International Organizations Denounce Recent Wave of Death Threats and Crimes Against El Salvadoran Anti-Mining Movement

On February 10, 2011, forty nine international civil society organizations expressed their concern over a series of detentions and robberies against members of an El Salvadoran environmentalist organization that have taken place during the last six months. The letter notes a disturbing tendency in Mexico and Central America of increasing violence against environmental defenders, too often in association with Canadian mining projects. The signatories support a request from the Centre for Research in Trade and Investment (CEICOM) for a full investigation by El Salvadoran and Guatemalan authorities into attacks, which have occurred in both countries.

CEICOM is a member of the National Roundtable Against Metallic Mining in El Salvador and has been leading a process of participatory education and resistance against the proposed Cerro Blanco mine, owned by Vancouver-based Goldcorp Inc. The project is situated in Guatemala on the border with El Salvador, and CEICOM is concerned about the risks that this project could entail for Salvadoran people living downstream. CEICOM has said they will maintain that attacks taking place on Guatemalan territory to be a product of their resistance against Goldcorp’s Cerro Blanco project, until investigations carried out by the responsible authorities demonstrate otherwise.

 

LETTER:

Ottawa, February 10th 2011

Hugo Martínez

Minister of Foreign Affairs of El Salvador

 

Sigfrido Reyes

President of the Legislative Assembly of El Salvador

 

Roger Haroldo Rodas Melgar

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guatemala

 

Dear Honourable Representatives of El Salvador and Guatemala,

 

We are writing with the utmost respect in order to bring your attention to a series of complaints regarding criminal acts that various members of the Centre for Research in Trade and Investment (CEICOM), an environmental organization in El Salvador, have suffered in both Guatemala and El Salvador during the last six months.

 

We have become aware of this situation through various press releases from CEICOM, and as a result of the recent visit from Ms. Nelly Rivera de Silva to Canada, a member of CEICOM, between January 8th and 15th 2011. Additionally, we have observed with deep concern the growing tendency in the region of increasing violence toward environmental defenders in the context of mining industry expansion in Central America, often in relationship with Canadian mining companies, as documented by groups such as the Center for International Environmental Law in Washington, DC in their report prepared for the Thematic Hearing on Situation of Environmentalists in Mesoamerica at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on October 25th 2010.[1]

 

During the last few years, CEICOM, as a member of the National Roundtable Against Metallic Mining in El Salvador (known as the Mesa), has led a process of participatory education and resistance against the Cerro Blanco mining project owned by Vancouver-based Goldcorp Inc. Situated in Guatemala, on the border with El Salvador, CEICOM is concerned about the risks that this project could entail for Salvadoran people living downstream of this proposed industrial operation. The project site is at the headwaters of the Ostua River that drains into Güija lake, a body of water shared between Guatemala and El Salvador and included on the list of internationally important wetlands under the Ramsar convention. Güija flows into the Lempa River, the principle source of water for more than three million Salvadorans.

 

On two occasions since July 2010 the CEICOM team has been assaulted and robbed while on their way to Guatemala City to present their complaints about this project to Guatemalan officials. CEICOM has indicated that it has formally lodged complaints following both instances to the appropriate authorities in Guatemala and El Salvador.

 

To briefly recount what occurred, on July 30th 2010, CEICOM reported that three environmentalists from their organization and members of the Office for Peace and Justice of the Franciscan Order were detained by unknown subjects at the 43rd kilometre point along the highway toward Guatemala City. They were detained for approximately two hours and then robbed of their belongings, after which they were left tied up and abandoned on a coffee farm. Later, on October 28th 2010, three affiliates of CEICOM were intercepted by heavily armed individuals, once again at the 43rd kilometre point along the highway to Guatemala City. They were taken to a nearby farm and, after registering their information, were robbed of personal and institutional belongings. They were then left abandoned on the farm, and threatened against lodging a complaint. CEICOM has indicated that they will continue to attribute these violent events to be a product of their resistance against Goldcorp’s Cerro Blanco project until investigations are carried out by the responsible authorities in both El Salvador and Guatemala demonstrating that this is not the case.

