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  Number 399 | Octubre 2014
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Nicaragua

“We’re going to defend our paradise against mining”

This first-hand testimony by two Rancho Grande residents on the municipality’s resistance to B2Gold mining company ‘s Pavón project is complemented by contributions from Juan Carlos Arce, the Nicaraguan Human Rights Center representative in Matagalpa, and extracts from reports by both it and the Humboldt Center in June and August of this year, respectively.

Envío team

Petronilo López (PL): My name is Petronilo López; I’m a Christian and a member of the Assemblies of God. In my municipality, Rancho Grande, we all consider ourselves Christians. Because of the love for life that God commands, and to defend life, all of us in our municipality have become Guardians of Yaoska. With support from the people at CENIDH [the Nicaraguan Human Rights Center] and ADDAC [the Association for Communal Agriculture Diversification and Development] we’re clearly and firmly saying NO to mining and will keep on doing so until the company leaves our municipality. Rancho Grande is a municipality where when we plant a crop we harvest it. It’s not the same as other municipalities where that isn’t true, where crops sometimes fail. Rancho Grande is like this because of its good climate. There are many rivers in the area, one being the Yaoska, which we’ve taken our name from because defending life means defending our rivers’ water against mining pollution. There are also many other rivers; we have plentiful water and we produce a lot of fruit. Rancho Grande is an impressive region, and I’m not just saying that because I was born there. We live in a highly productive municipality. Cerro Pavón, a hill in the central Yaoska area, is where the mining monster has installed itself to extract gold, but we don’t eat gold in Rancho Grande, so we don’t want a mine.


Humboldt Center (HC): With an estimated population of 49,730, 90% of whom live in rural areas, Rancho Grande has always depended economically and socially on agriculture, chiefly coffee and cacao, as well as corn, beans, rice, vegetables and honey. The area’s climate and agricultural conditions, combined with the farmers’ good practices, facilitated a project promoting cacao production that began in the mid-1990s with support from German development aid, German chocolate manufacturer Ritter Sport and ADDAC-Matagalpa. Despite the municipality’s productive potential, which the government itself has recognized and is demonstrated by the lush mountain vegetation and cool fresh climate, coffee and cacao production have been under threat from mining operations for the last ten years.

PL: Let me explain something to you. In 2002 and 2003, some total strangers came to our municipality to conduct a study that we didn’t understand. They were wearing backpacks and collected stones, for example one we call pedernal (flint) and another we call red stone. They went around all the communities in the municipality, one by one, collecting stones and making observations but they didn’t tell us anything about their study. They gave us no information and we knew nothing, but as projects come to the municipality, some of us thought this might be for a good project. Some time passed, and then in 2004, a mining company asked to develop a gold mine here in Rancho Grande. We knew nothing about mining; for us it was a foreign sort of work, an alien system we weren’t familiar with.

HC: In 2003 during the government of Enrique Bolaños, the Ministry of Promotion, Industry and Trade (MIFIC), the regulatory body before the Energy and Mining Ministry (MEM) was created in 2007, granted a gold exploration and mining permit to MINESA, a Canadian company. The permit included Rancho Grande and the neighboring municipalities of Waslala and Bocay. In 2007, MINESA sold its rights to another Canadian company, Minerales Nueva Esperanza S.A., a subsidiary of the transnational corporation B2Gold based in Vancouver, Canada.

PL: Around that time Rancho Grande’s peasants began looking into the mining system in detail. One day we brought together 124 people in a community in the north of the municipality and told the deputy mayor we opposed the mine.

HC: The residents of Rancho Grande’s 36 communities began to learn more about the social and environmental impacts of mining, with this new awareness they publicly and categorically opposed any mining activity in the municipality. Since 2010, their opposition has concentrated on the Pavón gold mining project that B2Gold wants to implement in various parts of the region.

PL: We began to think about what we could do. In 2013, I met the director of mining in Bonanza, Efraín Leal. He told me everything had already been agreed to, that this was a government concession and the mining company would implement many projects to benefit the poor. During another meeting in Rancho Grande, attended by around 60 community leaders as well as evangelical ministers, a lot of people began to say: “This is definitely what the government wants so all we can do now is make sure we get the benefits these people are going to give us.” I kept thinking about this and began to meet with other brothers and sisters and together we began to say “No, that’s not how things are,” so we organized a five-member commission to work towards a different viewpoint. We began to meet other organizations in the municipality, including the Catholic Church and the evangelical churches, and we turned to ADDAC, which has helped us a lot, and to the Ríos de Agua Viva Cooperative. All the organizations began to come together with one idea, to say NO to mining, we neither want nor need it. That’s how all of Rancho Grande feels.

