A year ago today a coalition of nine Canadian non-governmental groups* filed a memo with the RCMP asking that Calgary-based Blackfire Exploration Ltd. and its Mexican subsidiary be investigated under the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act. Blackfire had been in the news since November 27, 2009, when Mariano Abarca Roblero, a prominent anti-mining activist, was shot to death in front of his home in Chicomuselo, in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas. In the year since the complaint was filed there have been further developments related to Blackfire’s open-pit barite mine there.
Documentation filed with the RCMP: On March 10, 2010 the Canadian coalition filed documentation with the RCMP bearing the signature of Mr. Artemio Avila Cervera, a director of Blackfire Canada and General Manager of Social Responsibility for Blackfire Mexico, showing that Blackfire Mexico had made regular payments to Mr. Julio César Velázquez Calderón, then Mayor of Chicomuselo, for unofficial services for the benefit of Blackfire Mexico.
The documents submitted to the RCMP are available here.
From March 20-27, 2010 a Canadian non-governmental delegation visited Chiapas and reviewed the situation involving the Canadian mining firm with local organizations and government officials, as well as paying a visit to the Canadian Embassy in Mexico City. The delegation’s report is available at www.commonfrontiers.ca.
During the summer of 2010 an Access to Information request was filed with the Canadian Government for the report filed by the Canadian Embassy’s Political Counselor in January 2010 following an investigative trip to Chiapas. More than six months later the federal government has yet to respond to this request.
In September, 2010, lawyer José Luis Abarca, the son of murdered activist Mariano Abarca, visited Ottawa and Toronto. On September 27 José Luis spoke on Parliament Hill at the Walking the Talk: Human Rights Abroad conference and received a standing ovation. On September 30 he spoke to a Toronto luncheon of some 25 labour lawyers hosted by the law firm Koskie Minsky. From this gathering there was a commitment to look for a Canadian lawyer to join a group of Mexican, Brazilian, and US lawyers being formed to take a case to the Mexican Supreme Court in regard to the assassination of Mariano Abarca. His speaking engagements helped to promote the cause of corporate accountability legislation then before Parliament (Bills C-300 and C-354); to publicize the case of his father’s murder; and to back the charges of corruption against Blackfire Explorations Ltd. filed with the RCMP.
On November 27, 2010, two Postmedia newspapers refused to run an ‘In Memoriam’ classified ad on behalf of the family of murdered anti-mining activist Mariano Abarca that was to mark the first anniversary of his death. Although the Globe and Mail published it, the Calgary Herald called the In Memoriam “unsuitable” while the Edmonton Journal labeled it “propaganda”. Subsequently the Herald said they would run it as long as there was no mention of the Canadian mining firm Blackfire, four of whose former employees were in jail at the time awaiting court appearances related to Mariano Abarca’s murder. More information on this story is available here.
Following his return from Canada, José Luis received threats that caused him to have to go into hiding, and he was not able to spend 2010 Christmas or New Year’s with his family in Chicomuselo.
* MiningWatch Canada; Common Frontiers; Council of Canadians; United Steelworkers; le Comité pour les droits humains en Amérique latine; Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network; Sierra Club Canada; L’Entraide missionnaire; and the Social Justice Committee.