Anti-Mining Activist Daniel Pedro Mateo Kidnapped and Murdered in Guatemala 23rd April

Anti-mining community leader Daniel Pedro Mateo

Anti-mining community leader Daniel Pedro Mateo

In the midst of an ongoing genocide trial against a former president of Guatemala, which is now being suspended by the current president who is also implicated in the war crimes, violence against indigenous environmental activists continues, with another person found dead last week in Huehuetenango.  

On April 16, 2013, the body of Qanjob’al community activist Daniel Pedro Mateo was found murdered in Santa Eulalia, Huehuetenango, Guatemala.   He had been kidnapped for 12 days and his body showed signs of torture. Haz clic aquí para la versión en español.

Daniel, a founder of the community radio station Snuq Jolom Konob, disappeared on Sunday, April 7th  in the village of El Quetzal, Huehuetenango on his way to host a workshop on Indigenous rights in the community of Santa Cruz Barillas. His family was contacted by kidnappers and demanded a ransom of Q150,000 in return for his safety. Despite the efforts of his family and community to gather money to pay the ransom, Daniel’s body was found last night in his village of Santa Eulalia.

Daniel Pedro Mateo was a painter, teacher, a founder of Radio Snuq Jolom Konob, and a leader in the community resistance to mining and hydroelectric activities in Huehuetenango. Childhood experiences that exposed him to the grave inequalities and injustices confronting poor and indigenous communities in Guatemala motivated his lifelong commitment to work for a more just and humane society.  After the armed conflict ended, he joined with other Qanjob’al Maya leaders in Santa Eulalia to start a radio station that would give voice to their community that formed the majority of the local population, but were nonetheless marginalized and silenced. Daniel was no longer involved in the day-to-day work of the station, but maintained close ties with many of the current volunteer staff and leadership.

Many in the community believe this violent act to be a repercussion of Daniel’s environmental activism. Lorenzo Fransisco Mateo, Daniel’s cousin and fellow member of Radio Snuq Jolom Konob stated, “The only crime he was ever guilty of was fighting in defense of the environment.” Daniel was an outspoken organizer against the Hydro Santa Cruz dam in Santa Cruz Barillas, a dam in his town of Santa Eulalia, and a logging company Maderas San Luis that had forced evictions of local Indigenous peoples. He was a member Cultural Survival’s partner organization Asemblea de Pueblos de Huehuetenango, and a member of the political party WINAQ, founded by Nobel prize winner Rigoberta Menchu.

Daniel’s death comes in a series of recent murders in Guatemala of Indigenous activists. Just last year, anti-dam activist and community leader, Andres Fransisco Miguel, was shot and killed by security guards of Hydro Santa Cruz in Barillas, where Daniel was headed to host a workshop. In March, Exaltación Marcos Ucelo, an Indigenous Xinca leader active against Canadian Tahoe Resources’ silver mine in Jalapa was found beaten to death, after being abducted alongside three other Xinca leaders. Six months ago, seven Indigenous protestors were shot and killed by Guatemalan military in Totonicapan.These events reflect the dangerous state that Indigenous leaders and environmental activists find themselves in Guatemala.

Community organizations in Santa Eulalia are calling for contributions to cover funeral expenses and to support Daniel’s family in this difficult time. He leaves behind an ailing wife and eight children.