human rights, International Relations, migration, U.S. Relations

Thousands of Migrants March Towards Saftey

S2AAFCGVLAI6RA5C2HB5UKGWWY_103943202_migrants_caravan_route_4_640-ncOn October 13, 1,500 Honduran refugees began the long arduous journey from one of the most violent capital cities in the world in search of respite and peace. The majority of those seeking a chance for survival were young people, women and their babies.

Pueblo Sin Fronteras or People without Borders, who organized the foot march says the aim is to draw attention to the plight facing the migrants at home and the dangers they run during their attempts to reach safety in the US.

Every single migrant had his or her own personal reason for fleeing. For some, especially the young people, it was direct threats or acts of violence towards themselves or their loved ones. For others, it was the oppressive Honduran government that has been opposing people’s justice movements, or it was the fear of what would become of their children because of unemployment and starvation.

Two days later on October 15th, the caravan had grown to an estimated 3,500 by the time it reached the Guatemalan border.

Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua all belong to a migratory convention called The Central America-4 Free Mobility Agreement (CA-4), it is akin to the Schengen agreement in Europe, which allows nationals from 26 countries in the Schengen area to legally enter and reside in each other’s countries. Though this agreement exists, officials in Guatemala and El Salvador have met the caravan with hostility and armed suppression.

Citizens of Honduras and other Centro American countries have been paying the price of U.S. foreign policy atrocities since the beginning of the cold war, with their lives and that of their loved ones. Since the 2009 Honduran coup d’état that put economic elites in charge of the most important sectors of society, the country has been on a never-ending binge of oppression and violence. While this instability has no doubt strengthened the rise of gang violence in the streets, the government’s own tactics of extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, protest suppression and the jailing of political prisoners have added to the upheaval happening at this very moment.

On Sunday October 21, as the 7,000 person strong caravan reached the Mexican border of Tapachula in the State of Chiapas, Donald Trump fired off a series of tweets, expressing anger towards central american governments inability to halt the progression of the foot march.

“Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador were not able to do the job of stopping people from leaving their country and coming illegally to the U.S. We will now begin cutting off, or substantially reducing, the massive foreign aid routinely given to them,” Trump wrote.

An estimated 258 million people, approximately 3 per cent of the world’s population, currently live outside their country of origin, many of whose migration is characterized by varying degrees of compulsion. Migration is a fundamental human right. We have no right to forbid or stigmatise, we only have the power to try to do so.

Follow the stories: #CaravanaMigrante

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Agua/Aqua, El Salvador Government

The People Say No to the Privatization of Water in El Salvador

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This past week the Salvadoran people led two protests against plans for private corporations to privatize the water of their country. On June 14th, hundreds of students from the National University of El Salvador (UES) -at the bequest of the rector himself- set out at 7:30am to march to the national legislative assembly. That morning, the assembly was holding a plenary session in which right wing representatives and the rich elite were discussing just how they will go about making water a commodity. They men sitting in that room knew exactly that what they were plotting was going against the wishes of the majority of the Salvadoran people.

With the help of three of FMLN representatives, the students peacefully gained access to the steps of the national assembly and intended to request an audience with those handful meeting to discuss the fate of the many. They not only declined but were met with pepper spray and violence.

No apologies were given, in fact, Norman Quijano, the president of the Legislative Assembly, held a press conference where he accused the University’s rector, Roger Arias, of being a terrorist.

This past Saturday, an estimated 10,000 took to the streets for a massive protest where the message was clear “The people say no to the Privatization of water in El Salvador.” This protest began and ended peacefully and included all sectors of Salvadoran society.


VIDEO (en español)

Privatizing is nothing new for the right-wing elite in El Salvador, who have since 1991, privatized the banking system, the telephonic system and pensions. None of these have come with guarantees, transparency or benefits to the Salvadoran poor and working class. It is not an ideology but the evidence: privatization in El Salvador has ruined more than it has built.

To those in control, water privatization is the final step in gaining full economic control and due to past legislative election, unfortunately it may come to fruition, but not without a full resistance from the Salvadoran population who may still have the ability to upset this diabolical decision if the pressure is constant.

READ OUR REPORT ON WATER AS A HUMAN RIGHT IN EL SALVADOR

#NoALaPrivatizacionDelAgua

Agua/Aqua, Climate Change, Environment, Food Security, Water/Agua

The Power of Water


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Versión Español

On December 22, 1992, the General Assembly of the United Nations decreed that World Water Day would be held every March 22. This important date it is an opportunity to learn about water and to value its importance in nature and in society.

