El Salvador: Pressure from Pacific Rim Mining Company Intensifies, Anti-Mining Activist Home Robbed

  The community of San Isidro, Cabañas in El Salvador has been the site of a powerful resistance movement against gold mining since 2006, effectively shutting down the El Dorado mining site and winning a victory against the Canadian-based Pacific Rim Mining Company. The militant resistance in San Isidro is a reflection of broad-based popular opposition to mining across El Salvador, the force of which has prevented the right-wing ARENA government from approving the environmental permits for Pacific Rim to begin gold exploitation.

In December 2008, Pacific Rim announced their Notice of Intent to file arbitration under CAFTA for $77 million of indirect appropriation. The 90-day resolution period ends on March 9, days before El Salvador’s Presidential elections on March 15, when the leftist FMLN party, which is opposed to mining, is expected to win. The Notice of Intent has been read as an attempt to force ARENA’s hand to approve the permits quickly and/or as an electoral strategy to re-elect the ARENA party by frightening voters with million-dollar lawsuits brought against an FMLN government for opposing neoliberal policies.

During the recent legislative and municipal elections of January 18, the community of San Isidro was the site of heavily contentious mayoral race between two right-wing parties. However, the polls were forced to close mid-day as the community protested a significant presence of Guatemalans transported across the border, likely by the ARENA party, to vote. Another election was held a week later, and the ARENA mayor Ignacio Bautista, a vocal supporter of the mining project, was narrowly re-elected. According to anti-mining organizers in San Isidro, "All of the people in the municipality know that Pacific Rim gave money to [Bautista] for his campaign and in so continuing with their mining plans." Now these organizers are being targeted in an attempt to stop the resistance.

El Salvador: Unknown Persons Rob the Home of Social Activist
Source: Diario Co Latino www.diariocolatino.com
Monday, February 2, 2009

The theft of documents, video cameras, and photographs, from the home of social activist Héctor Berríos, in the Sacramento neighborhood in the city of Mejicanos, El Salvador is intended – according to the victim – to scare him into discontinuing his work against mining in San Isidro, Cabañas.   
The unusual robbery occurred this past Saturday, in the early hours of the morning at house 17-D on Street 3, in the neighborhood of Sacramento, in the interior of Zacamil, despite the gated security specific to this neighborhood. 
Berríos reported that around 3:45 a.m. he realized that the lights were on in his home, and, after commenting on it to his spouse, went to investigate, and found complete disorder in the living room and a broken window where the robbers supposedly entered.

"They took a video camera and two photographic cameras, some [USB] memory sticks, a computer, a cell phone with all of my contacts.  They took other documents from the campaign that we are carrying out against mining and recordings that we made of the presence of foreigners voting in San Isidro, [Cabañas], because we know that the ARENA candidate was helped by Pacific Rim," he pointed out.

He also denounced the "indifference" of police and authorities in beginning the preliminary investigation, and said that the testimony of the security guard, affirming that he did not know anything about the incident, is an indication of the security on the street.

"The investigators were Roberto Carlos Gámez, lab director, and Gilmar Linares from 911, they only asked me my name and told me that there were no traces of evidence in the house, and they had registered everything.  Because the cell phone that they took from the night table was close to my bed, [the robbers] came all the way into the bedroom and they could have assassinated us," he said.

In regards to the Attorney General, Berríos pointed out that the attorney Dolores Soriano was present at 8:00 a.m., but she did not take his statement until the police had made their inspection.

"We had our salaries and gold jewelry [in the house] and they did not take them, this was not a simple robbery.  They left, in order on the kitchen table, a photo of my wife, of my daughter and one of me, after having recorded our appearances.  This is a threat, they are telling me that they can enter my house and do whatever they want, and taking this into account the investigation of the crime is ineffective, it is a poor precedent," he commented.

Berríos affirmed that he works closely with many people in San Isidro, Cabañas, in the resistance effort against mining, in defense of the environment, and in defense of the vote in the coming presidential elections.

"All of the people in the municipality know that Pacific Rim gave money to the [recently elected] mayor Ignacio Bautista from ARENA, for his campaign and in so continuing with their mining plans; with this robbery they are sending us a message to desist, but we are committed and we are going to continue working with the people," he stated.