Environment, Uncategorized

Los Joveles Pig Farm and the Contamination of Rio Titihuapa

According to a group of concerned citizens and civil society organizations, the Joveles pig farm outside of Ilobasco, Cabañas is contaminating the Titihuapa River with urine, feces, blood and other waste. For nine years they have asked the Ministry of the Environment, municipal governments, the Police, and Attorney General to intervene, but the only thing officials have managed to do is to test the water and confirm that it is polluted.

The Titihuapa is a beautiful tributary of the Lempa River, cutting west to east through the middle of El Salvador, serving for a stretch as the border between Cabañas and San Vicente. In places, the river has carved out large canyons that are full of dense tropical undergrowth, caves, and petroglyphs from indigenous peoples that inhabited the region for thousands of years. According to Rhina Navarrete from ASIC (Friends of San Isidro), “the Titihuapa River is part of our identity and culture.”

Mario Guevara, a coordinator for the Movement of Victims Affected by Climate Change says, “many communities in rural areas depend on rivers [like the Titihuapa] for gathering water and to engage in activities such as fishing, as part of their economic subsistence. In addition, the rivers are ecosystems that permit abundant life and reproduction of a number of wildlife species.” He says, “it is inconceivable that businesses would dump their contaminated waste in the rivers with total impunity. Its not just the importance of the environment, but the life of the people.” Ms. Navarrete from ASIC also emphasizes that the Titihuapa is “the source of life for many families that fish and bring nourishment to their homes.”

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Waste from the Joveles farm affects more than more than 25,000 people in rural communities on both sides of the river (in Cabañas and San Vicente), and there is little question that the Titihuapa is contaminated with pig and chicken waste. Studies by the government and civil society organizations have shown as much. As early as 2008, the Ministry of Health and Pan American Health Organization identified Los Joveles as a major risk to the region’s water and environment because their waste treatment system is insufficient. Only representatives from the Joveles pig farm claim that nothing is wrong.

Los Joveles is located in Canton Santa Lucia on the main road between Ilobasco and San Isidro, just up the hill from the Titihuapa River. It is a large facility with more than 60,000 pigs and poultry, and several lagoons (see the photos above) that are supposed to hold the farm’s waste. According to locals, these ponds frequently spill over sending its contents straight into the Titihuapa.

Residents of Santa Lucia and other communities near the Titihuapa report that it smells of waste and its color has turned a putrid yellow-orange. There is a school nearby that is overrun with flies when the wind blows the wrong way. People first noticed there was a problem with the river in 2007 after rain washed waste from the lagoons into the river.

Pig farms are known to have significant environmental and public health impacts on their host communities. A literature review by the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production concluded that “ammonia emissions from hog farms pose a serious public threat,” and that “air emissions from lagoons, sprayfields, and hog houses have been linked to neurological and respiratory problems.” The study also reports that communities have to be concerned about hydrogen sulfide emissions, and that “hog waste that is ending up in the river contains disease-causing pathogens and increases antibiotic resistance.”

ADES, ASIC, Mufras-32, CESTA, and other environmental groups have worked with residents Cabañas and San Vicente to report the issue to the Ministry of the Environment and other government agencies, but they have had little response. The Ministry of the Environment came and studied the river in 2015 and confirmed that the river is contaminated with waste, which is decreasing the amount of oxygen in the water and killing off fish and other species. After completing the study, the Ministry and other government agencies and officials held an assembly to discuss some of the findings and how they would follow up. One frustrated assembly participant responded that, “the officials make a lot of promises, but they do nothing at all.”

The communities and organizations challenging the Joveles pig farm are seasoned activists that stood up to Pacific Rim Mining Company and closed down the El Dorado mining project in San Isidro. Prior to that, these same activists stopped a group of powerful mayors from opening a garbage dump near the Titijuapa River. And just as Pacific Rim had its supporters in Cabañas, so does Joveles. The pig farm is popular with many in the region because it provides jobs, and some people are willing to sacrifice the river and their own well-being for the hope of more jobs.