In countries such as El Salvador, World Water Day is also a date to inspire civil society’s struggle for the human right to water, considering that it is facing a profound water crisis. According to the Environmental Fund of El Salvador (FONAES), El Salvador is the only country in the Central American region that is close to experiencing a situation of water stress, which places it among the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean with the lowest availability of water per inhabitant, like Haiti.

The main cause of this crisis is the destruction of the forest and biodiversity; the clearing of wooded areas has been a ruthless and systematic practice. Many places that produced clean water and fresh air are now thick layers of asphalt and concrete. The few forest areas left in El Salvador make up only 1% of the Central American forest.

Another cause of the water crisis is the pollution of the rivers and in general of the sources of surface water. This level of degradation of these sources, both underground and superficial, has to do with historical processes of overexploitation of natural resources for capital accumulation purposes, facilitated by the negligence of the State.

This environmental anarchy has resulted in water currently being a source of conflict because companies and communities dispute the little clean water that remains. Such is the case of the municipality of Nejapa, which has one of the main aquifers in the country and for this reason companies like Coca Cola has set up shop there. According to the researcher and environmental activist Marta Muños, the Coca Cola company extracts 15% of all Nejapa’s water without paying any kind of tax. The saddest part of this case is that while this company commits this abuse, hundreds of families surrounding the factory do not have access to water.

A similar situation occurs with large-scale sugarcane growers on the Salvadoran coast, who install powerful engines to extract exorbitant quantities of water from the subsoil to irrigate large areas of monoculture, while small farmers themselves lack water for their small plots.

This all could change with the approval of a General Water Law, a law that for more than 10 years various civil society organizations have been proposing and demanding, in order to ensure the priority in the use of water is the consumption of the population and not the business of large companies. This conflicting interest has been the apple of discord that has prevented enacting said law. The best evidence of this comes from the president of the National Association of Private Enterprise (ANEP), who recently said: “The Water Law is dangerous because it violates the rights of companies.”

But in reality, it is about putting things in their order of priority. Under no circumstances should transnational corporations be allowed to appropriate water. Defending water is defending life. Just as the communities of Nejapa are fighting against the transnational Coca Cola company, so to are the communities of Cabañas, opposed to the Pacific Rim mining company.

Apparently, the only limit to the greed of these transnational companies is the resistance of the people and there exists nothing better than water to inspire a rebellion. That is the power of water.



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El Poder del Agua

El 22 de diciembre de 1992, la Asamblea General de Las Naciones Unidas decretó que cada 22 de marzo se celebraría el Día Mundial del Agua, fecha importante porque constituye una oportunidad para aprender sobre el agua y valorar su importancia en la naturaleza y en la sociedad.

En países como El Salvador el Día Mundial del Agua también es una fecha para inspirar la lucha de la sociedad civil por el derecho humano al agua, considerando que se enfrenta una profunda crisis hídrica. Según el Fondo Ambiental de El Salvador, FONAES, es el único país en la región centroamericana que se encuentra cercano a una situación de estrés hídrico, lo que lo sitúa entre los países de Latinoamérica y el Caribe con más baja disponibilidad de agua por habitante.

La principal causa es la destrucción del bosque y la biodiversidad; la tala de zonas boscosas ha sido una práctica despiadada y sistemática, muchos lugares que producían agua limpia y aire fresco ahora son gruesas capas de asfalto y concreto. Las pocas áreas forestales de El Salvador apenas constituye el 1% del bosque centroamericano.

Otra causa de la crisis hídrica es la contaminación de los ríos y en general de las fuentes superficiales de agua. Este nivel de degradación de las fuentes, tanto subterráneas como superficiales, tiene que ver con procesos históricos de sobreexplotación de los recursos naturales con fines de acumulación de capital, facilitados por la negligencia del Estado.

Esta anarquía ambiental ha resultado en que en la actualidad el agua sea fuente de conflicto, porque la poca agua existente la disputan las empresas y las comunidades, tal es el caso del municipio de Nejapa que posee uno de los principales acuíferos del país y que por esta razón empresas como la Coca Cola se ha instalado en el lugar, según la investigadora y activista ambiental Marta Muños la empresa Coca Cola extrae el 15% de toda el agua del municipio, sin pagar ningún tipo de impuesto, lo más triste de este caso es que mientras dicha empresa comete este abuso, cientos de familias aledañas a la fabrica, no tienen acceso al agua.

