Call to Action: U.S. Prevents Anti-Mining Activist from Testifying before 
Inter-American Human Rights Commission

On October 18, the United States Consulate in El Salvador refused to allow Hector Berríos to travel to Washington D.C. and appear before the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IAHRC) to give testimony on mining-related violence in El Salvador.  He is the fourth anti-mining activist to be denied a travel visa to the United States th is month.  By denying Mr. Berríos the right to appear before the IAHRC, the U.S. is denying the people of El Salvador access to a justice system to which they are entitled to as a member country of the Organization of American States (OAS). Mr. Berríos is scheduled to appear before the IACHR on Monday, October 25 – please take action immediately!

TAKE ACTION TODAY! DEMAND THAT THE U.S. CONSULATE IMMEDIATELY AUTHORIZE HECTOR BERRÍOS’ TRAVEL VISA! See below for sample email and call script.

Background information: Mr. Berríos, who was victim to mining-related violence in 2009, is a member of the Francisco Sanchez 1932 Unified Movement (MUFRAS-32)—a member organization of the National Roundtable Against Metallic Mining in El Salvador.  He was invited by the OAS to give testimony before the IAHRC in a hearing entitled “Environmental Defenders in Danger: the situation in Mexico and Central America in the scope of the mining industry” that is scheduled for this Monday, October 25.  The anti-mining movement in El Salvador saw three of its activists murdered in 2009; death threats and kidnapping and murder attempts against activists, priests and journalists continue.

While material authors of the crimes have been arrested and even sentenced to prison time in a few of the cases, the Attorney General has not investigated the intellectual authors or the role played by mining companies like Pacific Rim.  Salvadoran and other Central American activists are turning to international courts and institutions like the IAHRC to seek justice, legal avenues which the U.S. is currently blocking by denying travel visas.

Send a message to the U.S. State Department  in Washington and San Salvador TODAY: The U.S. cannot block Salvador’s access to international bodies like the OAS!

1. Call Melanie Bonner at the El Salvador desk at the State Department (202) 647-4161. Sample script below.

2. Send an email to Consul General in San Salvador, Kathryn Cabral (congensansal@state.gov) and copy the El Salvador desk at the U.S. State Department (bonnerml@state.gov). Sample email below.

SAMPLE PHONE CALL:

Hello, my name is ______________.  I am very troubled to learn that the U.S. Consulate in San Salvador denied a travel visa to Mr. Hector Berríos, who was invited by the Organization of American States to give testimony before the Inter-American Human Rights Commission about the human rights situation of environmental defenders in El Salvador.  It is completely unacceptable for the U.S. government to deny Mr. Berríos the opportunity to denounce human rights violations just because the hearing is in Washington, DC. By denying this visa, the U.S. is effectively blocking El Salvador’s ability to participate in international organizations of which it is a member.  Will you call the Consul General today and ask her to immediately authorize a travel visa to Mr. Berríos so that he can travel to Washington, D.C. on Saturday, October 23, to appear in the IAHRC hearing scheduled for Monday, October 25?  Thank you.

SAMPLE EMAIL

Dear Ms. Cabral,

On Monday, October 18, U.S. Consulate in San Salvador denied a travel visa to Mr. Hector Antonio Garcia Berríos.  Mr. Berríos was invited by the Organization of American States to give testimony before the Inter-American Human Rights Commission during a hearing entitled, “Environmental Defenders in Danger: the situation in Mexico and Central America in the scope of the mining industry” which is scheduled for this Monday, October 25.

As I hope you know, the situation for environmental defenders in El Salvador is very serious; the anti-mining movement in El Salvador saw three of its activists murdered in 2009, death threats and kidnapping and murder attempts against activists, priests and journalists continue. Mr. Berríos has himself been the victim on mining-related violence, which is why he was nominated to provide testimony.

I understand that Mr. Berríos presented an invitation from the OAS during his interview, as well as sufficient evidence that he had strong ties that would bring him back to his country, including: proof of employment, property titles, and the birth certificate of his young daughter.

I am deeply concerned about this visa denial, especially because Mr. Berríos’ presented a strong application and official OAS invitation. This suggests that there is a political motivation behind the decision, especially as he the FOURTH environmentalist from the anti-mining movement who has been denied a travel visa to the U.S. for a speaking engagement in the past month. I plan to call this situation to the attention of the new Ambassador as well as my Congressional Representatives and Senators.

By denying this visa, the U.S. is blocking El Salvador’s ability to participate in international organizations of which it is a member. It is completely unacceptable for the U.S. government to take advantage of the commission’s location in Washington D.C. in order to deny Mr. Berríos the opportunity to denounce human rights violations happening in his country.

For these reasons, I ask you to immediately authorize a travel visa to Mr. Berríos so that he can travel to Washington D.C. on Saturday, October 23, to appear in the IAHRC hearing scheduled for Monday, October 25.

Sincerely,

[Your name and address]

Thanks to CISPES for organizing this action and for your involvement!

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