CENIDH: We learned through media reports on March 21, 2013, that, according to National Police estimates, around 5,000 people had held a march in Rancho Grande to protest the plans of Canadian transnational mining corporation B2Gold to conduct open pit gold mining in the community of Yaoska, 20 kilometers from the municipal capital. Yaoska includes the region’s main water sources and has an untouched ecosystem. This was the third march since 2010, when B2Gold acquired the gold mining permit. The march was supported by the peasant population, civil society organizations, the Catholic Church and evangelical churches.

PL: The first explorations began in 2012. They began to appropriate some properties, sending someone to buy them on their behalf. They would say “You have to sell, you have to sell” and the peasants were obliged to sell. They didn’t buy properties cleanly; they had strategies and ways of doing things to make sure they got the properties at Cerro Pavón where they set up their camp. The hill is between two rivers, the Río Yaoska on the north, which supplies many communities, and Río Pavón on the other side. Both rivers have already been polluted by the explorations.

Elorgio Dávila (ED): My name is Elorgio Dávila. I’m a poor peasant and I’m illiterate but I’m not stupid. I keep all my information in my head; the files are in my memory. Rancho Grande is a paradise that some people want to destroy. They started with what they call exploration to see if there was any gold. They use a long drill for exploration that digs deep into the earth. They also have a machine that three men have to carry up and down all over the place because our area is full of ravines. They only pay the people who carry it a miserly 200 pesos. They put cyanide on the drill bit and bore deep into the earth, some 700 meters, down to where they think there may be gold. The drill has to be lubricated or it won’t work. They use the cyanide so it will show where the gold is. When they remove the drill bit they separate the soil with more cyanide and pack up what they call “cheeses,” boxes with soil containing gold that they send for processing to the El Limón mine. But the cyanide also seeps into the soil and leaches into the water. Four years ago I used to catch clean fish in the Río Yaoska but now there are no fish at all there because it’s contaminated with the cyanide from exploration. There are fish a couple of miles in from the Waslala highway, but they’re contaminated; there are little balls in their bodies and they’re not fit for consumption. A study showed that the river is polluted from Yaoska to a place called Mulukukú in Río Blanco. So you can see why we’re fighting, why we’re in this heart-felt struggle.

HC: A study of the lower part of the Río Yaoska sub-basin conducted by the Matagalpa Strategic Anti-Mining Group and the Humboldt Center found evidence of pollution in springs on the lower slopes of hills where exploration drilling had been done. We presented copies of the study to the natural resources and the environment minister, the deputy minister of energy and mining and the minister of education.

ED: I’ve been to Siuna and seen the El Gallo reservoir, which has now been closed. If someone had swum in that reservoir, they’d have come out looking like a barbudo, a completely smooth catfish. If they drank a glass of water from there they’d be digging their own grave. Siuna’s reservoir water was polluted with cyanide from mining. A grain of cyanide the size of a grain of rice is enough to kill a person if they consume it directly. I don’t think they care that our water is contaminated because why would a foreigner care about our lives? If I urinated in the street in Canada they’d lock me up, right? Only for taking a leak, and all the more if I did the rest… So why don’t they respect our water supplies, why don’t they treat us like human beings worthy of respect?

CENIDH: Despite the social exclusion and government neglect Rancho Grande has always suffered, the majority of the population is opposed to mining and rejects B2Gold’s developmental discourse. It isn’t the position only of members of social organizations but also of the general population, who are concerned that mining threatens their natural resources, especially their water supplies.

To verify this, we interviewed key actors in the municipality in April 2013. Pablo Espinoza, the Rancho Grande parish priest, told us how they participate with other organizations in anti-mining activities and conduct awareness-raising with community leaders. Isidro Mora, vicar of the diocese of Matagalpa, said the Catholic Church opposes these types of projects and doesn’t believe the “responsible” mining discourse. Alfredo Zamora, former mayor of Rancho Grande and now a PLI [Independent Liberal Party] Municipal Councilman, commented that all 10 PLI Council members plus the two from the PLC [Constitutionalist Liberal Party] oppose the project while their FSLN colleagues abstain from comment. ADDAC technician Margarita Serrato told us: “All the local social actors support the fight against mining and the population is motivated and well organized.

