Monday, August 9, 2010

Letter to the Editor: Mining in El Salvador

The following is a sample Letter to the Editor to raise awareness about the struggle against metallic mining in El Salvador. Please help us educate others about the threat of mining and of US corporations by sending this letter to the Editor of your local or state newspaper, posting it on your blog or facebook page, and sending it to friends and family. Feel free to edit in your own experiences in El Salvador, your own reflections, and please, when you get published, send us the link!

Dear Editor,

We are writing to express our concern about a series of violent events in El Salvador linked to US foreign and trade policy, directly involving multi-national corporations with bases in the United States. Underground, cyanide-leach gold mining operations in this tiny Central American country threaten to do severe damage by polluting streams, rendering livestock ill or sterile, and compromising the health of children and adults. Communities that would be devastated by these effects have organized in resistance to mining and the multinational corporations, and have faced the consequences.

Ongoing violence and threats towards community leaders and activists—including a local radio station and priest—culminated in three assassinations in 2009. In June, activist Marcelo Rivera was kidnapped and tortured, his body found at the bottom of a well bearing marks of a death squad assassination. A spate of killings in the days before and after Christmas left community leader Ramiro Rivera and eight-month pregnant Dora “Alicia” Sorto dead.

Taken in isolation, these events may seem merely representative of the crime and delinquency that so deeply affect El Salvador today. However, the controversy surrounding this issue has been especially heated and violent. We must also take into account the high stakes of this debate: millions of dollars in profits for Pacific Rim and other multinational mining corporations on one side, and an environmental death sentence for El Salvador on the other. I believe there is sufficient evidence to assume that the recent violence is an attempt to quiet these Salvadorans: that it is politically-motivated intimidation against the communities of Cabañas and others in the struggle against mining.

Pacific Rim has taken action against the country of El Salvador through the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) via its U.S. subsidiary, claiming that having allowed research at the El Dorado mining site, the government has no grounds to delay permits. The Commerce Group has done the same and together, the Salvadoran government is facing nearly two hundred million dollars in arbitration. If the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes of the World Bank—a body known for its support of corporate interests to the detriment of communities, democracy and human and environmental rights, sides with Pacific Rim, it would force El Salvador to open to mining operations, putting at risk the environment, agriculture, water sources, and human health.

There is a growing public demand—voiced through protests and advocacy actions, by groups both inside and out of El Salvador—for action by law enforcement agencies. Those responsible for the violence in Cabañas have not been identified; it appears that those who commit political crimes, even of the most egregious kind, still go unpunished in El Salvador. We encourage the Secretary of State and U.S. government representatives in El Salvador to urge the Salvadoran government to carry out a full and honest investigation of these events in Cabañas. We urge U.S. citizens to pressure the Pacific Rim Mining Corporation, the Commerce Group and other multinational mining corporations to drop their cases against the Salvadoran state and fully withdraw from El Salvador.


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