Three years ago today, anti-mining activist Mariano Abarca Roblero was killed in Chiapas in southern Mexico. He had blamed Calgary-based Blackfire Exploration Ltd. for contaminated local rivers, the loss of local crops, the death of livestock and had called for the company to leave his community.
Just days after his death, Blue Planet Project organizer Claudia Campero Arena participated in a protest outside the Canadian embassy in Mexico City. She said the protest was “both a memorial to the activist and an opportunity to take up his cause”. Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow said at that time, “A man deeply involved in the protest against the Canadian mining company Blackfire has been murdered outside his home. This tragic outcome can be traced directly to the Harper government’s refusal to end the impunity currently enjoyed by Canadian mining companies.” In early-December 2009, Campero was also interviewed on CBC Radio’s The Current about the death of Abarca Roblero.
In March 2010, the Toronto Star reported, “Canadian mining watchdog groups want the RCMP to investigate Blackfire Exploration Ltd., the Calgary mining company with operations in Mexico. …The United Steelworkers and three Canadian watchdog groups (Common Frontiers-Canada, the Council of Canadians and Mining Watch Canada) planned to file an official complaint with the RCMP under the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act over allegations that Blackfire was paying the mayor of a small Mexican town in return for the mayor’s favour.”
Two other points come to mind. In December 2009, Peter Kent, then the Minister of State of Foreign Affairs, was in Mexico with then-Governor General Michaëlle Jean on a state visit. Family and supporters asked for a meeting with the Governor-General and the Minister, but Kent said that it was impossible to schedule. There has been no subsequent effort by the Harper government to establish a dialogue on this issue. And secondly, according to a report in the Mexican press in February 2010, Blackfire threatened to sue the Mexico for $800 million in compensation under NAFTA’s Chapter 11 for the closure of its barite mine after the murder of Abarca Roblero.
The third anniversary of Abarca Roblero’s death will be marked in Montreal today. More on that (in Spanish) at http://cdhal.org/evenements/2012-11-27/activites-3e-commemoration-assassinat-mariano-abarca-27-novembre-2012 and (in French and Spanish) at http://journal.alternatives.ca/spip.php?article7028.