Laura Leonor Vásquez Pineda was assassinated on the night of January 16 by men who broke into her house and shot her in the head. An activist passively resisting a gold and silver mine in Mataquescuintla, Jalapa, Vásquez Pineda had been one of the leaders of the Defense of Life Committees in San Rafael since 2014.
According to the Mesoamerican Women Human Rights Defenders Initiative, the murder took place after she had been through a process of criminalization, stigmatization, and defamation. She had served seven months in jail on charges that later were dropped for lack of evidence.
Her assassination is the latest in a series of attacks against human rights defenders who have denounced the negative effects of the mine. These attacks include the assassination of Xinca indigenous leader Exaltación Marcos Ucelo in 2013, the murder of Telésforo Odilio Pivaral González in 2015, various attacks on the lives of other defenders, the illegal arrest and detention of protesters, and at least fourteen cases of improper use of criminal law against human rights defenders.
Vásquez Pineda’s murder occurs in the context of an alarming intensification of the violence against human rights defenders, which last year included at least fourteen assassinations and seven attempted assassinations of defenders.
The mine, known as El Escobal, is owned by the San Rafael Mining Company, which is owned by the Canadian company Tahoe Resources. The mining concession was granted illegally, without previous consultation and without free and informed consent.
Source: Guatemala Human Rights Commission