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Anti-mining activists murdered in El Salvador

The Committee In Solidarity with the People of El Salvador reports that, “We are very sad to inform you that another anti-mining activist has been assassinated in Cabañas, El Salvador.”

“On Saturday (December 26), Dora ‘Alicia’ Recinos Sorto was shot by hitmen as she returned from washing clothes in the river. She was 32 years old and 8 months pregnant.”
“This follows the killings of two other prominent anti-mining activists this year: Ramiro Rivera (who was) shot dead in an ambush on December 20 and Marcelo Rivera (who was) disappeared, tortured, and ultimately found dead in June.”

THE THREAT TO WATER BY MINING OPERATIONS Since 2005, many residents of Cabañas have been trying to stop the El Dorado gold mine.

They are concerned the mine will threaten local water supplies and ruin their ability to grow crops.

As noted in a May 2009 campaign blog, Rodolfo Calles, a coordinator for the church-funded organization Caritas, says, “El Salvador is very small and all mining projects are near the Lempa River, which is the country’s main water source.”

A Miami Herald article further explains that, “The 320-kilometer Lempa is one of Central America’s longest, snaking through Guatemala and Honduras before flowing into El Salvador’s Pacific. With a basin that covers half of El Salvador, the river irrigates the country’s farming industry and supplies drinking water to more than half of residents in greater San Salvador.”

A February 2008, Inter Press Service article also reported that, “Peasant farmers from the northern Salvadoran province of Cabañas fear that mining operations planned for the region will consume 30,000 litres of water a day, drawn from the same sources that currently provide local residents with water only once a week.”

The El Dorado gold mine is owned by the Vancouver-based Pacific Rim Mining Company.

Acknowledging the environmental concerns, the Ministry of Environment in El Salvador denied Pacific Rim the permits for the mine in 2007. The company (through its US-based subsidiary) responded in 2008 with a $77 million challenge against the government under CAFTA, the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement.

The Miami Herald reports that, “The case is among the first international investment disputes under the Central American Free-Trade Agreement…”

Alexis Stoumbelis of the Committee In Solidarity with the People of El Salvador summed up the challenge when she asked on Democracy Now!, “Does El Salvador, do the other countries in Central America, have the right to enforce their own environmental laws, or do transnational corporations get to rule?”

After the murder of Ramiro Rivera Gomez (and just prior to the murder of Dora ‘Alicia’ Recinos Sorto), the Committee In Solidarity with the People of El Salvador issued an action alert calling on “the Salvadoran authorities to carry out an exhaustive investigation of these crimes and their motives.”

That action alert is at http://www.cispes.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=648&Itemid=1.

It has been reported on Democracy Now! that the left-wing president of El Salvador Mauricio Funes (who took office on June 1) has now vowed a full investigation of these murders.

To see our May 2008 ‘ACTION ALERT: Stop Pacific Rim gold mining in San Isidro-Cabanas’, please go to http://canadians.org/action/2008/09-May-08.html.

You can find about more about the situation in this Democracy Now! video transcript at http://www.democracynow.org/2009/12/29/anti_mining_activists_killed_in_el.

You can also learn more in Stuart Trew’s trade blog at http://canadians.org/tradeblog/?p=526.

To read the 27-page environmental impact assessment by independent hydrogeologist Robert Moran on the El Dorado project, go to the MiningWatch Canada website at http://www.miningwatch.ca/updir/Technical_Review_El_Dorado_EIA.pdf.

For the latest updates, go to www.cispes.org.