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UPDATE: Activist Bernardo Vásquez Sánchez killed in San José del Progreso, Mexico

A statement has just been released about the killing of Bernardo Vásquez Sánchez, a Mexican civil society activist who has spoken out against the Canadian-owned Fortuna Silver Mine in San José del Progreso, which is located about 550 kilometres south-east of Mexico City. The statement reads:

We are participants of the World Alternative Water Forum, a space for organizing the struggles for water as a commons of humanity and nature. We have learned of the terrible news that in Mexico, Bernardo Vásquez Sánchez, community activist of the Coordination of People’s United for the Ocotlan Valley (CPUVO) and the National Assembly of the Environmentally Affected people, has been murdered. In these events, Arturo Vásquez Sánchez (Bernardo’s brother) and Rosalinda Dionicio Sánchez also activists for the collective right to water in the community of San José del Progreso, Oaxaca, were wounded in hands of gunmen giving service to the Canadian Fortuna Silver Mines (locally this company is called Minera Cuzcatlán).

Bernardo Vásquez’s assassination is part of a series of aggressions by the municipal authorities of San José del Progreso, which act in service of the transnational mining corporation. The last one of these was the murder of another community activist in San José, Bernardo Méndez Vásquez last January 19.

We know that in Mexico, the transnational mining industry – particularly the Canadian – is characterized for operating in impunity, with disregard to law, promoting authorities corruption (through careful conflict engineering), intimidating communities and destroying the life conditions of communities where it works. We also know that the authorities of the state of Oaxaca and the federal government have for years unattended the demands of the communities of Ocotlan Valley in Oaxaca to close definitively the operations of this criminal mine.

We demand that the Mexican government undertakes a complete investigation of the case to find the murderers of Bernardo Vásquez Sánchez and cancel once and for all the operation of Fortuna Silver Mines as the community of San José del Progreso, Oaxaca demands.

In solidarity with the families of Bernardo, Arturo and Rosalinda, we will be following what happens.

Council of Canadians statement
The Council of Canadians has just learned that right to water activist Bernardo Vásquez Sánchez has been murdered in San Jose del Progreso, Mexico. Vásquez Sánchez had been an outspoken opponent of Vancouver-based Fortuna Silver’s gold and silver mine just south of Oaxaca City.

The mine has raised serious concerns about water protection. Earlier this year, local residents refused to allow a new water system to be installed on their land because they felt it would be used to supply the mine with water.

We demand that the Canadian government call on Mexican authorities to ensure that there is a thorough and transparent investigation of the murder of Vásquez Sánchez. Furthermore, we join with the community of San Jose del Progreso in their demand that Fortuna Silver’s mine, which has been in operation since September 2011, be closed.

We express our deepest sympathies to the Vásquez Sánchez family for their loss. We mourn with them.

To read more about the situation in San José del Progreso, please see this late-January 2012 article from the Vancouver Observer, http://www.vancouverobserver.com/politics/news/2012/01/28/vancouver-mining-company-opponent-killed-mexico-pipeline-clash.