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Council of Canadians backs protest defending El Salvador’s water from World Bank tribunal

Maude Barlow at World Bank Protest

Barlow speaks at protest outside World Bank office in Washington, DC, September 2014.

The Council of Canadians is endorsing a protest in Washington, DC against the World Bank on March 19.

The outreach for the protest says, “Inside the World Bank, a secret tribunal is getting ready to rule on a lawsuit by Pacific Rim/Oceana Gold – a Canadian/Australian mining company – that could force El Salvador to shell out hundreds of millions of dollars just for trying to protect its major river system from pollution from cyanide-based gold mining. …Join us in telling the World Bank that poisoning of El Salvador’s drinking water will increase poverty not eradicate it.”

The Council of Canadians and Blue Planet Project have been following this case. In October 2013, Oceana Gold acquired Canadian-based Pacific Rim Mining, which was in the midst of a lawsuit against El Salvador. After acquiring the company, Oceana Gold upped its lawsuit from $70 million to $301 million. El Salvador’s offence? Refusing to a grant a permit to a gold mine that would contaminate 60 per cent of the population’s drinking water. For our campaign blogs on this issue, please click here.

The outreach for March 19 also notes, “Under trade provisions promoted by the U.S. government, corporations can use tribunals at the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) to challenge national laws and regulations protecting public health, the environment and human rights.” Just last week, ICSID ordered Canada to pay more than $17 million to ExxonMobil and Murphy Oil for breaching the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) by implementing a rule that required the American oil corporations to invest some of their profits from offshore drilling in the Hibernia and Terra Nova oil fields on research in development in Newfoundland and Labrador. More on that NAFTA challenge can be found here.

The protest is also being endorsed by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL–CIO), the Sisters of Mercy, the Institute for Policy Studies, the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN), CASA de Maryland, the Center for International Environmental Law, the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), Friends of the Earth, OXFAM America, Share Foundation, Sierra Club, the Teamsters, and the Washington Ethical Society.

The Blue Planet Project will be releasing a report on the human right to water in El Salvador later this month.

Further reading
Barlow in solidarity with El Salvador at protest against World Bank in Washington, DC (September 2014 blog)
El Salvador’s struggle for democratic authority (September 2014 blog)