El Salvador's National Coalition Against Metallic Mining Condemns the Murders of Ramiro Rivera and Felícita Echeverría

Communiqué from the National Coalition Against Metallic Mining of El Salvador

Last Sunday, the 20th of December, environmentalist Ramiro Rivera Gómez, leader in the community resistance to the Canadian mining company Pacific Rim, was assassinated in the Trinidad region of Sensuntepeque, in Cabañas, El Salvador. His wife Felícita Echeverría, next to him, died as well, and a 13-year-old girl was wounded. According to witnesses, several hired hitmen ambushed their vehicle and shot them with high-caliber weapons, despite the presence of two police agents that were there for their safety.

This community leader, member of the Environmental Committee of Cabañas and the National Coalition Against Metallic Mining, was the victim of persecution, death threats, and assassination attempts. The most recent of these happened on August 7 of this year, when he was shot 8 times in the back. One of his attackers, Pacific Rim’s thug, Óscar Menjívar, is now detained and his judicial hearing will be in February 2010. [Note: Pacific Rim has denied any association with Óscar Menjívar, in contrast with the community's assertion that he worked for the company.]

With much outrage, the Christian communities and grassroots organizations of the National Coalition Against Metallic Mining condemn this repugnant crime, and declare the following:

1. The death of compañero Ramiro is not an isolated case, nor is it a crime of common delinquency; it occurs in a context of threats, attacks, disappearances, torture, and assassination of opponents to the mining projects, the most emblematic of which the case of Gustavo Marcelo Rivera. These crimes take place in the middle of a climate of growing conflict, caused by Pacific Rim, by way of buying political will, dividing communities, and promoting violent acts against anti-mining activists.

2. The assassination of Ramiro Rivera is a result of the impunity that prevails in the zone. Certainly the lack of justice in the disappearance, torture, and murder of Gustavo Marcelo Rivera gave incentive to the material and intellectual murderers of compañero Ramiro. In that sense, not only is Pacific Rim responsible for generating conflicts in communities and families, but also the police, district attorney and attorney general, and judicial system, for allowing impunity that motivates the commission of new crimes.

3. This situation in Cabañas also reflects a certain indolence of the very President of the Republic, Maurcio Funes, who does not declare a position on these cases, despite repeated petitions by the Coalition and from the international community. Recently the influential U.S. Congressperson James McGovern asked that he [Funes] intervene.

The 9th of December, community leaders from Cabañas and representatives of the Coalition arrived at the Presidential residence to deliver a letter to Funes, which he could not receive because he had other commitments. The communiqué asked, among other things, for a thorough investigation in the case of Marcelo Rivera and to apply effective security measures for all threatened environmental activists. Probably an immediate response would have prevented the assassination of compañero Ramiro.

In light of this situation, the Coalition reiterates its demands to prosecute and penalize all those who are intellectually and materially responsible for the assassination attempts, threats, assassinations, and other crimes against the defenders of the environment in Cabañas; and to include in the list of suspects of intellectual authors of these human rights violations the mining company Pacific Rim and all its lackeys.

What You Can Do

Please write to the following Canadian officials as well as to your own Member of Parliament (see link below) asking that the government of Canada call on the Government of El Salvador to ensure that the Attorney General’s Office carry out a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation into the assassination of Ramiro Rivera Gomez, investigating all possible linkages related to his work in questioning the actions of Pacific Rim mining company in El Salvador. The investigation should culminate in the prosecution of all those found responsible for his death.

Write to:

Hon. Peter Kent
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Americas)
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0G2
Telephone: (613) 992-0253
Fax: (613) 992-0887

Send copies to:

Rafael Angel Alfaro Pineda
Ambassador of El Salvador to Canada
209 Kent Street,
Ottawa, Ontario K2P 1Z8
Telephone: (613) 238-2939
Fax: (613) 238-6940

Claire A. Poulin
Canadian Ambassador to El Salvador
Centro Financiero Gigante
63 Av. Sur y Alameda Roosevelt, Local 6, Nivel Lobby II
San Salvador, El Salvador
Telephone: (503) 2279-4655
Fax: (503) 2279-0765
[email protected]

Kevin Sorenson, MP
Chair, Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development
Telephone: (613) 947-4608
Fax: (613) 947-4611
[email protected]

John MacKay, MP
Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development
Telephone: (613) 992-1447
Fax: (613) 992-8968
[email protected]

Hon. Bob Rae, MP
Liberal Party Foreign Affairs Critic
Telephone: (613) 992-5234
Fax: (613) 996-9607

Francine Lalonde, MP
Bloc Québecois Foreign Affairs Critic
Telephone: (613) 995-6327
Fax: (613) 996-5173

Paul Dewar, MP
NDP Foreign Affairs Critic
Telephone: (613) 996-5322
Fax: (613) 996-5323

Alexandre Leveque
Director Caribbean, Central America & Regional Policy, Central America Division, DFAIT
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, Ontario  K1A 0G2
Telephone: (613) 992-2971
Fax: (613) 944-0760

Barbara Curran
Director, Central America Division, Canadian International Development Agency
200 Promenade du Portage
Gatineau, Québec  K1A 0G4
Telephone: (819) 994-4092
Fax: (819) 997-0628

How to contact your Member of Parliament in your riding: http://www2.parl.gc.ca/Parlinfo/Compilations/HouseOfCommons/MemberByPostalCode.aspx?Menu=HOC