We know of very poor people who have refused to sell their land to the mining company because they feel they would be harming the community. Assemblies of God pastor José Antonio Rivera talked about the disaster mining would cause: “Looking at what has happened with these projects in other places and countries we’re worried about what our children will have to suffer.” Carlos Blandón Rugama, zonal coordinator of the Yaoska Catholic Church, told us that “the project engineer came to talk to me and told me that mining has been modernized and things are done differently now, but I’ve seen the mining project in La Libertad, Chontales. The Río Mico is contaminated and the people there told us not to let them exploit our land.”


ED: I come from deep in the mountains, although there isn’t much mountain land left now, so that’s why we defend it … it’s our responsibility to defend the land against exploitation. If we let this company operate here we’d end up living in a desert. The fertile topsoil would be blown away who knows where and they’d leave us with land that produces nothing, where not even one tree could grow.

PL: What’s the fundamental purpose, the underlying objective of our opposition to mining? First point: land. “We live on and from the land and if we destroy it we won’t be able to bring it back no matter how many millions of dollars we may have. Second point: water. If the water’s poisoned we’ll all be dead—humans, animals and plants, all of us. Nobody can live without water and water can’t be bought with the gold they want to mine here. Third point: Our environment. We want to look after it. For years now, these are the three basic things we’ve been working for. Today unity is our motto and our position. We don’t care if someone’s a Sandinista or from another party, if they’re Catholics or evangelicals; our only point of view is to reject mining and we ask God, the people and organizations to support us.

ED: Nobody in Rancho Grande is in favor of discrimination and death, or environmental and water pollution. The day we in Rancho Grande lose, the effects will be felt even in the capital because we produce food and feed the capital with our harvests.

Juan Carlos Arce (JCA): As a CENIDH representative, I’ve had the chance to talk with B2Gold’s chief engineer a couple of times. The first time I was received really well and they offered me a tour of El Limón mine in León. They offer that tour to people from Rancho Grande as well and present the mine as a model business. After that I went to visit the mining camp in Rancho Grande, half an hour’s drive from the municipal capital. We couldn’t get in to see the holes made during the exploration process Elorgio talked about. Later, community members who work there told us there are about twenty deep holes, all quite wide though they didn’t say exactly how wide, from which earth is being extracted and then studied to find out how much gold it contains. One person who works there said about fifty people from various nearby communities work in the exploration and that he earns 8-12,000 córdobas [roughly US$320-480] a month, which is a good salary in a rural area. The same person argued in defense of “responsible” or “green” mining. Like many others, this person isn’t only linked to the company because he earns his living working for it; he’s also been trained and convinced by it. A Rancho Grande police captain told me the mining corporation is protected by armed special military and police forces. We didn’t manage to see the soldiers when we visited the camp but community members tell us they’re in the hills, where the drilling is being done.

HC: The people of Rancho Grande have held municipal and departmental marches, participated in workshops and delivered letters and petitions against mining to the National Assembly and even the presidency, declaring that they neither want nor need a mine. Despite four years of such action, the local authorities (Municipal Council and Ministry offices) have made no pronouncements either in favor or against the mining project. The only clear thing is that the municipality won’t provide any support for the actions the local population wants to take to express its opposition to mining.

Given this lack of response, the directors and parents of a number of schools decided to declare a school strike on July 13, 2013. They stopped sending their children to school to pressure the municipal authorities and central government into making a statement against B2Gold and expelling the mining company from the municipality. They’ve been criticized for violating the right of children and adolescents to education but the community has invoked superior rights: the right to life, to water and to live in a healthy environment.


PL: We’ve now held nine marches but Radio YA and Radio Sandino [FSLN stations] are both silent. The media, TV channels 4, 8, 10 and 13 [FSLN or government channels] are all absent. On January 31 of this year we came to Managua to present a petition with seven thousand signatures to see how the government would respond. Nothing. Nothing at all. So that’s why we decided to call a school strike. At present between 40 and 45 schools are closed in Rancho Grande. That set the municipal authorities against us. They’re against the people, we who keep on saying we’re opposed to mining. Then, when they actually listen to what we’re saying, they stop providing us with services. We’ve reached a situation where we’ve sent word to all the communities. What word? Civil disobedience. What do we understand by civil disobedience? If the mayor calls a meeting, nobody goes. If the Sandinistas or anybody else convenes us, nobody goes. Only the Guardians of Yaoska commission can approve or reject participation in any meeting where participation is registered with signatures and ID card numbers. Nobody’s going to register their participation or provide their signatures. We know the value of signatures and won’t provide them. We no longer have any trust in the municipal authorities because they don’t serve the people.

