FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 17, 2017
Washington, DC – Today, a letter was delivered to the Public Prosecutor’s office in Guatemala on behalf of nearly 3,000 people requesting an immediate and thorough investigation into the murder of 16-year-old Topacio Reynoso Pacheco and the attacks against her father, Alex Reynoso.
Topacio, an environmental activist and youth leader from southeastern Guatemala, was shot by unknown gunmen on April 13th, 2013. She died from her injuries the next day. Alex was seriously injured in the same attack and went on to survive a second assassination attempt in October 2015. Both father and daughter were environmental defenders in their community, actively organizing against the biggest environmental threat in the region – Tahoe Resources’ Escobal silver mine, located in neighboring San Rafael las Flores.
“Since Tahoe Resources came to the area, dozens of people have been criminalized and have faced physical and psychological violence,” says Becky Kaump, Guatemala Program Coordinator for the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA). “The fact that Alex was attacked again in 2015 emphasizes the need for a prompt and thorough investigation. Allowing the attacks against Topacio and Alex to go uninvestigated sends a strong message to perpetrators that they can act with impunity and encourages the repetition and escalation of attacks.”
Twenty-nine international organizations have also supported the request for investigation, calling for justice for the murder of Topacio and expressing concern for the continued safety of Alex and the rest of the family. In the letter, the organizations convey further alarm that local investigative bodies may have actively stalled the investigation, leaking important information to suspects.
The attacks against Alex and Topacio represent a wider pattern of violence perpetrated against environmental defenders in the region. In his 2015 report, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders Michael Frost points to the increasingly deadly attacks against environmental defenders in Central America – many of whom are speaking out against the imposition of mega-development projects in their territories without consent.
“As communities around the region come together to defend their land, their water, and their livelihoods from the impacts of mining, Topacio and Alex joined this struggle as father and daughter,“ says Carla Garcia Zendejas, Senior Attorney at the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL). “Now, the eyes of thousands of people from more than 50 countries around the world are on Tahoe Resources and the Guatemalan government and are demanding a full investigation into and accountability for the crimes committed against them.”
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