 

Since Ms. Rivera de Silva’s return to El Salvador from her trip to Canada, we have received further disturbing news that CEICOM has twice been a victim of robbery. According to press releases from CEICOM, the first attack took place on January 20th while members of the organization were on their way to eastern El Salvador for an activity planned with residents in the department of La Unión. They had stopped for breakfast at a pupusa restaurant along the primary road entering Olocuilta when a black truck stopped in front of their vehicle. An individual dressed in black stepped out of the truck and began to steal CEICOM members’ belongings from their minivan. Personal documents, a digital recorder, a digital camera, laptops, printed documents from CEICOM and USB memory sticks containing highly important information to the organization were stolen.[2] Then, on January 26th, CEICOM reported that a grey 4×4 pick-up truck with tinted windows was stolen from in front of their offices.[3]

 

As members of civil society organizations from Canada and the US, we express our support for CEICOM’s petition before the governments of El Salvador and Guatemala, asking you to act quickly to carry out an exhaustive investigation regarding the above-mentioned attacks in order to identify the material and intellectual authors, and to hold them responsible. This is necessary not only to resolve this case and to be able to assure the security of the members of CEICOM, but also to reverse the growing trend of violence against environmental defenders in Central America, and to end the impunity that those responsible currently enjoy.

 

Attentively,

 

MiningWatch Canada
Salvadoran Canadian Association of Ottawa and National Capital Region (ASCORCAN)
Canadians Against Mining in El Salvador (CAMES)
Public Service Alliance of Canada
United Church of Canada
Council of Canadians
The Polaris Institute, Ottawa, Canada
Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, Seattle (CISPES-Seattle)
Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA)
Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, Education Fund
Guatemala Human Rights Commission/Comisión de Derechos Humanos de Guatemala en Washington, US
Consejo Científico de Salvadoreños en el Mundo
Comite de Apoyo para el Desarrollo Social en El Salvador – Vancouver (CODESES)
BC CASA/Café Justicia British Colombia, Canada
Center for Alternative Mining Development Policy of La Crosse, Wisconsin
U.S.-El Salvador Sister Cities
Voices on the Border
Center for International Environmental Law
The Democracy Center
Collectif Guatemala, France
Mining Working Group, Maritime Conference, United Church of Canada
Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network
Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network, Canada
The Social Justice Committee of Montreal
Salvadoran Canadian Association (ASALCA)
Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network (LACSN)
ABYA YALA Network
Mining Injustice Solidarity Network, Toronto
Institute for Policy Studies, Global Economy Project, Washington
The Sandy Pond Alliance for the Protection of Canadian Waters, Newfoundland and Labrador
Mining Justice Minière, Ottawa
Midwest Coalition Against Lethal Mining (MCALM), US
The Student Christian Movement of Canada
Latin American Trade Unionist Coalition (LATUC), Canada
Ottawa Diocesan Council of Development and Peace, Canada
Dina L. López, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Geological Sciences, University of Ohio
Caribbean & Latin America Support Project (CLASP), New York, US
Barrio Nuevo, Toronto, Canada
Romero Interfaith Center, Toronto, Canada
Philadelphia -Las Anonas Sister Cities, Philadelphia, PA
US-El Salvador Sister Cities Network
Saint Vincent de Paul Roman Catholic Church, Philadelphia, PA
Sister Parish, Inc./Iglesias Hermanas, El Salvador
Shuswap Association for the Promotion of Eco Desarrollo, British Colombia
Coalición Quebenquense Sobre los Impactos de las Transnacionales en América Latina
Jamie Moffett Media Design & Production, Inc.
The Social Justice Committee of les Soeurs du Sacré-Coeur de Jésus of Canada
Students for a Free Tibet Canada
CoDevelopment Canada

 

cc:

Dr. Oscar Humberto Luna

Public Prosecutor for the Defence of Human Rights (PDDH) of El Salvador

 

Dr. Sergio Fernando Morales Alvarado

Public Prosecutor for the Defence of Human Rights (PDH) of Guatemala

 

Mrs. Evelyne Coulombe

Chargé d’affaires, Canadian Embassy in Guatemala

 

Mrs. Marianick Tremblay

Ambassador, Canadian Embassy in El Salvador

Sra Ana Coralia Mejía de Morot-Gaudry
Chargé d’Affaires, Embassy of El Salvador in Canada

 

Licenciado Georges de La Roche

Ambassador, Embassy of Guatemala in Canada

 

 

(Spanish follows)

 

 

Ottawa, 10 de febrero del 2011

Hugo Martínez

Ministro de Relaciones Exteriores de El Salvador

 

Sigfrido Reyes

Presidente de la Asamblea Legislativa de El Salvador

 

Roger Haroldo Rodas Melgar

Ministro de Relaciones Exteriores de Guatemala

 

Estimados Representantes de El Salvador y Guatemala,

 

Nos dirigimos a usted con sumo respeto y aprovechamos la ocasión para exhortarles que dén atención sobre una serie de denuncias en torno a hechos criminales que varios miembros del equipo del Centro de Investigación Sobre Inversión y Comercio (CEICOM), un grupo ambientalista de El Salvador, han sufrido en territorio Guatemalteco y en territorio Salvadoreño durante los últimos seis meses.

