VANCOUVER, B.C. (CN) - A Canadian-owned mine in Guatemala ordered its security workers to shoot peaceful protesters there, seven wounded farmers claim in court.
Adolfo Augustin Garcia et al. sued Tahoe Resources in British Columbia Supreme Court. Tahoe owns and manages the Escobal Mine in San Rafael Las Flores, in southeastern Guatemala. It yields gold, silver, lead and zinc.
The plaintiffs claim they were peacefully protesting on April 27, 2013, when they were "shot at close range" by security personnel on a public road outside the mine's gates. They claim the shooting was "planned, ordered and directed" by the company's local security manager, (nonparty) Alberto Rotondo Dall'Orso.
The farmers claim that despite the company's social responsibility and human rights policies, Tahoe tasked a private security company to oversee the mine site with Rotondo at the helm. According to the complaint, Rotondo is a retired naval captain from Peru with U.S. Navy SEAL and counter-terrorism training. Rotondo allegedly threatened to run over protesters with a truck weeks before the shooting and sought to intimidate protesters to quash local opposition to the mine.
On April 27, 2013, the farmers say, Rotondo ordered security personnel to break up the protest and open fire with shotguns, pepper spray, buckshot and rubber bullets, hitting plaintiffs as they retreated, causing life-altering injuries.
After the shooting, security personnel destroyed evidence and fabricated a story that the protesters were the aggressors, according to the complaint. Rotondo attempted to flee the country after the shooting and Tahoe Resources "has consistently blamed the victims for the shooting," the complaint states.
The plaintiffs seek general, special, and punitive damages for battery and negligence. They are represented by Joe Fiorante with Camp Fiorante Matthews Mogerman in Vancouver.