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Stand in Solidarity with ‘La Puya’: Guatemalan Environmental Justice Movement Celebrates Two Years of Resistance

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Those who defend their rights are brave. Those who are willing to put their life on the line to defend the rights of others are heroes.

On March 2, 2012 courageous men and women from the communities of San Jose del Golfo and San Pedro Ayumpuc joined together in opposition to the construction of a gold mine near to their homes. Their concern is that the US-owned mining operation will negatively impact the air and water, damage crops and affect the health of their families and neighbors.

Now, as the movement approaches its second anniversary, we want to honor its members for their commitment to non-violent resistance, as well as for their success in defending human rights and the environment.

Every day for the past two years, the communities have maintained a peaceful human roadblock in order to prevent heavy machinery and equipment from entering the mine. Despite torrential rains, the cruel heat of the noontime sun, or the bitter cold of a December night, community members take turns keeping watch 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  All of the blockade participants, from young children to the elderly, form part of the resistance movement called 'La Puya.'

In their struggle to defend the environment and human rights, members have embraced one guiding principle above all others: a wholehearted commitment to nonviolence. This commitment has been repeatedly put to the test.

When pro-mining agitators -- controlled by two former military officials -- hurled insults at them, the members of the resistance responded by passionately intoning the national anthem. When hundreds of riot police arrived to violently evict them, the women of the resistance lay down on the ground and sang religious hymns. When gunmen tried to murder community leader Yolanda Oquelí, she and the others strengthened their commitment to the struggle.

To each insult, threat, and physical attack, La Puya has responded with music, prayer, and mutual solidarity. As one community leader affirmed: “if any blood is spilled here, it will be ours. That is how deeply we believe in nonviolence.”

On March 2, 2014 the community resistance of La Puya will celebrate its second anniversary. While their cause is just, and their victories have been many, their struggle is still ongoing. Please join us in congratulating the men, women and children of La Puya for their inspirational dedication to the nonviolent defense of human rights!

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