Goldcorp Mining Is Linked To Capture Of Gregoria Crisanta Perez: An Indigenous Mayan Woman

By Grahame Russell

Why is Goldcorp Inc. (Canadian gold mining company) afraid of Gregoria Crisanta Perez, a poor, Mayan-Mam woman? Why did Guatemalan legal authorities issue two “capture orders” and try and put her in jail?

(Gregoria Crisanta, 2009, at a community consultation, El Colmito, SMI) Watch a 4-minute interview with Gregoria Crisanta, explaining what some of their struggle is about .


Goldcorp’s “Marlin” mine is in the mountainous municipality of San Miguel Ixtahuacan, department of San Marcos, in western Guatemala (bordering the state of Chiapas in southern Mexico). The majority of inhabitants of this region are Mayan Mam campesinos.

It is a huge open-pit, cyanide-bonding gold mine. Since 2005, there has been growing opposition due to a wide range of environmental and health harms and indigenous and human rights violations linked to the mine’s operations.

On Monday, February 1, 2010, Gregoria Crisanta was taken by police and presented before the justice of the peace in San Miguel Ixtahuacan. To then “formalize” their detention of her, based on previous “capture orders” issued after activities in protest against harms and violations linked the mine, the police needed to present her before legal authorities in the city of San Marcos.

As the police were taking her to San Marcos, the road was blocked and Gregoria Crisanta was liberated by local populations. There was no violence.


Two days before her detention, I was in San Miguel Ixtahuacan meeting with ADISMI (Association for Integral Development of San Miguel Ixtahuacan). ADISMI is a leading community based organization comprised of mining affected community members, including Gregoria Crisanta. She could not make the meeting, though she lived only a couple of miles from where we were.
gregoriacrisantaperez.jpgGregoria Crisanta Perez: Indigenous Mayan Woman captured and then released by Goldcorp employees
Speaking with Gregoria by phone, she said it was not a good idea, that day, for a gringo to visit her. In Agel, her mountainside village, if certain neighbors saw a gringo visit her, they might get even madder at her for her opposition to the mine.

Beyond threats and repression against community leaders who oppose Goldcorp’s mine, beyond the environmental and health harms and human rights violations linked to the mine’s operation, the mine, since 2005, is causing deep and sometimes violent divisions between impoverished community and family members.

Moreover, Goldcorp began its mining exploration process here in the 1990s, when local populations were still suffering the legacy and trauma of Guatemala’s 36 years of state terrorism and genocide.

The immediate cause of Gregoria Crisanta’s detention was a family dispute concerning the sale of small plots of land – a most contentious issue as Goldcorp has been, since the late 1990s, acquiring plots of land by hook or crook, or simply taking advantage of the poverty of the local population.

A family member called the justice of the peace to help resolve the dispute. Once detained, the authorities then tried to carry out the pending “capture orders”. Fortunately, they were not successful. She is now living with trusted community members, somewhere in San Miguel Ixtahuacan.


The laying of the criminal “charges” and the attempt to carry out the “capture order” take place in the context of on-going efforts to isolate, put fear into and repress opposition to Goldcorp’s mine.

These “charges” and “capture orders” are a manipulation of the corrupted and dysfunctional Guatemala legal system on behalf of Goldcorp, its directors, shareholders and investors.

Goldcorp will deny they have anything to do with disputes over land, or of the laying of criminal charges against Gregoria Crisanta; just as Goldcorp denies that environmental and health harms and human rights violations are linked to its mining operation: deforestation, water depletion, water and air contamination, cracked houses, hair loss, skin rashes and diseases, blood poisoning, family and community divisions and violence, repression against leaders, etc.

Goldcorp hides behind the façade of the “rule of law” in Guatemala. Yet everyone, from the most grassroots human rights organization in Guatemala, through to the United Nations, knows that the militarily powerful in Guatemala and wealthy sectors, including international companies and investors, can commit human rights violations and other abuses and get away with it.

The rule of law and legal system does not work when Mayan Mam villagers file legal complaints about environmental harms, health harms, human rights violations, or the use of coercion to force them to sell their lands. Yet, the same rule of law and legal system will “work” if Goldcorp lays a complaint against a villager, who happens to be in opposition to some aspect of the mining operation. It will work if Goldcorp pressures the authorities to file criminal charges against protesters … even when Goldcorp security guards use violence against the protesters.

For the wealthy and powerful, impunity is the norm.


Over the past 5 years, Rights Action (as well as many Guatemalan and North American human rights and social justice groups, like, USA,, Canada, Indigenous Peoples Issues & Resources, USA, has investigated and reported on the multiple harms and violations caused by Goldcorp’s “Marlin” mine. On request, Rights Action can provide links to background articles, reports, documentary films, etc.

Over the past 5 years, community groups across San Miguel Ixtahuacan – despite their poverty, isolation, vulnerability and the threats and repression – have increasingly expressed their opposition to this harmful mining project. Gregoria Crisanta is a well known, respected and courageous community leader.

It is proof of the people’s dignity and basic sense of right and wrong, that community members blocked the police vehicle, in which Gregoria Crisanta was being transported, and liberated her. She is not a criminal. She is a courageous mother, a proud Mayan Mam woman, and an amazing defender of community development, the environment and human rights.

Beyond Goldcorp’s harmful (and extremely profitable) presence in the region, why do the Canadian Pension Plan (and many North American pension funds and private investors – see list, below) continue to invest in and profit from Goldcorp, ignoring the growing list of documented environmental and health harms and human rights violations?

Why do the government of Canada and the dominant Conservative and Liberal parties support the continuing expansion of the Canadian mining industry throughout Guatemala, and across the Americas, likewise ignoring the documented environmental and health harms and human rights violations, while blocking efforts to pass criminal or civil law reforms that would allow affected people and parties to seek legal remedy and accountability in Canada for environmental and health harms and human rights violations caused by our companies?

Gregoria Crisanta is not only a victim of the lack of rule of law and impunity in Guatemala, but in Canada as well.

For more on Goldcorp and the local Mayan struggle see:

Audio Interview With Two Indigenous Mayan Mam Women Concerning Goldcorp Human Rights Violations In Guatemala

Confronting Goldcorp: An Interview With A Guatemalan Activist

Damaged Houses Near the Marlin Mine: COPAE Report

"We Are All Crisantas": Popular Rejection Of The Goldcorp 5 Trial In Guatemala

Mayan Mam Campesinos File Complaint Against Goldcorp To Defend Water

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