On June 8th, the CEO of Pacific Rim mining company, Thomas Shrake, spoke before a Canadian congressional committee about his experience with the El Dorado mining project in Cabañas, El Salvador. The congressional committee was debating the Bill C-300 that proposes oversight of the government’s investments into international mining projects. The committee invited Mr. Shrake to testify as an example of why the bill is needed to protect Canada’s reputation abroad. Mr Shrake’s testimony argued against the Bill and demonized the sectors of Salvadoran society that have opposed the company’s projects in their communities. Here we provide a response from the community association, ADES, targeted in Shrake’s testimony.
Interview with Antonio Pacheco, Director of ADES:
ROSIE: We’re here with Antonio Pacheco, the Director of ADES, and we have reviewed the comments made by Thomas Shrake to the Canadian Congressional committee on June 8, 2010. I’d like to ask, after reviewing these accusations against ADES, how do you perceive what he has said?
ANTONIO: Mr. Shrake’s objective was to create a strong impression in the Canadian Congress, to the end that they will not approve a law that controls the behavior of Canadian businesses. Mr. Shrake accuses us of promoting violence, but in reality, the authorities of this country know very well that ADES had nothing to do with these acts, and that ADES is very removed from this type of event. ADES has done nothing to cause violence in the area of Cabanas.
ROSIE: So, why do you think it was in Mr. Shrake’s interest to make this type of accusation against your organization?
ANTONIO: He tries to paint ADES as the devil, and to make himself into the victim of our actions. He tries to make an impression on the Canadian public that they are the victims of an attack from a Salvadoran organization, and that the Salvadoran government has done nothing to prevent this type of action.
ROSIE: So, what is the real history of ADES? What’s the organization’s mission?
ANTONIO: ADES is a community organization, comprised of campesinos and campesinas, dedicated to agriculture and community organization. Its focus is community development. This mission leads us to oppose a project like mining exploration, which is so environmentally devastating. Before we knew about the damage caused by mines, we thought it was a good project because of the employment opportunities and development that it could bring. However, our position changed when the people effected by Pacific Rim’s initial exploration came to our office to ask for help and accompaniment. The population, coming to their own conclusions, had already tried to denounce the project through the municipal government, the attorney general, and prosecutor’s office, but these organizations didn’t pay any attention to their complaints.
From this point, ADES began to get involved in this issue. The first thing we had to do was investigate the issue, and we realized that effectively in Central America and Latin America there had been a lot of damage caused by mining companies. We are convinced that our vision, which is sustainable development, including the rational use of natural resources, is the best way to improve our standard of living. So, due to this situation, specifically the persistent increase of mining exploration throughout the department, and the continuous complaints of the population, we decided to accompany them by raising awareness of the potential damages, scientific research with outside experts, and to begin to bring the issue onto the national stage. We decided to bring the issue to politicians, to the Salvadoran Congress, ministers, and the church, while respecting the mining industry’s presence in Cabañas.
ROSIE: Mr. Shrake has said that on 2 occasions armed groups attacked his employees and damaged his property, along with other incidences of violence, and he says that ADES is responsible for all of these violent events.
ANTONIO: Frankly, we don’t know where this accusation; that we have acted in a planned manner with armed groups, is coming from. We are a social organization, legally constituted, and we focus on peaceful advocacy. We understand the detrimental impact that this type of activity could cause on our area, where we work and live with our families. We make it very clear that it is not our political practice to use violent means, as Mr. Shrake suggests.
ROSIE: So, ADES is going to prepare a more detailed response to these accusations, and we will await this document.
ANTONIO: Of course ADES will respond to the accusations of the president of Pacific Rim, so that the citizenry, not only in El Salvador but also in USA and Canada can hear our point of view.