An American company in Guatemala has been under attack for several months by a group that purports to be a grassroots environmental advocacy organization but is little more than the puppet of wealthy European ideologues. These activists have seized on the country’s largest silver mine, seeking to shut it down over phantom community concerns and non-existent environmental damage.
While this project ought to be a textbook case of how to revitalize Guatemala, it’s become a lesson in how opponents of capitalism have used false concerns over the environment to stymie growth in an impoverished region, while damaging American interests. In the face of these efforts, the U.S. and Guatemalan governments need to take action to protect and promote the mine, instead of ceding it to foreign radicals.
Since 2014, American company Tahoe Resources, based in Reno, Nevada, has operated the Escobal mine, which is one of the largest silver mines in the world. More than 7,500 Guatemalans are supported by the mine, and the company has poured more than $1 billion into the local economy in the form of wages, taxes, and direct investments including vocational training and programs to alleviate malnutrition.
What then could explain the energy behind opposing a project that helps boost Guatemalan growth, provides economic opportunity to families, and pours millions into social programs?
The answer is foreign money.
A recent study conducted by Boston University Professor J. Michael Waller found that more than $17 million has been pumped to anti-mining NGOs in Guatemala since 2007 by European Union grants.
These radical environmentalists have brought a lawsuit against the mine that alleges the rights of indigenous peoples have been violated, even though, as reported recently in the Daily Caller, a recent census doesn’t indicate an indigenous population living near Escobal. These activists have also constructed a roadblock that has prevented access to the mine, forcing operations to a standstill.
Waller’s evidence makes it clear that these efforts to hijack the progress created by Escobal are being bankrolled by European activists and are not the result of “grassroots” environmental concerns. In fact, according to Waller, this decade-long stream of European environmental extremists’ money should leave little doubt that the protests and lawsuits are little more than an ideological anti-mining, anti-capitalist pursuit.
Even as Courts rule in favor of the mine’s operation, the protestors do not lose their vehemence. They’ve terrorized the local community with threats and acts of intimidation and have turned to violence, attacking those taking supplies to the mine. The most recent stunt was to file a fraudulent criminal complaint against the company.
As Guatemala struggles with extreme poverty and a lack of financial opportunity, this mine is precisely the type of economic initiative that can help lift the local community out of its economic hardship with good paying jobs and steady paychecks. Nevada Rep. Mark Amodei said exactly this in a recent letter to Commerce Secretary Ross, urging him to support the mine.
Local reports indicate that many Guatemalans appreciate the opportunities afforded by the mine, voicing support for the project in various consultations and public hearings to date — affirmations that fly in the face of activists who claim they are acting on behalf of the people.
As Guatemala slides into political chaos — President Jimmy Morales is quickly losing control of his country and is mired with corruption accusations — it is more imperative than ever for stable economic projects to provide Guatemalans with opportunities at home, rather than the alternative of traveling to the United States or being lured by criminal drug syndicates.
The Escobal mine is precisely the type of project that Guatemala and the United States should jointly promote and protect. It serves the interests of both nations and will raise families out of poverty. Phony European “environmentalists” need to get out of the way — they are preventing Guatemalans from thriving and damaging U.S. investments.
Drew Johnson is a Senior Scholar at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance and National Director of Protect Internet Freedom. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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