A Guatemalan judge acquitted Canadian mining firm Hudbay Minerals' former head of security, about six years after he was formally accused of murder and assault charges involving nine Indigenous leaders.
Despite overwhelming evidence against Mynor Padilla, who is also a former colonel in the Guatemalan Army, Judge Ana Leticia Peña ordered his immediate release in a move that is likely to spark strong condemnation from social groups as it further highlights impunity and racism in Guatemala's legal system.
Padilla was accused of a raft of crimes, including the murder of Adolfo Ich, a Mayan Q’eqchi’ community leader and teacher and a father of five. He was also accused of shooting and paralyzing German Chub, another Q’eqchi’ campesino, as well as the shooting of seven other Q’eqchi’ men at Hudbay’s mining site in Guatemala on Sept. 27, 2009.
“First, Padilla has the support of the Guatemalan economic elites and their global mining partners,” Rights Action director Grahame Russell told teleSUR in an interview.
“Secondly, he was an officer in the Guatemalan military. Guatemala’s economic and military elites are not used to facing justice; the country’s legal system remains characterized by corruption and impunity for the wealthy, powerful sectors."
There is a real risk of a backlash of repression against the Mayan Q’eqchi’ victims who testified against the former colonel, warned Russell, praising their courage and determination to obtain justice despite the risks to their life.
On Sept. 27, 2009, Hudbay security guards, under the command of Mynor Padilla, illegally entered the Mayan Q’eqchi’ community of La Union, municipality of El Estor, department of Izabal, in eastern Guatemala.
They shot live bullets at community members. At one point, Padilla reportedly saw Chub standing in close proximity, and shot him with his handgun. The bullet left him paralyzed from the chest down; he also lost the use of one of his lungs.
Soon after, Padilla and his guards singled out and illegally detained Adolfo Ich, a father of five and respected community leader and teacher. They machete hacked his body and shot him. Padilla and the guards dragged Adolfo through a fence onto Hudbay property, where he was later found dead.
According to a new U.N.-backed anti-corruption body in Guatemala, CICIG, 97 percent of crimes reported in the country go unpunished.
"This wounded giant, this criminal superstructure, is difficult to eradicate," said CICIG head Ivan Velasquez on April 3.
"It is something deeply embedded, a strategy designed to keep state institutions working for the benefit of a selected few."
"Everything (in Guatemala) has been designed so that justice could not work," he added.