Canadian ambassador visits, faces protest

By Antonio De Jesús Aguado

On February 16, Sara Hradecky, Canadian ambassador to Mexico, visited San Miguel de Allende to meet with Canadians living in the city. Outside the building where they gathered, a group of environmentalists protested Canadian mining projects in the municipality of Real de Catorce in San Luis Potosí.

Purpose of her visit

Hedrecky arrived in Mexico in November 2011 as Canada’s ambassador-designate to the United Mexican States. On February 16, she came to San Miguel de Allende in order to meet with approximately 150 Canadians living in the city. During this meeting a team from the Canadian embassy in Mexico City, led by Hedrecky, held an information session providing an overview of several embassy programs, including consular, public and political affairs programs. During the meeting, attendees were allowed to ask questions, which ranged from health insurance coverage by the Canadian government to security in Mexico. Devon Zhang, a new consul in Mexico, was also introduced.

Reasons for the protest

The meeting with the Canadian community was scheduled for 9:30am at the Hotel Posada San Francisco, where beginning at 9am approximately 70 environmentalists gathered to protest against the construction of Canadian mines in the municipality of Real de Catorce in San Luis Potososí. The projects, according to a huichol, Jesús Lara Chivarra, the leader of the protest, are damaging Wirikuta, a sacred spiritual place for the wixáricas, also called huicholes, who have made pilgrimages for thousands of years to that land. Wirikuta was incorporated into the list of sacred protected places by the UNESCO in 1998, and since 2004 several organizations have been working to get the area listed as a World Cultural and Natural Site.

Letters for the ambassador

Lara Chivarra commented that the protest was also held in order to deliver to the ambassador the Declaración de Wirikuta (Declaration of Wirikuta), a letter written by “the brothers and sisters” from several states in Mexico who gathered to write a statement to inform those who want to destroy their patrimonial culture that “the sacred places are schools of spiritual formation for the wixárica natives, and since the moment that the Canadian companies started their mining projects that are damaging the environment; the wixarica’s heart is sad and [they are] dying spiritually.… The wixárica natives are united and fighting a spiritual fight. We will not permit the death of our ancestors, coexistence, our cultural legacy and our Mother Earth.”

The legal representative of El Charco del Ingenio, César Arias, also handed over a letter to the ambassador, which stated that “we all know the common methods used by the companies to obtain metals (primarily silver). They generate several levels of contamination to the soil and water.… In the case of Real de Catorce, we are really concerned about damage to the fragile semidesert ecosystem, which shelters a wide variety of flora and fauna at risk of extinction.”

Arias said that the protest against the mining projects that use cyanide and damage the environment was carried out to denounce the destruction of the zone, and it was held during the ambassador’s visit because is well known that the Canadian government always supports the mining companies and does not care about the destruction of the natural habitat and sacred sites of the huicholes. They are asking the Canadian government to respect and uphold the Acuerdo de Cooperación Ambiental (Agreement of Environmental Cooperation) and appendix in the Tratado de Libre Comercio (North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA) in which the governments of Canada, Mexico and the US agreed to take care of the environment.

Reply from the ambassador

After the meeting, around 12pm the Canadian ambassador met the protesters and received the letters, saying to Jesús Chivarra and César Arias at the same time, “Muchas gracias. Les daremos respuesta inmediata” (Thank you. We will give you an immediate reply).

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