1,400 letters expressing
dire concern for Abarca's life following his arrest in August 2009. One
month earlier, Abarca had complained to an Embassy official that
Blackfire workers were armed and intimidating mine opponents.
Nonetheless, when Embassy officials visited Chiapas weeks before
Abarca's death, they appear only to have inquired into concerns about
the security of Blackfire's investment.
"The picture we've been able to piece together is deeply troubling,
given Canada's role as a top investor in Mexico's mining industry and
conflict-ridden projects from Chiapas to Chihuahua," says Jen Moore,
Latin America Program Coordinator for MiningWatch Canada. "The
Blackfire story highlights the need to reign in Canadian government
promotion for our overseas mining sector given how this may be enabling
much of the destructive practices that we're seeing."
You can find the full report on the MiningWatch website at: miningwatch.ca.
SOURCE: United Steelworkers (USW)
For further information:
Rick Arnold, firstname.lastname@example.org, (905) 448-2343
Jen Moore, Latin America Program Coordinator, MiningWatch Canada, email@example.com, (613) 569-3439
Raul Burbano, Program Director, Common Frontiers, firstname.lastname@example.org, (416) 522-8615
Mark Rowlinson, United Steelworkers, email@example.com, (416) 544-5952