JCA: That lack of trust Petronilo and Elorgio have expressed is generalized. The whole population is highly suspicious, not only of the mining company but also of the authorities supporting it. In my visits to Rancho Grande, we’ve been able to identify several things the company is doing to win over the people. They have a nursery with plants of different types that will be planted in the community. They have a revolving fund to make loans. They also loan seeds. Although we don’t know what sort of seeds they are, we assume they’re genetically modified. They’ve also invested in what they call the “remodeling” of a small school, although in reality all they did was paint it and add the B2Gold logo. In concrete terms they’ve contributed little or nothing to the community.

PL: I’ve been asking around in the communities to find out what the mining company has actually given them because two local radio stations in Rancho Grande constantly broadcast ads by the mining company about all the help they give. In fact what they want is for people to give them their ID card number and a signature and in exchange they’ll give them some small thing. Last May they gave people 10 pounds of corn. I visited one community where, according to the radio, they had distributed 6,200 cacao plants. I went house to house asking “Where are the plants?” but I found nothing. There were no plants! In another community some people told me: “We did receive 10 pounds of beans but it wasn’t a present, it was a loan. We planted the beans but they didn’t sprout because they were old and hard, yet now they want to collect on the loan.” Those beans have to be paid for! Last Friday we had a meeting at which the Sandinista political secretary in that community admitted to me: “It’s true, I was given 80 pounds of beans and now they want to collect a hundredweight, twenty pounds more.” Now the company is promising 20,000 córdobas for each ID card number and signature. They’ve done absolutely nothing for the community. Nothing. Now they’re really worried and are going around house to house, neighborhood by neighborhood, community by community, trying to convince people, promising them all kinds of things. Right now they’re offering tennis shoes and bicycles. The people have stopped them saying: “We don’t want tennis shoes in exchange for our signatures and we don’t want gold.”

ED: Are there any people in favor of mining? Yes there are, people who’re looking to see what they can get; just looking out for their own interests. That’s a very common attitude given how bad things are in Nicaragua. Mining has its supporters. They’ve been promised low-interest loans. The economy is very bad and they may be up to their ears in debt with other loan companies. These people owe money, maybe for a pick-up; they’re in a bad situation even worse than me, and are promised loans. So, like Judas, they sell themselves for thirty pieces of silver, but a true Christian doesn’t do that. We’d rather die or starve to death in prison; we won’t sell out, not even for a million dollars. We’re poor peasants but we aren’t going to let our consciences be bought. Listen, I’m a Catholic and the bishop, the priest, all his people, everyone who works in the Catholic Church is with us. We’re all agreed in saying NO to mining. We’re in favor of life, not death. If any priests or nuns who call themselves Christians sell themselves to get money and want to sell out the community, they better watch out! They’ll be thrown out of our organization straight away. We’re serious and responsible because we’re working for life, not death, because we know that with mining we’d be killing even those who haven’t been born yet.

HC: On August 13, a month after the school strike began, a protest march titled “Protecting Our Mother Earth” was held in Managua during the International Mining Congress. Five hundred Rancho Grande residents tried to participate but they were blocked by police and anti-riot forces in Palo Seco, in Matagalpa’s municipality of La Dalia. The buses that were going to take people to the peaceful protest in the capital had been refused permission to leave the municipality by the local police a few days earlier, completely without any legal justification. On the day itself, with no lawful reason, the police stopped four trucks and three pick-ups taking people from Rancho Grande to the capital and confiscated the owners’ driving licenses and vehicle registration certificates. The same thing was repeated in Santo Domingo, Chontales, where another 500 people were denied the right to free movement to Managua when the four trucks carrying members of the Save Santo Domingo Environmental Movement were stopped.

ED: When we asked the police for permission for the marches they refused. We were stopped and threatened even before we left our region. The day we were to travel to Managua, a line of police, military and riot police stopped us. The Army isn’t trained to defend anybody’s life because what a soldier’s trained to do is kill, and do what the head of the government says. Our rights aren’t important to them; they violate them any way they want. Orders are orders and have to be obeyed; so the Army and the Police are against us. Sadly, our government does things backwards and it washes its hands of us. In other countries they say things are good here, that we all live happily, but it’s not true. It isn’t true in Rancho Grande because we don’t count.

