On July 22nd, in commemoration of the Global Day of Action against Open Pit Mining, the National Roundtable Against Mining held a rally and press conference in front of the Legislative Assembly once again demanding that the Legislature of El Salvador expedite the adoption of a law to ban metallic mining.
Members of the National Roundtable, read a press release and presented an official letter of correspondence repeating their argument that “metal mining is not compatible with the socio-environmental reality of our country, and it does not bring the substantial economic benefits mining corporations claim. Any economic gain is irrelevant compared to the negative impacts on health and the environment that toxic waste generated by the intensive use of heavy metals such as cyanide, mercury, etc. An example of this toxic legacy in El Salvador is the San Sebastian mine in La Union, where an abandoned mine has left a constant stream of toxic waste leaching from the mine; a community without water, contaminated soil, an insecure food supply and high incidence disease.” Read more and see photos from the press conference>>
The Mesa has held numerous press conferences and rallies in recent weeks responding to new challenges, like a new wave of violent repression against anti-mining activists and the approval of a free trade agreement with Europe that they fear will put more pressure on the Salvadoran government to respond to the interests of foreign companies over the interests of the Salvadoran people.
On July 2nd, the Mesa held a press conference to speak out against new acts of violence that members of the organizations that make up the Mesa had suffered under suspicious circumstances. While crime is obviously common in El Salvador, these acts of violence are not random in the opinion of anti-mining activists, who have suffered threats and attempted murders and kidnappings in past years and have seen members of their movement murdered by those who would silence resistance to mining. The Center for Research on Investment and Trade (CEICOM), a Mesa organization that has led the fight against the Cerro Blanco mine in Guatemala near the border with El Salvador, reported that its website has been the target of numerous cyber attacks and that confidential information has been stolen from the site. In June, Zenayda Serrano, an organizer with the Foundation for the Study of Applied Law (FESPAD), another organization of la Mesa, was robbed at gunpoint close to her place of residence. It is suspected that these individuals were stalking her home before violently snatching her belongings and taking all documentation and identification she was carrying.
The Mesa called on authorities to investigate these recent crimes and investigate the past cases of violence that the Attorney General’s office has not taken seriously. Because of this atmosphere of impunity, anti-mining activists do not feel safe going about their work of educating and organizing the Salvadoran people to resist mining. Read more here>>
Just a week later on July 8th, the Mesa rallied in front of the Supreme Court to demand that the court move forward with the constitutional challenges which argue that CAFTA (the Central American Free Trade Agreement) violate the constitution by unfairly favoring the interests of foreign companies over the interests of the Salvadoran populace. The first of these challenges was submitted 8 years ago, in 2005 and accepted by the court in 2007, but still the court has not moved the challenges forward.
These constitutional challenges became even more urgent with the Legislative Assembly’s July 4th approval of the Association Agreement (AdA) with the European Union. Critics of the AdA argue that it is just another CAFTA and will bring the same economic, social and political damage as the free trade agreement with the U.S. The Mesa has argued that agreements like the AdA “place corporate interests over the interests of the Central American people. Current lawsuits from transnational mining corporations seeking to extort hundreds of millions of dollar from our country under the ICSID are the best example of this." Only ruling these agreements unconstitutional will close the door to more lawsuits from foreign corporations like the North American mining companies suing the Salvadoran government through CAFTA.