But many others agree with Ms. Navarrete and Mr. Guevara, that the river provides life and should be protected. These activists did not back down when their fellow activists were killed taking on Pacific Rim, and it is unlikely they will back down now.

Civil society organizations cannot do it all, however. The Ministry of the Environment and other government agencies have to do their jobs, which means going beyond water tests, writing reports, and holding community assemblies. It means holding those who pollute El Salvador’s water supplies accountable.

Sadly, that seems unlikely anytime in the near future. The government’s shortcomings have been on full display in the past two weeks since the Magdalena Sugar Mill spilled 900,000 gallons of molasses into the Magdalena River in Santa Ana. There is no question that the Mill is responsible for the spill, and that the damage caused to the river and nearby communities is extensive, but all the Ministry of the Environment can do is order the mill to issue a public apology and design a cleanup plan.

The Titihuapa and Magdalena Rivers are just two examples of a big part of El Salvador’s water crisis – 90% of surface waters are polluted because government agencies like the Ministry of the Environment, Ministry of Agriculture, and others will not or cannot stop or punish polluters.That gets us back to Mr. Guevara’s point that pollution makes it difficult for rural families. This week, Léo Heller, the UN Special Rapporteur for Water reported data obtained from ANDA that at least 618,000 Salvadorans in rural communities do not have access to potable water. He recommended expanding the current state of emergency for San Salvador due to a great water shortage to rural areas as well.

While that would be a positive step, any real solution has to include government agencies doing their job in protecting the country’s natural resources, like the Titihuapa River. Until they do, Salvadorans will continue to live in crisis.

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Climate Change, El Salvador Government, Environment, Mining

MOVIAC Environmental Reflections

This morning, the Movement of Victims Affected by Climate Change and Corporations (MOVIAC, in Spanish), published a two-page statement in Diario Co Latino on pending environmental issues in El Salvador – the Pacific Rim claim in the World Bank tribunal and the proposed ban on mining, Climate Change and the current economic model, the recent signing of the Millennium Challenge Corporation grant, and the Legislative Assembly’s failure to recognize water as a basic human right. MOVIAC wants the new Sánchez Cerén administration and the Legislative Assembly to be doing way more than they are.

Voices staff translated the MOVIAC statement to English and have attached it below along with the original in Spanish. (We will update this post with a link to the digital copy of today’s Co Latino when it is available.)

English

0925 publicacion Reflexiones ambientales(1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

agriculture, Economy, El Salvador Government, Environment, Mining, U.S. Relations

The Debate Over Public-Private Partnership Law and MCC Funding in El Salvador

Last week Pacific Rim Mining Company announced it is seeking $315 million dollars in damages from El Salvador. It was a stark reminder that the 8-year old mining debate, which included several years of threats and violence between mining supporters and opponents, has yet to been resolved and could still result in a devastating economic blow to El Salvador.

As the mining issue continues, another debate with the potential to become just as volatile is brewing. In March the Funes Administration provided some details about its proposal for a second round of funding from the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a US aid program started by President Bush in 2004. The proposal is worth $413 million dollars, half of which will likely go towards an infrastructure project like improving the Litoral Highway that runs along El Salvador’s southern coast. The other half is likely to help finance public-private partnerships and improve human capital, which seems to mean education.

As details of the proposal emerge, opposition to a second round of MCC funding is growing. So far, opposition has opened on two fronts. The Salvadoran labor movement has been the most outspoken opponent, denouncing the proposed Law on Public Private Partnerships (P3 Law) since last year. Environmentalists and communities in the Lower Lempa region of Usulután have been less outspoken, but oppose the MCC proposal because the public-private partnerships will support tourism, which they strongly oppose. In 2011, members of the anti-mining movement also spoke out against the P3 Law fearing it would result in mining activities.