PL: Right after the police action against us on August 13, it was announced that the Mining Ministry was going to visit Rancho Grande and talk with 40 people in favor of mining. Forty people? The bulk of the municipality wants nothing to do with mining! We decided to get the people together to show that there are more of us than there are of them, but they were going to come on August 15 so that gave us only one day to organize. We got to work and a lot of our people showed. A lot of people in only one day. How did we do it? With cell phones. I have phone numbers in my phone for all the communities: El Cacao, Lana Arriba, Las Carpas, La Cuyuca, La Colonia, San Francisco, Caño Blanco, Caño Negro, Cerro Grande and all the rest. All five members of the Guardians of Yaoska commission work this way so we can bring the population together in one day.

ED: I’m not much of a mathematician but through those telephone calls we brought out about two thousand people to cancel out their people and reject them. The government brought a hundred people: party sympathizers, political secretaries, Family Cabinet members. They thought that with these people they’d have us in the palm of their hands, but the honest Sandinistas who aren’t Danielistas are on our side. Being a Sandinista means thinking about the future of Nicaragua and about one’s children, and means loving this country.

PL: The woman representing the Ministry said two things when we were there, which we saved in our memory and are keeping in mind. She said Nicaragua’s most valuable product wasn’t coffee or cattle or cacao, it was gold. That’s her idea, her main thought. She doesn’t care about communities, people, municipalities or the country. All she’s interested in is gold, that’s the most valuable product for her. She also said the neoliberal governments hadn’t properly followed through on the mining sector but that the current government is because it’s Christian, Socialist and Solidary, would follow through and the gold would come out of our municipality. Alfredo Zamora Pineda, who was mayor of Rancho Grande three times, immediately asked to speak. He explained to the people and the Ministry representatives who were there that there’s no signed commitment by the municipality. “Show me the signed documents, where are they?” We have proof that nothing has ever been signed.

HC: Given the ongoing school strike, the municipal government invited 20 community representatives to an “open discussion” on mining that same day. The population was indignant because of the police repression two days earlier and attended en masse, filling the municipal sports stadium with some two thousand people, all united against mining. Before the session with the government representatives got started, a group of people wearing green T-shirts with the phrase “Yes to responsible mining” and the B2Gold logo incited the crowd in the stadium, provoking a hail of stones that injured two people. According to community members, the people representing B2Gold had been given transport, lunch and T-shirts and weren’t even from the municipality but mainly from Waslala and Jinotega, so they shouldn’t have any say in a decision that belongs to Rancho Grande. The session, supposedly convened to open up discussion, was chaired by Rancho Grande’s Mayor María Isabel González, MEM Deputy Minister Lorena Lanzas, Natural Resources and Environment Ministry head Juanita Argeñal, Education Ministry head Miriam Raudez and Matagalpa Mayor Zadrach Zeledón.

ED: During the meeting we said that allowing the mining company people to continue working in Rancho Grande was anti-human. We said that we, the people of Rancho Grande, were ready to lay down our lives to defend our municipality and expel those freebooters who are taking possession of our country. The people who organized the meeting wanted a consultation and thought most people would vote in favor of mining but we upended their plans because we had more people than they brought to the meeting.

HC: At the meeting, the MEM deputy minister said: “Twelve years have passed [since the company arrived] and they have another 12 to go. We the government, the State, can’t just cancel [their permit]. To be able to cancel it, we would have to show that some real damage is being done but at this time, right now, they aren’t causing any harm.” The last part of her speech was even more alarming as she stated that “We, as government, are ensuring that the company’s income will be plowed back into the places where it originated”. According to Law 387, the special law for mine exploration and exploitation, the mining concession holders are exempt from import duty (DAI), specific consumption tax (IEC) and value added tax (IGV); instead they are only required to pay two types of tax: land use tax (US$0.25 per hectare the first year rising to a maximum of US$12 the twelfth year) and extraction rights or royalties (3% of the total sales price). Those resources are divided between the National Treasury, the Mining Development Fund, the municipalities and the Regional Councils [in the case of the Autonomous Caribbean Regions]. How much of these taxes are actually received by local governments is unknown and the population certainly doesn’t receive any of it to improve the quality of their life following the damage caused by the mining.

JCA: Listen to what the deputy minister of energy and mining said in that on August 15 meeting. She literally said: “Nobody’s going to come to a country and make a big investment, over US$10-15 million, in resource exploration and then, all of a sudden, not have the right to exploit those resources. So we have to guarantee that, if they find gold, they can extract it to recover the investment they’ve made in the country. We have to guarantee their investment.” This clearly shows the government position regarding the mining company and this open pit gold mining project.

