Last Thursday, July 1st, the Attorney General of the Republic of El Salvador, through the Specialized Department Against Organized Crime (DECO) and the Sub directorate of Investigations of the National Civil Police captured a dozen suspects involved in the murders of the environmentalists Ramiro Rivera Gómez and Dora Sorto Recinos, who were brutally gunned down in December of 2009 in the town of Trinidad, Sensuntepeque (Cabañas). Most of these detainees are only in provisional custody, except for the two alleged intellectual authors of the crimes.
Its important that the Attorney General office has detained some of the alleged murderers, although they only did so seven months after the crimes took place and only under strong international and national pressure. Nonetheless, many aspects of this police action are worrying. Therefore, the communities and organizations of the National Roundtable Against Metallic Mining would like to address three of these points.
Press Conference of the National Roundtable Against Mining
1. The first is the public declarations made by the director of the DECO, Rodolfo Delgado, and the director of Police Investigations, Howard Coto, in which they state that the conflict over mining is not the principal motivation for these horrific crimes and that they were provoked by a family feud. These officials seem to ignore four elements that prove the opposite. The first is that these crimes did not occur in the region until the mining companies began their work and explorations; the second is that the numerous death threats that the environmentalists Rivera and Sorto received before their assassinations emphatically recriminated them for their opposition against the mining projects; the third is that among the detained suspects there are former employees and sympathizers of the Canadian transnational mining company Pacific Rim; and the fourth is the declaration, made in a resolution by the Sentencing Tribunal of Sensuntepeque during the trial of Oscar Menjivar for the attempted assassination of Ramiro Rivera, that the confrontation in Trinidad is a result of conflicting opinions about metallic mining.
2. The second aspect is the intent of the Attorney General and the Police to definitively conclude the investigation of this case, arguing that among the detained there are already all the suspected material and intellectual authors of these assassinations. Here there are a number of suspicious omissions on the part of Delgado y Coto, which should not be ignored. One is the lack of any investigation into the source of the large sums of money with which the hit men were paid for the assassinations, which should include an investigation into the bank accounts and money transfers made by Pacific Rim representatives in this country; the other is that Oscar Menjivar was not captured, despite the fact that these very same authorities connect him to the crime (we must remember that Menjivar is a promoter of the mining projects on the Pacific Rim payroll and has a serious criminal history of violence against anti-mining activists); and lastly the absence of ballistics reports and other scientific evidence in a sustained case with only one confirmed witness.
3. The third worrying aspect of this case is the fact that the only ones captured are those allegedly responsible for the assassinations of the opposition to Pacific Rim in Trinidad, not those responsible for all the other crimes against environmentalists that have been committed in other parts of Cabañas. There have not been any detentions of those who sent death threats to the journalists and employees of Radio Victoria or those who committed the attempted assassination of priest Luis Quintanilla. Neither have there been any new suspects captured from the case of the kidnapping, torture and assassination of Marcelo Rivera, perpetrated more than a year ago and for which only possible material authors have been detained. Meanwhile, cases like the death threats against Neftalí Ruiz and Francisco Pineda, of the Environmental Committee of Cabañas, haven’t even been registered at all by the Attorney General and the Police.
In the face of all these disturbing facts, the National Roundtable Against Metallic Mining reiterates to the Attorney General of the Republic, the National Civil Police and the Judicial System, our demand that they identify, prosecute and condemn the intellectual and material authors of all the assassinations, assassination attempts and deaths threats against the environmentalists who oppose the mining projects of Pacific Rim in Cabañas. It is important to remember the mandate of the Office for the Defense of Human Rights, which orders that the investigations of these crimes be “comprehensive, deep and exhaustive.” At the same time we insist that a law prohibiting mining be passed in El Salvador, because it is necessary to avoid further social conflicts and to ensure that other mining companies don’t sue the Salvadoran state, as Pacific Rim and Commerce Group have already done.
San Salvador, July 13th, 2010