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  • Offerings in memory of Mariano Abarca in Mexico City, Mexico, Aug. 21, 2013.

    Offerings in memory of Mariano Abarca in Mexico City, Mexico, Aug. 21, 2013. | Photo: Hijos de la Tierra

Published 30 March 2019

Mariano Abarca's family asked the Canadian authorities to open a thorough investigation to the Canadian Embassy in Mexico.

The family of the late Mariano Abarca attended this week a hearing at the Canadian Federal Court about the Mexican community leader who was murdered in 2009 for speaking out against the environmental damages caused by the Blackfire Exploration's open-pit barite mine in Chicomuselo, a municipality in the Mexican state of Chiapas.

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The Mexican Network of People Affected by Mining, the Autonomous University of Chiapas’ Human Rights Center and Mining Watch Canada accompanied the Abarca family to ask the authorities to open a thorough investigation into the Canadian Embassy in Mexico, whose acts and omissions contributed to endangering the social activist's life.

"Documents reveal the Canadian embassy's essential role in facilitating the activities of Blackfire... [until] its operations were suspended due to environmental violations," Abarca said and added that "my father was killed for his role in denouncing the mine's environmental and social impacts... the Canadian embassy in Mexico has responsibility for having pressured our country's leaders to favor the company and control the community's protests."

Previously, in February, the Abarca family made a similar petition to Canada’s Public Sector Integrity Commissioner (PSIC), who had 90 days to decide whether or not to investigate the case. The Canadian Commissioner, however, rejected the request.

"In 2009, the indigenous leader, Mariano Abarca, was shot dead at home by mining businessmen with the support of the Federal government. The failed goal of frightening dissent causes an even more firm response from the People."

Patrick Bendin, an attorney of the Justice Department's Legal Council, defended the Commissioner's decision arguing that the government’s corporate social responsibility and mining-related policies, which were cited in the testimony of public officials in the Canadian parliament, are not 'official' and for that reason public officials could not have violated them.

In addition, he described the policies presented as recommendations to be followed voluntarily and said the Commissioner does not have the power to open an investigation.

“In quieter political times, it would shine a light on the persistent failure of Canadian governments to affect a robust system of investigation of and compliance by the extractive industries,” Jennifer Wells, a business columnist wrote at The Star, adding that the Abarca case “comes at a moment when the still-new Mexican government of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has put the international mining community on notice that there will be more robust oversight of foreign mining companies.”

The Abarca family and the Mexican human rights defenders, however, expect the Canada’s Federal Court to serve justice and make a decision in a couple of months.

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