Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Members of Congress call on Obama to support environmental protection and trade reform in El Salvador

A press release from CISPES regarding Obama's stay in El Salvador.

Members of Congress, policy experts call on President Obama 

to support environmental protection and trade reform in El Salvador

Washington, D.C. & San Salvador - As President Obama travels to El Salvador, leaders in Congress and national policy organizations are calling on him to support the Salvadoran government in protecting the country’s environmental and social rights rather than succumbing to pressure from multinational mining corporations.

Nineteen House Democrats and over 140 environmental, religious, and human rights organizations signed letters to the President asking him to amend investment rules in U.S. trade policy, to prevent corporations from challenging other countries’ regulations through private arbitration.  The letters also ask Obama to denounce a $100 million lawsuit by a Canadian mining company, Pacific Rim, against the government of El Salvador for allegedly violating the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).

“I urge President Obama to offer support for El Salvador’s legitimate right to develop policies protecting human rights and the environment,” said Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), who co-sponsored the congressional letter.  “The U.S. should applaud El Salvador’s commitment to promoting the health and well-being of its citizens, and the protection of the environment.  Instead, our trade policies enable North American mining companies to sue the Salvadoran government for upholding its legitimate right to protect its air, water, and soil.  This is unacceptable; I’m grateful to my colleagues for joining me in calling on the President to raise this issue during his upcoming visit to El Salvador.”

“CAFTA’s flawed investment provisions allow companies to attack common-sense public health and environmental laws as we have witnessed in El Salvador,” said Rachel Ackoff, Sierra Club's Associate Washington Representative for Trade.  “As the Obama administration negotiates its first trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, it must steer away from the failed investment provisions of the past and ensure that future trade agreements live up to the President’s promise of a ‘smart, fair and strong’ trade policy.”

“CAFTA violates the security and sovereignty of our people, as it generates legal conditions under which transnational corporations can sue in an unjust manner,” said Héctor Berríos, with the National Roundtable Against Metallic Mining.  “We are asking President Obama to modify the clauses that relate to investment, among others, for all the damage they have caused our population.”  Berríos lives in the rural department of Cabañas, where three environmental defenders were murdered in 2009.

Thousands of protestors marched Monday and today in San Salvador, demanding greater respect for Central American sovereignty.  Video footage is available.

A copy of the Congressional letter is available here. A copy of the organizational letter is available here

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