by Sebastián Darío
San Salvador—Roughly 600 people hiked from their organized communities into the hills of Chalatenango last week carrying a life-size cement statue of the Virgin Mary as a symbol of their resistance to transnational mining companies Aura Silver Resources Inc. and Intrepid Minerals Inc. continued activities in their communities.
The statue was placed atop one of the hills that has been most extensively explored by the mining companies since their arrival to that region last year. The activity was organized by the diocese, and upon the raising of the alter to the Virgin Mary, the bishop of Chalatenango Monseñor Alas said the mass, blessing the struggle of the poor in the face of the many threats to their life and lands.
This act of resistance comes as reports from all over Chalatenango coincide that an array of transnational mining companies continue their efforts to negotiate lands and influence in the region. Felipe Tobar, President of the community board of San José Las Flores, said today that the company continues to enter the Northeastern Region of Chalatenango through backroads, pressuring leaders, landowners, and continuing their exploration efforts.
However, ever since October of last year the workers of the Aura Silver Resources company have not been able to directly enter the communities of the Northeastern part of Chalatenango, when their exploration caravan was detained by hundreds of organized community members, they were escorted out of the region, and told not to return.
Below is the statement of the organized communities of Chalatenango from September 14th.
Proclamation of Faith and Statement of the Communities of the Northeast of Chalatenango
This day the 14th of September, 2006, the Communities of the Northeast of Chalatenango raise this Alter in honour of the Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of the Poor, as an expression of our faith and a sign of strength, of unity and solidarity in the Resistance against the projects that attempt against life.
We ask Our Holy Mother that she illuminate and strengthen this struggle to defend our lands from the exploitation of mines; that she strengthen us so that we never sell our rights, so that we never sell our lands, nor allow ourselves to be fooled by false promises from those with economic interests.
That Mary strengthen us to always maintain the Memory of our Heroes and Martyrs alive, those who gave their blood for justice and because of them we could have these lands that give us life, which today is threatened with death.
We ask Our Holy Mother that she always be with us in this struggle for life; that together we protect nature and the creation that God has given us; that she illuminate the youth to maintain a strong resistance; that our children always defend this patrimony which is the inheritance from our martyrs.
We ask Mary, that she not allow our government to continue giving away our Country to the transnational companies that look to enrich themselves at the cost of the poor majority.
We ask the Church, in the person of the Bishops and priests, that they always continue being Prophets, and that they accompany this resistance of the People in favor of life.
We affirm our firm decision to not permit that the Mining Companies to touch these lands.
This Alter will remain as testimony of our resistance, which today we dedicate to the Holy Virgin Mary, whom we name today: “The Holy Virgin of Resistance,” and we remain committed to come here in pilgrimage every 14th of September.
And we sign as all the People of God of these Communities, and all those who accompany this act of faith and of struggle…