PL: Even after that meeting, we learned on September 5 that our mayor met some government figures and that the government had already caved into the company and signed the mining permit. The mayor also gave in and met with the municipal employees to tell them that any of them who were against the mine would be sacked. Some workers have already been fired, including a doctor at the health center. That’s our situation now and we know we’re in danger from the Army and the Police.

ED: Does the government support the mining companies? From the moment it directly grants them concessions it not only supports them but is selling Nicaragua. I listen to the news and, even though we’re here in Rancho Grande, a long way from that huge canal that’s going to be built in Nicaragua, I can see that the government is selling Nicaragua. Brothers, for God’s sake! Have they asked the people who live where the canal is going to be built whether they understand and agree that they’re going to be covered by a sea? I wonder if they’ve asked about the impact that linking one ocean to the other will have. The same thing has happened to us in our municipality with the mining company, they override ordinary people’s rights without consulting us. Have the people who live close to the canal been asked if they want ships sailing past their houses? Did God perhaps forget how to make a way to get from one sea to the other? God made his plans so we would live in peace with Nature. When God made us he did it so we’d care for things, not destroy them.

ED: We may be peasants but we’re not stupid. They say they’ve invested US$15 million in Rancho Grande. Fair enough, but you have to ask permission to go into someone’s house, and if you go into a bar you have to pay for what you drink… So, when are they going to pay us for everything they’ve stolen from Rancho Grande? They’re not going to give it back to us; they haven’t even told us how much they already stole. That’s why we have organized to stop these people who are going to leave behind poverty, hunger, death and pain when they poison everything and we and our animals die of hunger and thirst.

JCA: I’ve learnt a lot from the Guardians of Yaoska. When I asked them who could come here to talk with you they told me: “We need to discuss that and decide together.” Their organization has a horizontal structure like none I’ve seen in urban settings in all the years I’ve been working with different organizations. They also have enormous power to mobilize people. In two or three days the Guardians of Yaoska can mobilize thousands of people in a predominantly rural municipality with approximately 49,000 inhabitants distributed in 36 widely separated communities. Clearly cell phones have an important role but it’s not just that; it’s the leaders, the community representatives who communicate between communities. The leaders are able to mobilize people because they can motivate them, and that’s because they themselves are motivated. Cell phones are just a tool in this communication process. Right now, while Petronilo and Elorgio are talking with us, dozens of Guardians of Yaoska are doing awareness-raising work with the people, face to face, house by house, and community by community. Even in this information age, that work is what counts most. We think that with a tweet or a Facebook message we’re going to change the world. These people are working in the communities face to face with the people and I believe that’s the key to their mobilizing power; that’s what explains how so many people turn up when they call, even though it means traveling long distances. By working this way they’ve achieved a massive convergence of viewpoints around this issue, a convergence of Catholics, evangelicals, Seventh Day Adventists and feminists in a communion of ideals. I’ve seen the Catholic Church, the Matagalpa Women’s Collective, Grupo Venancia, the Community Movement and others marching together in a demonstration. No other issue has caused such a degree of consensus in northern Nicaragua.

ED: We don’t depend on donations of money from any organization to carry on our struggle or for transport to get to a meeting or a demonstration. We walk for an hour, even four hours to make sure every peasant and farmer knows what’s really happening. We don’t discriminate against anybody: we include women and men of all political parties and religions. Petronilo is a member of the Assemblies of God and I’m a Catholic but we’re walking the same road. We all share the load together, not discriminating against anyone from our region.

JCA: Auxiliadora Romero, a leader of the Matagalpa Community Movement, has been accused and taken to court for painting “NO to mining” on the wall of a house used by B2Gold. This was an act of intimidation and they fined her 5,000 córdobas but the community collected the amount needed and paid the fine together.

ED: This is a job everyone’s doing together. We haven’t had contact yet with other mining municipalities; for now we’re only a local movement, but we’re aware of how people are thinking in other places and we know this is widespread. We know we have a duty to set an example for other municipalities but we aren’t anybody else’s leaders. In Rancho Grande there are five or six thousand Guardians of Yaoska, simple peasants without any hierarchy; what I’ve told you today any other guardian could say equally well.

PL: So far we’ve only been working in our municipality but we’ve started to bring together work at the departmental level. Please remember, our protest will never be violent, it will always be peaceful.

ED: We live in a paradise and together we’re going to defend it against mining. We’re asked if we’ll be able to win this battle … What do they mean, will we be able to win? In the name of the Lord, we will emerge victorious.

Petronilo López, and Elorgio Dávila are residents of Rancho Grande and members of the organization Guardians of Yaoska.

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