Mining and the Presidential Elections: Rep. Rohrabacher, Paul Behrends, and Pacific Rim

Days before El Salvador’s recent presidential elections, a small chorus of Representatives from the U.S. Congress spoke out against the FMLN political party and their presidential candidate Mauricio Funes. Of those that spoke out, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) was one of the most vociferous.

In a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives, Rep. Rohrabacher labeled the FMLN a pro-terrorist political party that has links to Iran, al-Qaeda, the FARC, Cuba, and Hugo Chavez. He added that while Salvadorans are free to vote for whomever they like, if they elect the FMLN, the U.S. should end the temporary protective status (TPS) for Salvadorans in the U.S., and cut off the flow of remittances to El Salvador. Rep. Rohrabacher and officials from the State Department made similar threats during the 2004 presidential elections in El Salvador, contributing to the ARENA’s victory over the FMLN.

Despite the last minute threats, on March 15, 2009 Salvadorans elected Mauricio Funes as their next president. While Rep. Rohrabacher’s comments on the House Floor caused a stir the week before the elections, the media has largely ignored them in their coverage of the Funes victory. Rep. Rohrabacher on the other hand posted a C-SPAN video of his speech from the House floor on the front page of his official website.

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Contrary to Rep. Rohrabacher’s threats, El Salvador’s relationship with the U.S. remains strong. President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton both called to congratulate Funes on his victory, and to schedule meetings with him at an upcoming summit. Funes –a moderate and a party outsider– has reiterated that he will respect trade agreements and international law, seek to stem the flow immigration, and maintain strong ties with the U.S.

Within hours of Rep. Rohrabacher and others making statements regarding the FMLN, thousands of U.S. citizens were calling the State Department to demand a statement of neutrality from the Obama Administration. State Department officials readily obliged by restating their neutrality and willingness to work with the next Salvadoran president. The statements made by Rep. Rohrabacher and others beg the question – do these Congressmen have intelligence or information on the FMLN that the State Department and President do not have, or were other interests in the balance? We propose that the answer may lie in Rep. Rohrabacher’s connections with the Pacific Rim Mining Corporation’s struggle to secure mining permits in El Salvador.   Click here to keep reading

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