Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Update on Cabañas

Dear Friends of El Salvador,

We wrote to you on December 26 to inform you of the death of Ramiro Rivera, anti-mining activist and vice-president of the Cabañas Environmental Committee (CAC). Rivera was murdered alongside his neighbor Felicita Echeverría in fron of his thirteen year old daughter. This was the second attack on Ramiro Rivera, the first one committed/carried out in August of this year when he was shot eight times by hitman Oscar Menjiver. Ramiro was from the small community Canton Trinidad, where the level of gold found in the ground is higher than in most other parts of Cabañas.

Tragically, on the very day we sent the last email, another person fell victim to the violence in Canton Trinidad. Dora “Alicia” Recinos Sorto, eight months pregnant at the time, was shot and killed while returning from the river where she was washing her clothes. She was carrying her two year old son in her arms when she was shot. The child was shot in the foot, but survived the attack. Alicia, who was thirty-two years old and the mother of six children, was an active member of the Cabañas Environmental Committee alongside her husband Jose Santos Rodriguez. According to witnesses, armed men showed up at Alicia's home looking for José just a few days prior to her killing, and he had previously been attacked with a machete by Oscar Menjiver, a well-known promoter of Pacific Rim Mining corporation. Menjiver is currently in jail for his attempt on Ramiro Rivera's life in August.

As you can imagine, the people of Cabañas are living in fear, as this a horrible end to the very violent year of 2009 for the environmentalist struggle in Cabañas. The first victim of the anti-mining movement was environmental activist Marcelo Rivera, who was disappeared, tortured and murdered last June. Various other members of the anti-mining movement have fallen victim to threats as well, including Father Luis Quintanilla and the community radio “Radio Victoria,” whose staff has received a slew of threats by text message and email throughout the year. One of the threats, via email, after the killings of Marcelo and Ramiro, read: We're not messing around. We've shown that we have the logistical and financial capacity to get rid of who we want, it doesn't matter if you have a whole battalion of police watching your back like dogs, we'll shoot you when we want to, the deaths will continue and nothing is going to stop the revenge that has begun...”

Unfortunately, the local police and mayor's office as well as Canadian mining company Pacific Rim write these murders off as unrelated instances of common crime in El Salvador. In regards to the December murders, Pacific Rim posted this statement on their website: The same anti-mining groups that have wrongfully implicated PacRim in the murders have portrayed the incidents as the result of an allegedly hostile conflict related to the debate over mining in El Salvador. However, there is no evidence indicating these violent acts bear any relation whatsoever to the debate over mining in the country. PacRim encourages all parties affected by the recent violence in Trinidad to rely on the appropriate legal processes to determine the true facts of these cases.” The United States Embassy in El Salvador took a similar tone when they chastised the environmental movement in Cabañas for blaming the mining companies for the violence without concrete proof and placed blame on anti-mining activists in the zone for the escalating violence. However, the sub-director of the National Police Department, Augusto Cotto had a different tone in a statement made on ContraPunto, on online Salvadoran news source, in which he is quoted as saying: It's clear there is a link between the two homicides (of Ramiro and Alicia). The acts have to do with the differing opinions for and against mining exploitation in the zone. Both homicides show evidence of previously planning and were committed by hired assassins.”

SHARE, The National Working Group on Metallic Mining in El Salvador, and a number of other organizations, communities and individuals in the social movement are working to ensure the safety of the affected communities with a team of lawyers who are working to request protection from the Organization of American States (OAS). In the long-term, they will work on presenting a case in the Salvadoran Supreme Court to declare CAFTA unconstitutional under Salvadoran law, based on the Pacific Rim lawsuit. We will also work to mobilize Salvadorans to demand that the Attorney General properly investigates these murders. Now more than ever, the people of El Salvador are standing strong to say NO to the mining in El Salvador, as mining companies have shown that economic interests rule over concern for peoples lives.

For the people of El Salvador, international solidarity is incredibly important in this difficult time. Please stay informed, as we plan to send out more information over the next few weeks on ways you can speak out against the violence in Cabañas, based on the direction of organizations and communities in El Salvador. For immediate action, visit the CISPES (Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador) website at: http://www.cispes.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=655&Itemid=27

Thank you.

In Solidarity,

The SHARE Foundation

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