February 2017 marks the history of Cabañas as Cinquera became the first Municipality in that Department showing interest in holding a mining Consultation. Nevertheless, February 26 will be remembered as the day when Cinquera was declared the First Municipality Free of Metallic Mining in Cabañas and the fifth one in the country after the Municipalities of San José Las Flores (2014), Nueva Trinidad, San Isidro Labrador, and Arcatao (2015).
International observers witnessed democracy and and transparency during the process.
After more than 3 months of coordination between CRIPDES with ARDM (the Association of Reconstruction and Municipal Development of Cinquera), Christian Based Community of Cinquera, Community Councils of the Municipality, ALGES (the Association of War Wounded people of El Salvador), U.S-El Salvador Sister Cities, CORDES, AMECIJD (Women´s Association of Cinquera for Equity, Justice and Development), and the Municipal Council, the Mayor of the City announced their support and accepted the development of a Community Consultation to prohibit Mining Corporations to enter Cinquera to destruct their natural resources including the Ecological Park that they have protected for years since they repopulated Cinquera after the war.
From very early in the morning, a team of 20 international observers and over 20 national ones witnessed a free and informed vote that overwhelmingly rejected mining in Cinquera. The team of internationals was made up of citizens representing 3 countries including: Canada, USA, and Spain. Teams were broken up into groups of 4 observers and were present at all 4 of the voting centers set up in the municipality.
Overall, the team consistently witnessed a high level of turnout and a diversity of voters in terms of age (the elderly and youth population both voted). The team also observed a high degree of participation by people with different disabilities and a consistent effort by the poll workers at the different voting centers to help those who had trouble with different aspects of the voting process.
Pablo Alvarenga after voting
There were 4 voting centers, among them Cinquera (#1), Cacao (#2), San Nicolas (#3), and San Benito (#4). Each voting center expected a specific number of voters. The total of people apt to vote was 997. And polls close with over 52% of participation from the registered voters.
At 6:00 pm, the Mayor of the City accompanied by the Municipal Council announced the official results of the 5th Community Consultation to declare the municipality “Territory Free of Mining”. According to the closing forms after consolidating the referendum, the results were as follows: Cinquera (229 No, 4 Yes), Cacao (74 No), San Nicolas (143 No, 1 null), and San Benito (70 No, 4 Yes, 1 Abstention). To summarize, a total of 526 people went out to vote from where 516 voted NO while 8 voted YES –which represents 1.5% of the voters. Besides, there was an abstention and a vote that was null. Therefore, the 98.1% of the voters decided to be against mining exploration and exploitation in the municipality.
Counting votes at end of the day
That popular decision will turn into the creation of the Municipal Ordinance that regulates and prohibits mining in their territory by the Municipal Council that will be concreted in the next couple of months. The Community Consultation is an instrument that is stablished as part of popular participation in the Municipal Code in its articles 115-117 respectively.
The Community Consultation not only had the participation of internationals as observers but also had a group of representatives from the Attorney´s Office for the Defense of Human Rights (PDDH), Parliament representatives of Cabañas, Secretariat of Transparency of the Presidency, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, NGO´s, and local governments from other municipalities to verify the voting process.
In that context, the organizations and individuals involved in the Consultation had a Press Conference in the morning of February 27th to announce the results publicly. Among the people in the conference was Ann Legg in behalf of the International Observers and representing Sister Cities Board of Directors.
“Greetings, this is Ann Legg from the United States. I am a member of the Board of Directors of U.S-El Salvador Sister Cities and a representative of a delegation of 20 International Observers from Canada, the United States, and Spain. Yesterday, we observed the Community Consultation in Cinquera, Cabañas where more than the 98% of the voters said NO to mining. National and International Observers were present in the 4 voting centers in each of the stages of the process. We ensure that the process was transparent, just, and according to the Municipal Code and the electoral laws. We congratulate the people from Cinquera for such a successful example of participatory democracy to declare their territory free of mining. We wish you all the best!”
Press conference given by members of Cinquera municipality and represenstives of different actors involved in the process.
In this sense many people involved witnessed a powerful example of democracy in action and a profound lesson in civic participation that it is hoped to carry back into each ones communities/countries.
Another great victory for the rural community organization, declaring Cinquera “as the first territory Free of Metallic Mining in the Department of Cabañas and fifth in El Salvador!”