El Salvador: Trade Deals Are Giving Corporations the Power to Intimidate Tiny Countries

Source: New Republic

Alejandro Guevara hasn’t slept. There was a death in La Maraña, and Guevara, the vice president of the community environmental association, spent the night at the wake. Still, he doesn’t skip a beat as he describes recent violence in his small Salvadoran village, running dates and names, his own included. Someone fired shots at Guevara’s home in October 2013. An anonymous person then called to his cell to ask whether anyone in the house had died.

Murders, threats, and attacks have followed the environmental activists who oppose a gold mining project in the Cabañas department in northern El Salvador. The list is a work in progress. On April 4, police harassed Santos Neftalí Ruíz, a priest and the president of the Cabañas Environmental Committee.

“The threats continue,” Guevara says. Resistance to mining also continues, but years of conflict, fear, and grief have taken a heavy toll in this small community. “Psychologically, we’re sick,” admits Guevara, his voice wavering.

The situation in Cabañas should have calmed down seven years ago when the Salvadoran government put the brakes on the mining project, but an international lawsuit has drawn out the conflict and violence on the ground. The legal case has also had a chilling effect on public interest and environmental policy-making in the small Central American nation. It all raises questions about the potential impacts of investment-protection mechanisms included in the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other free trade agreements.

Continue reading