Mangrove Forests near La Tirana, a community targeted for a large tourism project
Mangrove Forests near La Tirana, a community targeted for a large tourism project

Because politicians within the FMLN are supporting the MCC, the politics of opposing the P3 Law and tourism are a little more complicated than opposition to mining was. Other than a protest outside the US Embassy in March and other small activities organized by the labor movement, opposition has remained largely behind closed doors, which may change soon.

            The Public Private Partnership Law

US Ambassador Maria Carmen Aponte said in October 2012 that approval of a second round of MCC funds relies on the passage of the P3 Law. The labor movement and their international supporters, argue that the P3 Law will privatize government operations including the airport, seaports, health care facilities, and other important services. They fear it will result in the loss of thousands of jobs, increasing the country’s already high rates of unemployment and driving wages down even further.

The labor movement and other opponents also do not want the private sector to control important resources and services like water, education, and health controlled. For example, Salvadoran civil society has fought against privatization of water for many years, making it such a toxic issue that politicians are unable to advocate for it publicly. Just like the government has not been able to privatize water, civil society organizations have not been able to pass a water law they have been promoting for over 8 years. Among other things, the law would protect water resources from privatization. Similarly, in 2002 then President Francisco Flores tried to privatize part of the health care system, but health care workers and many others took to the streets and forced the government to back off. Opponents of the P3 law fear it will make it easier for the government to accomplish what it has failed to do in the past – privatizing water and health care.

Supporters of the P3 Law, including President Funes, counter that public-private partnerships are not privatization, and the government will not privatize any important services, like health and education. They argue, instead, that public-private partnerships will result in more foreign direct investments, injecting capital into services and industries that are lagging behind.

The labor movement and other activists fear, however, that while not called privatization, the P3s are a way to accomplish the same goals. Concessions could last as long as 40 years, which means the state is essentially relinquishing control of an asset. Similarly, while capital investments are needed, the P3 Law will allow private, international investors to generate profits from basic services in El Salvador and take the profits overseas instead of re-investing in El Salvador.

Public-private partnerships are not new in El Salvador – they government has contracted out many operations to private companies over the years. One regular criticism is that these relationships prioritize profits over the well being of Salvadorans. For example, in the aftermath of the October 2011 floods, communities and organizations in the Lower Lempa blamed the CEL for washing them out. The CEL is the state-owned agency that manages the dam, generating electricity that private power companies sell for profit. The more electricity produced, the more money the companies make. In the months after the 2011 floods CEL representatives responded frankly, stating they operate the dams to make electricity and generate profits, not protect the people downstream.

FESPAD and Voices on the Borders 2012 legal interns recently published a full analysis of the P3 Law.

Tourism and other Investments

One of the public-private partnerships being proposed in the second MCC compact is tourismhotels and resorts being built along El Salvador’s Pacific coast. In December the government solicited proposals from the private sector and received 49 responses, 27 of which are tourism projects in Usulután, La Paz, and La Libertad.

Tourism is not inherently bad, but communities in the Lower Lempa of Usulután fear that building hotels and resorts in and around their important and fragile ecosystems will cause irreparable harm. One Lower Lempa community targeted for a tourism project is La Tirana, an isolated and economically poor community located at the edge of one of the most pristine mangrove forest in Central America. In addition to its immense natural beauty, the forest supports thousands of species of flora and fauna. The nearby beaches are protected as a nesting ground for several species of endangered sea turtles. Residents of La Tirana fear tourists would damage the fragile mangroves with construction of houses and resorts, jet skis and motorboats, and solid waste and sewage, while displacing local residents and their farms.

Proponents of tourism argue that resorts and hotels in places like Tirana would provide jobs and spur the local economy. They believe this to be especially important in communities, such as those in the Lower Lempa, that have had their agricultural economy diminished by free trade. But locals doubt resorts will help the local economy. They know that hotels are much more likely to hire bilingual youth from San Salvador who have degrees in hotel management than poor campesinos who barely have a sixth grade education.