 

Nos enterramos sobre estos casos a través de los boletines de prensa del grupo CEICOM y por la visita a nuestra oficina en el parlamento de Canadá por parte de la Sra. Nelly Rivera de Silva, miembra del CEICOM, el 13 de enero de este año. Además, observamos con mucha preocupación la creciente tendencia regional hacia la violencia en contra de defensores ambientales en el contexto de la industria minera en Centro América y muchas veces relacionadas con las operaciones de empresas mineras canadienses, tal como ha sido documentado por el Centro para el Derecho Internacional Ambiental en su informe preparado para la Audiencia General del 25 de Octobre de 2010 ante la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos.[4]

 

Durante los últimos años, CEICOM, como miembro de la Mesa Nacional frente a la Minería Metálica de El Salvador (conocido como la Mesa), ha protagonizado un proceso de educación participativa y resistencia en contra del proyecto minero Cerro Blanco, de la empresa minera Goldcorp Inc. con sede en Vancouver, Canadá. Sra. Rivera de Silva nos ha informado sobre las preocupaciones que CEICOM mantiene sobre este proyecto por los riesgos que podrían significar para el pueblo de El Salvador por su ubicación arribas del Complejo de agua Güija, un lago compartido entre Guatemala y El Salvador y reconocida en la lista del convenio Ramsar para humedales de importancia a nivel internacional, y el Río Lempa, principal fuente de agua para más de tres millones de El Salvadoreños.

 

Señalamos que nos ha indicado la Sra. Rivera de Silva que el equipo de CEICOM ha sido asaltado y robado durante dos ocasiones, mientras estaban en camino a la ciudad de Guatemala para presentar sus quejas sobre este proyecto. Nos dice CEICOM ha denunciado estos hechos antes las autoridades competentes de Guatemala y El Salvador.

 

En resúmen, el pasado 30 de julio de 2010, CEICOM informo que tres ambientalistas de su institución y miembros de la Oficina de Paz y Justicia de la Orden Franciscana, fueron privados de libertad por sujetos desconocidos a la altura del kilómetro 43 de la carretera que conduce a la ciudad de Guatemala. La privación duró aproximadamente 2 horas y luego de robarles sus pertenencias los dejaron amarrados y abandonados en una finca de café. Luego, el 28 de Octubre de 2010, tres afiliados del CEICOM fueron interceptados por personas fuertemente armadas, nuevamente a la altura del Km. 43 Ciudad de Guatemala, trasladándolos a una finca cercana y luego de registrarles, robarles las pertenencias personales y de la institución, les dejaron abandonados en la referida finca maniatándolos y amenazándolos de no denunciar el caso. Nos ha indicado la Sra. Nelly Rivera de Silva de que CEICOM va a sostener que todos los eventos de violencia sufridos son producto de la resistencia que sostiene CEICOM frente al proyecto Cerro Blanco mientras no se demuestre lo contrario mediante resultados de las investigaciones realizadas por autoridades competentes de El Salvador y Guatemala.

 

Desde su retorno a El Salvador, recibimos la preocupante noticia de que el equipo de CEICOM fueron víctimas dos veces más de unos actos de robo. Según el primer boletín de prensa de CEICOM, el primer hecho tomó lugar el pasado 20 de enero mientras miembros de su equipo se dirigían hacia el oriente de El Salvador a realizar una actividad con pobladores del departamento de La Unión. El acontecimiento ocurrió a las 7:30 de la mañana frente a las pupuserías ubicadas en la entrada principal de Olocuilta. Los miembros del CEICOM se disponían a desayunar previo a su visita al oriente del país. Luego de haberse estacionado frente a las pupuserías, una camioneta negra y polarizada se estacionó frente a la unidad de transporte del CEICOM, de esa camioneta salió un sujeto vestido de negro quien se dispuso a robar todas las pertenencias que se encontraban dentro del microbús. En el robo se llevaron documentos personales, grabadora digital, cámara digital, laptops, documentos impresos de la institución y memorias USB que contenían información de suma importancia para CEICOM.[5] Luego, el 26 de enero, según otro boletín de prensa de CEICOM, frente a las instalaciones de la organización fue robado un pick up 4×4 doble cabina, color gris, placa 604303, polarizado entre las 15h30 y 16h00 de la tarde.[6]

 

Como representantes de organizaciones sociales de Canadá y los EEUU, respaldamos la solicitud que ha hecho CEICOM al gobierno de El Salvador y de Guatemala que actúe de forma expedita para llevar a cabo una investigación pronta e exhaustiva sobre los hechos mencionados, para identificar a los responsables materiales e intelectuales, y enjuiciar como corresponde. Esto es necesario no solo para poder resolver este caso y para asegurar la seguridad de los miembros de CEICOM, sino que sea un necesario paso hacia detener e eliminar la creciente tendencia regional de violencia en contra de defensores ambientales, y para enfrentar la impunidad de que gozan los responsables en la actualidad.

