Tension in the debate over Pacific Rim’s efforts to mine gold in Cabañas continues, even though the Canadian mining firm has not had a real presence in the region since 2008.
In this latest episode, Pacific Rim has filed a lawsuit against seven anti-mining activists in Cabañas, the province where Pacific Rim’s El Dorado property is located, accusing them of aggravated robbery, damage to private property, and deprivation of liberty.
According to an article buried on page 74 of today’s La Prensa Grafica, the preliminary hearings were to begin today at 10 am in Sensuntepeque. The charges arise out of an incident on November 14, 2006, when Francisco Pineda and six other defendants allegedly stole some screwdrivers and pliers.
Pineda told the Diario Co-Latino, “at no time have we deprived anyone of their liberty; at no time have we robbed.” In La Prensa Grafica he states, “for us the lawsuit is a continuation of the pressure that Pacific Rim has kept on us, a persecution with the objective of diminishing the protests that we have maintained against their exploitation projects.”
Over the years, Pacific Rim has filed or supported a number of petty lawsuits against community members in Cabañas for opposing their activities. Fermin Menjívar, who is named as a defendant in this latest suit, endured a series of lawsuits in 2007, claiming that he had threatened Pacific Rim employees, including Andres Gomes Chicas. All of the fifteen charges filed against Mr. Menjivar were dropped.
In November 2007, Pacific Rim filed a lawsuit against Edelmira Menjívar, Fermin Menjívar’s aunt, claiming that she threatened to kill the husband of one of the community board members. Both Fermin and Edelmira lived with Luciana Vela (Edelmira’s mother and Fermin’s grandmother). Luciana owned a lot of land that Pacific Rim wanted to explore in 2007, but she would not give them permission to enter her property. Pacific Rim geologists visited her property several times pressuring her to sign over the rights to her land, but she refused. During one heated exchange, Luciana suffered a stroke that left her in a vegetative state. Pacific Rim never got to explore her property and that apparently made them mad. The court dismissed all charges against Edelmira.
In 2008, the principal of a school in Guacotecti, a municipality down the road from Pacific Rim’s El Dorado mine, painted the school with Pacific Rim’s colors, a violation of regulations that require public schools to be painted blue and white. A young teacher protested and the Ministry of Education ordered that the principal repaint the school. With the support of Pacific Rim, the principal filed a lawsuit against the teacher. The day of the hearing, Pacific Rim bused in a large number of supporters to attend the hearing. The judge dismissed the case for lack of evidence.
Pacific Rim has filed or threatened to file other lawsuits against other activists who have opposed Pacific Rim, but none of them have resulted in any charges or convictions. One could argue that Pacific Rim’s CAFTA claim currently being arbitrated before an ICSID tribunal is the largest, most egregious of these lawsuits.
We find it difficult to conceive why Pacific Rim would waste their dwindling resources pursuing a lawsuit against seven Salvadorans over some screwdrivers and pliers.
Since 2006, the debate over mining has directly or indirectly led to seven homicides, several other violent attacks and attempted homicides, and a constant barrage of death threats. And Pacific Rim is worried about some screwdrivers and pliers that went missing in 2006?