Voices staff recently met with community members in La Tirana, and they are very much against outside investors building resorts in their region. Recognizing that they live in a special place, the community board is proposing that the community build a series of small, humble cabanas that would have a small ecological footprint, but provide comfortable housing for a small number of guests. They are also proposing that the community build a small community kitchen that could feed guests. The community wants to develop its own small eco-tourism industry that it can regulate and ensure does not harm the forest or turtle nesting ground. It would also mean that the money from tourism would benefit the community, and not just make wealthy investors in San Salvador or abroad even richer.

Other communities in the region are even more vulnerable than La Tirana. In El Chile and other small communities, many residents still do not have title to their land. They fear that if a private investor wants to build a hotel or resort the State could take their land and they would have no legal recourse.

Our staff also met with other communities in the Lower Lempa – Comunidad Octavio Ortiz, Amando Lopez, Nueva Esperanza – and several local organizations. They are also completely opposed to tourism projects in the region. They fear that hotels and resorts will further destroy agricultural land, use up limited water resources, and destroy local culture. The community of Octavio Ortiz even wrote in their strategic plan that they see tourism as a large threat to farming and their peaceful way of life.

While most of the public-private partnership proposals involve tourism, there are quite a few agricultural projects. According to PRESA, the government agency managing the project proposals, they received 14 requests to support production of exports in dairy, mangoes, limes, and honey. In order to be considered for a public-private partnership, investors have to have $100,000 in capital and be producing export crops. The capital requirement means local farmers will not be able to participate. And the requirement that products be grown for export means even more land will be dedicated to products that do not contribute to food sovereignty, which is a top priority for the region.

There are also civil society leaders and academics in El Salvador who oppose the MCC because they see it as the latest phase in implementing a neoliberal economic agenda in their country. They hold it in the same regard as the privatization of state assets (1990s), dollarization (1995-2001), Central American Free Trade Agreement (2006), the first MCC compact (2007-2012), and Partnership for Growth (2011). Similarly, Gilberto Garcia from Center for Labor Studies (CEAL, in Spanish) believes the

highway projects, including the northern highway funded by the first MCC compact and the Litoral Highway project planned for the second compact, are part of an effort to build a land bridge in Guatemala. The “Inter-Oceanic Corridor” will connect ports on the Pacific coasts of Guatemala and El Salvador with Caribbean or Atlantic ports in Guatemala. ODEPAL is managing the project in what they call a public-private partnership. The land bridge is located in Guatemala, but it is right on the borders with El Salvador and Honduras, giving both countries easy access.

Politics of Opposing the MCC and P3 Law

Building a strong national movement around opposition to the second MCC compact and the P3 Law may be more difficult than organizing Salvadorans against mining. While the anti-mining movement was able to reduce the debate to a single issue that all Salvadorans could understand – i.e. gold mining will destroy water resources for 60% of the country – most people believe that tourism, better highways, and other capital investments are always good. Similarly, the P3 Law is fairly abstract and difficult to reduce into a simple message that the majority of Salvadorans can relate to their everyday lives.

The politics around the MCC and P3 Law will make it more difficult to achieve the kind of nation-wide opposition that the anti-mining movement was able to garner. During the mining debate, the FMLN (leftist political party) was the opposition party and had the political freedom to take an anti-mining position. The FMLN is now in power and has to consider the economic and political interests that helped them get there. President Funes and FMLN presidential candidate Sanchez Cerén support the P3 Law and MCC compact, arguing the investments will be good for the economy. According to anonymous sources, many of the same business interests that helped Mauricio Funes with the 2009 presidential elections will benefit from the P3 Law and MCC funds. FMLN legislators have been a slower to sign on to the P3 Law. At times FMLN legislators have said it was not their top priority, and more recently they have tried to negotiate amendments to exclude certain sectors such as health and education from public-private partnerships. Officials from the conservative ARENA party have accused the FMLN legislators of not supporting the law because they want to implement a socialist economy agenda.