 

Atentamente,

 

MiningWatch Canada
Salvadoran Canadian Association of Ottawa and National Capital Region (ASCORCAN)
Canadians Against Mining in El Salvador (CAMES)
Public Service Alliance of Canada
United Church of Canada
Council of Canadians
The Polaris Institute, Ottawa, Canada
Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, Seattle (CISPES-Seattle)
Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA)
Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, Education Fund
Guatemala Human Rights Commission/Comisión de Derechos Humanos de Guatemala en Washington, US
Consejo Científico de Salvadoreños en el Mundo
Comite de Apoyo para el Desarrollo Social en El Salvador – Vancouver (CODESES)
BC CASA/Café Justicia British Colombia, Canada
Center for Alternative Mining Development Policy of La Crosse, Wisconsin
U.S.-El Salvador Sister Cities
Voices on the Border
Center for International Environmental Law
The Democracy Center
Collectif Guatemala, France
Mining Working Group, Maritime Conference, United Church of Canada
Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network
Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network, Canada
The Social Justice Committee of Montreal
Salvadoran Canadian Association (ASALCA)
Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network (LACSN)
ABYA YALA Network
Mining Injustice Solidarity Network, Toronto
Institute for Policy Studies, Global Economy Project, Washington
The Sandy Pond Alliance for the Protection of Canadian Waters, Newfoundland and Labrador
Mining Justice Minière, Ottawa
Midwest Coalition Against Lethal Mining (MCALM), US
The Student Christian Movement of Canada
Latin American Trade Unionist Coalition (LATUC), Canada
Ottawa Diocesan Council of Development and Peace, Canada
Dina L. López, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Geological Sciences, University of Ohio
Caribbean & Latin America Support Project (CLASP), New York, US
Barrio Nuevo, Toronto, Canada
Romero Interfaith Center, Toronto, Canada
Philadelphia -Las Anonas Sister Cities, Philadelphia, PA
US-El Salvador Sister Cities Network
Saint Vincent de Paul Roman Catholic Church, Philadelphia, PA
Sister Parish, Inc./Iglesias Hermanas, El Salvador
Shuswap Association for the Promotion of Eco Desarrollo, British Colombia
Coalición Quebenquense Sobre los Impactos de las Transnacionales en América Latina
Jamie Moffett Media Design & Production, Inc.
The Social Justice Committee of les Soeurs du Sacré-Coeur de Jésus of Canada
Students for a Free Tibet Canada
CoDevelopment Canada

 

cc.

Dr. Oscar Humberto Luna

Procurador para la Defensa de Derechos Humanos (PDDH)

 

Dr. Sergio Fernando Morales Alvarado

Procurador de los Derechos Humanos de Guatemala (PDH)

 

Mrs. Evelyne Coulombe

Chargé d’affaires, Embajada de Canadá en Guatemala

 

Mrs. Marianick Tremblay

Embajador, Embajada de Canadá en El Salvador

Sra Ana Coralia Mejía de Morot-Gaudry
Chargé d’Affaires, Embajada de El Salvador en Canadá

 

Licenciado Georges de La Roche

Embajador, Embajada de Guatemala en Canadá

 


[1] Center for International Environmental Law, “Environmental Defenders in Danger: The situation in Mexico and Central America with regard to the Mining Industry,” Report prepared for a Thematic Hearing held on October 25th 2010 during the 140th Ordinary Period of Sessions of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

[2] CEICOM, Press Release, Public complaint for robbery of environmentalists from CEICOM, January 21st 2011

[3] CEICOM, Press Release, Environmentalists suffer another attack, January 27th 2011

[4] Centro para el Derecho Internacional Ambiental, “Defensoras y Defensores Ambientales en Peligro: La Situación en México y Centro América en el Ámbito de la Industria Minera”, Informe preparado para la Audiencia Temática de 25 de Octubre de 2010 durante el 140˚ Periódo Ordinario de Sesiones de la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos

[5] CEICOM, Comunicado de Prensa, Denuncia Pública por Robo a Ambientalistas del CEICOM, 21 de enero de 2011

[6] CEICOM, Comunicado de Prensa, Ambientalistas del CEICOM sufren otro golpe, 27 de enero de 2011

 

FOR FURTHER ACTIONS VISIT: http://www.miningwatch.ca/en/urgent-action-respond-recent-wave-death-threats-and-crimes-against-el-salvadoran-anti-mining-movemen

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