CISPES (Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador) and MiningWatch Canada
Wave of violence centred around Vancouver-based Pacific Rim Mining’s gold project
Canadian company banking on legal case against Salvadoran government after 5 years of net losses
For the second time in six months, a community leader known for his strong opposition to a Canadian gold and silver mining project in El Salvador’s Cabañas Department has been killed. Ramiro Rivera, vice-president of the Environmental Committee of Cabañas, was gunned down on Sunday, December 20, in the town of Ilobasco. His wife Felícita Echeverría, next to him, died as well, and a 13-year-old girl was wounded. According to witnesses, several gunmen ambushed their vehicle and shot them with assault rifles, despite the presence of two police bodyguards. This follows the late June kidnapping, torture and assassination of Marcelo Rivera (no relation) in the municipality of San Isidro. Both men had been vocal critics of Vancouver, B.C., mining company Pacific Rim's proposed El Dorado gold mine.
Ramiro Rivera himself was previously shot eight times in a July assault, and had been under 24-hour police protection ever since. The Salvadoran Justice and Security Minister, Manuel Melgar, stated that Sunday’s murder was “very probably” a “pre-meditated matter,” and not “an instance of common crime.” Several other instances of assaults, attempted kidnappings, and death threats against anti-mining activists in Cabañas have been documented over the last six months, including against a local radio station, Radio Victoria, which is now the target if renewed threats. While suspects await trial in some of those cases, no arrests have been made with respect to the “intellectual authorship” of this wave of targeted political violence.
The ongoing violence in Cabañas seems to be centred around the controversial presence of Pacific Rim Mining in the region, with prominent anti-mining leaders coming under attack. Operations at El Dorado are currently on hold, as the company has been denied extraction permits by the Salvadoran Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources. Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes also stated his opposition to the project during his campaign for office earlier this year.
In response, Pacific Rim opened an investor-state arbitration case against the Salvadoran government in April under the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Because Canada is not party to the agreement, Pacific Rim filed the suit through its subsidiary, Pac Rim Cayman, based in Reno, Nevada. According to Pacific Rim CEO Thomas Shrake, the company is seeking “hundreds of millions” of dollars in the arbitration, which is scheduled to begin in early 2010.
In November, Pacific Rim received notice from the New York Stock Exchange that it is in danger of being delisted after posting net losses for five straight years. On December 11, the company announced that it will seek to generate some CDN $2.36 million by selling additional shares of stock to finance its legal case against the Salvadoran government. The company does not have any other mining projects in operation.
Alexis Stoumbelis, CISPES (Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador): (978) 394-0425 or [email protected]
Jamie Kneen, MiningWatch Canada: (613) 761-2273 (cell) or [email protected]