But the civil society organizations, communities, and labor unions that are opposed to the P3 Law and the MCC funding generally make up much of the FMLN’s base. If Sanchez Cerén and his supporters continue to embrace the P3 law and the MCC funding, while many in their base protest against it, it could exacerbate an existing split within the party in the months leading up to the February 2014 presidential elections. Many former FMLN militants and supporters, especially in the Lower Lempa, already believe the movement they once fought for no longer represents their interests and values.

Though the US and Salvadoran governments want to pass the P3 Law and sign the MCC compact before the elections, many opponents are gearing up for a long struggle. Even if the P3 Law passes, when the government wants to enter into a public-private partnership the Legislative Assembly will have to approve it. They are likely to face great scrutiny and opposition. Similarly, developers wanting to break ground on tourism projects in La Tirana and other communities are likely to face some rather significant legal and social barriers – much like Pacific Rim faced in Cabañas.

Cabanas, Mining

A new attack against Cabañas Anti Mining Activists

The secretary of the Cabañas Environmental Committee, Neftali Ruíz, was the latest victim of violence and theft this past Friday.  Several young men tied him up in his home and proceeded to search his home, computer files, and cell phones for information and supposed weapons.  This morning Father Neftali, David Pereira, and Bishop Sol held a press conference at the CRIPDES office in San Salvador.  Please read here for a translation of the press release and links to video of the press conference.

Mining

Update on Pacific Rim Mining Company

It has been over three years since Pacific Rim closed down its operations in El Salvador and filed a notice of intent to seek arbitration against the Salvadoran Government for denial of mining permits.

Pacific Rim, a Canadian company that bills itself as “an environmentally and socially responsible exploration company,” reports that in the first half of fiscal 2012, their “cash and cash equivalents increased $1.4 million from $0.3 million at April 30, 2011 to $1.7 million at October 31, 2011. The company’s short-term investments increased from $0.8 million to $1.1 million over the same period, resulting in a $1.8 million total increase in assets.

The increase in assets does not indicate that they are all of a sudden profitable. According to a Pacific Rim’s press release announcing their quarterly report, the increase “reflects the cash proceeds of a private placement equity financing undertaken by the Company.” This means that Pacific Rim found new private investors to finance their operations. In fact, the press release states clearly that they have “no source of revenue, and will require additional cash to continue fund legal, exploration and administrative expenses.”

While Pacific Rim’s El Dorado project in San Isidro, Cabañas is their most advanced, the company recently acquired an option to earn 65% interest in the Hog Ranch gold property in Nevada and has begun field exploration. Pacific Rim also has the opportunity to acquire a 100% interest in the Remance property in Panama – an interest they secured in 2010. While they have begun “phase 1 drilling” at Hog Ranch, Pacific Rim reports that the Remance project is “in doubt” and they have no plans for exploring the property.

The biggest question mark for Pacific Rim remains their ICSID claim against El Salvador, which is potentially worth $100 million dollars and the rights to mine gold in Cabañas. In their press release, Pacific Rim says,

“Expenditures related to Pacific Rim’s CAFTA/ILES arbitration claim are expected to continue at present or modestly higher levels during the coming months, and are directly related to the level of arbitration activity. The Company has currently accumulated a liability of approximately $1.4 million related to the CAFTA/ILES arbitration action and is currently discussing vendor-specific alternative financing opportunities that will reduce this accounts payable position.”

The ICSID Tribunal will likely hand down a ruling any day on the last round of preliminary objections filed by El Salvador. If the Tribunal finds in favor of El Salvador, part or all of Pacific Rim’s claim could be dismissed. If the Tribunal finds for Pacific Rim, the case moves a little closer to a full hearing.

In anticipation of the decision, a group of labor, union, environmental and other civil society leaders will hold a rally outside the World Bank tomorrow (Thursday, December 15) protesting Pacific Rim’s claim. Those attending the rally will present a letter to World Bank and ICSID officials calling on them to respect El Salvador’s decision to prohibit mining in order to protect their local communities and water resources from environmental damage.

Though Pacific Rim continues to engage in minor exploration activities, their primary activity and asset is this lawsuit. A favorable outcome of the ICSID arbitration would be a windfall for Pacific Rim’s investors, possibly allowing them to recoup their $77 million investment and perhaps damages and lost profits.

violence

Preliminary Hearing for 9 Trinidad Murder Suspects Postponed… Again

On July 1, 2010, Salvadoran Police and government prosecutors announced that they had arrested nine people for the murders of Ramiro Rivera, Dora Alicia Sorto, Felícita Echeverría, Horacio Menjívar, and Esperanza Velasco.

At the time, they claimed that Ramiro Rivera and Santos Rodriguez had paid gang members to kill Horacio Menjívar (April 2009) and Esperanza Velasco (October 2009), and that Oscar Menjívar and his sister Naomi hired the same gang members to kill Ramiro Rivera and Santos Rodriguez in revenge in December 2009. Felícita Echeverría was an innocent bystander who was killed while riding in Ramiro’s truck when assassins struck. Authorities presume that a few days later, assassins were searching for Santos Rodriguez, but when they came across his wife Dora Alicia, they killed her instead. She was 8 months pregnant at the time and carrying her two-year old son. The two-year old was wounded but survived. The unborn child did not.

The police and prosecutors claimed at the time that the violence was a family feud between members of the Menjívar family and leaders of the CAC, which is a local anti-mining organization. In one press release, the state prosecutor’s office states that the violence was an escalation of the debate over mining. In previous and subsequent statements, they have denied any link to mining.

Though the nine suspects being held for the murders were arrested over 13 months ago, they still have not had a preliminary hearing to determine whether the prosecutors and police have enough evidence to move forward with a trial. The preliminary hearings have been scheduled and cancelled four times in the past year – the most recent was last Friday, July 29th.  According to a press release from the Environmental Committee of Cabañas (CAC), the hearings were cancelled due to poor planning and logistics on the part of the prosecutor’s office.

According to a report by Sydney Blanco and Francisco Díaz, El Salvador has an impunity rate of 96.2%, meaning that of all murders committed in the country, only 3.8% result in a suspect being tried and convicted of the crime. Though police make arrests in 15% of all murders, the prosecutors only convict in 3.8% of them. The report places the blame for such a high impunity rate on the police, which they found were responsible for 26% of murders going unprosecuted, and the state prosecutor, which they found responsible for 54% of the murders going unprosecuted. The report says that the police and prosecutor’s office are jointly responsible the other 20% of the murder going unprosecuted.

In their recent press release, the CAC urges international organizations to take action to spur on the trial of the accused. They make the following demands:

–       We urge the Attorney General’s Office to expedite this process once and for all so that the hearing, which has been suspended four times, may be held and that no more excuses are put forward further delaying the procedure;

–       We demand that the investigations of the murders of Ramiro Rivera Gómez and Dora Alicia Sorto are comprehensive and coherent without trying to hide the truth;

–       The prosecutors must investigate all leads, which have already been discussed publically, instead of being fixed upon a single hypothesis that we (the CAC) do not agree with;

–       They (the CAC) will hold the authorities in charge of the investigation responsible if their negligence results in the suspects going free with impunity, and anything else happens to members of the CAC and the families of the victims;

–       We have called on international organizations and friends to watch out for the results of this trial, and we have asked them to demand that the authorities take these cases more seriously so that we don’t have to mourn the loss of another person, since three people from the CAC have already been killed for their involvement in the organization;

–       As an association defending the environment and human rights we also express that we will fight to defend life at the expense of losing our own.

While it is unclear why the prosecutors are delaying the hearings, there are real consequences. Though they are accused of murder, the suspects have a right to a trial. They were arrested over a year ago and the prosecuting attorneys have been unable to get their case to the point where they are even ready for a preliminary hearing.  In addition, the family and friends of the victims have a right to see justice done. If the suspects are indeed guilty, they should be held accountable for their crimes.

The preliminary hearings and trials are also important because it is an opportunity for the public to learn more about the facts about the case. Currently, there is little known about what happened in 2009 that led to the murders. Locals believe that there are intellectual authors involved that have not yet been arrested, and the preliminary hearing is an opportunity to gain access to information that may help others continue to investigate.

Time is also essential to these cases. The more time goes by, the greater the chance that the memories of witnesses become foggy and skewed. And the more time passes the greater the likelihood that something could happen to witnesses. The most recent murder involving a member of the CAC occurred in June 2011. Though the victim was not a witness to these crimes, there are potentially others whose lives are in danger. An example of this is the August 2009 shooting of Ramiro Rivera. Oscar Menjívar had been charged from trying to kill Ramiro Rivera in August 2009, but before Rivera could testify he was killed. The judge dismissed the charges against Mr. Menjívar because that the key witness, Mr. Rivera, was dead.

The violence in Cabañas continues and there are people guilty of murder who still enjoy impunity. With every passing day, the chances that they will be brought to justice diminish. We join the CAC in calling upon El Salvador’s state prosecutors to bring those accused to trial, while continuing to consider all other lines of investigation, including the possibility that there are intellectual authors to these crimes and that the violence was more than just a family feud.

Cabanas, Mauricio Funes, violence

President Funes Condemns the Murder of Activist Juan Francisco

Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes condemned the murder of environmental activist Juan Francisco Durán Ayala, according to a press release issued yesterday.  He went on to express sympathy for Durán’s family and acknowledge the loss that this murder and others that have occurred in Cabañas represent for the environmental movement.  The president offered to provide “more security to the environmental movement, because its struggles and demands are just,” before reiterating his opposition to the Cabañas mining project.  “I will not put the public health of the population at risk in exchange for some additional income that we could receive,” he said.

 

PRESS RELEASE

 

PRESIDENT FUNES CONDEMS THE MURDER OF AN ENVIORNMENTALIST FROM CABAÑAS AND REAFIRMS HIS OPPOSITION TO MINING

 

28/06/2011

Today, the President of the Republic, Mauricio Funes, emphatically condemned the murder of Juan Francisco Durán Ayala, a volunteer with the Environmental Committee of Cabañas, which was carried out by unknown subjects June 3rd.

“As President of the Republic I lament any murder that happens in the country, regardless of motives, of course I feel the pain of the family and the environmental movement in loss of these four leading environmental defenders” expressed President Funes upon condemning the murder of Durán Ayala and the three other environmentalists who have been killed in recent years in the department of Cabañas.

Durán Ayala, 30 years old, was disappeared last June 3rd, one day after he was hanging signs about the campaign against mining in the city of Ilobasco as part of his environmental activism.

President Funes said he would ensure the will and the investigative capacity of the Civilian National Police Force, to be able to identify those responsible for the murder and moreover he offered to give “more security to the environmental movement, because its struggles and demands are just.”

“I will not allow any mineral exploitation project in the country, I have said that and it is my official position”, affirmed the Chief of State and he reiterated that the Ministry of the Economy has clear instructions not to authorize any mineral exploitation projects in the country.

President Funes pointed out that he is convinced that even when a mining project can bring some jobs and income for the government through taxes, the cost of the environmental impact and the damage to public health is much greater.

“I will not put the public health of the population at risk in exchange for some  additional income that we could receive,” the President emphasized.

 

San Salvador, June 28th, 2011

**Translated by U.S.-El Salvador Sister Cities