Similar situación ocurre con los cultivadores de caña de azúcar en la costa salvadoreña, que instalan potentes motores para extraer del subsuelo cantidades exorbitantes de agua para riego de grandes extensiones del monocultivo, al mismo tiempo que los agricultores carecen de agua para sus pequeñas parcelas.

Esta realidad podría ser diferente de aprobarse una Ley General de Agua que por más de 10 años diversas organizaciones de la sociedad civil han venido proponiendo y exigiendo, una ley que asegure que la prioridad en el uso del agua sea el consumo de la población y no el negocio de las grandes empresas, este interés contrapuesto ha sido la manzana de la discordia que ha impedido promulgar dicha ley. La mejor evidencia es que recientemente el presidente de la Asociación Nacional de la Empresa Privada, ANEP expresó: “La Ley de Agua es peligrosa porque atenta contra los derechos de las empresas”.

Pero en realidad de lo que se trata es de poner las cosas en su orden de prioridad. bajo ninguna circunstancia se debe permitir que las empresas transnacionales se apropien del agua, defender el agua es defender la vida. Así como lo está haciendo la comunidad de Nejapa luchando contra la transnacional Coca cola, o como lo hicieron las comunidades de Cabañas oponiéndose a la minera Pacific Rim.

Al parecer, el único límite a la codicia de estas empresas transnacionales es la resistencia de los pueblos y nada mejor que el agua para inspirar la rebeldía… Ese es el poder del agua.

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agriculture, Climate Change, Corruption, Disasters, Economy, El Salvador Government, Environment, Food Security, International Relations, Mining, Partnership for Growth, Public Health, transparency, Uncategorized, violence, Voices Developments

El Salvador’s Metal Mining Debate

Versión Español

In 2002, the Canadian corporation Pacific Rim registered in El Salvador. It was invited by the Salvadoran government to exploit the potential of the country in terms of gold and silver. Pacific Rim identified at least 25 favorable sites for the extraction of gold, in the beginning of its explorations. One of these sites is known as El Dorado, in the department of Cabañas. In December 2004, the company formally requested permission to operate the El Dorado mine, but the government denied permission for inconsistencies in the environmental impact study, and because the company did not have the authorization of the owners of the land where the exploitation of gold and silver would be carried out.

In response to the Salvadoran government’s refusal to grant the El Dorado project exploitation permit, in July 2008, Pacific Rim filed a lawsuit against the Salvadoran government through the World Bank’s International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).

The company demanded El Salvador pay them $77 million for the amount invested before they were denied the authorization permit. Later this requirement was increased to $301 million and finally reduced to $250 million. At the end of 2013, Pacific Rim filed for bankruptcy and sold its shares to the Australian transnational company Oceana Gold, which continued the lawsuit process.

After a long litigation, on October 14, 2016, the international court ruled in favor of the Salvadoran government and against the mining company. The verdict also determined that the company must compensate with $8 million to the Salvadoran government to cover the procedural costs of the litigation.

Following this ruling, on November 24, 2016, the Movement of Victims Affected by Climate Change and Corporations (MOVIAC), submitted a letter to the Legislative Assembly requesting a ban on all metal mining in the country. This request opened an intense debate that is increasingly gaining strength. On February 6, the Central American University José Simeón Cañas (UCA) and the Catholic Church presented a proposal for a law to ban metal mining.

The request for a ban is justified by the serious social and ecological impacts caused by the mining industry and by the high degree of pollution and environmental deterioration that the country is currently suffering. According to international experts, El Salvador is the country with the most environmental deterioration in the continent, after Haiti. The United Nations has described El Salvador as the country with the least amount of water available throughout the continent, while the Ministry of the Environment has reported that more than 90% of surface water is seriously contaminated and only 10% are suitable for use as potable.

This water crisis could become much more serious if gold and silver mining projects are located in the basin of the river Lempa, which is the most important river in the country. Its basin makes up 50% of the national territory, and houses 70% of the country’s population.

El Salvador is the only country in Central America that does not have mineral exploitation and in an opinion poll conducted by the UCA in June 2015, 76% of the population is against the opening of mining projects. Despite this opposition, there is great pressure from transnational companies to initiate gold and silver mining projects. This of course is due to the findings from Pacific Rim that discovered approximatly 1.2 million ounces of high-purity gold and more than 7.5 million ounces of silver in the subsoil of the northern part of the country. In addition to another 558 thousand ounces of gold and 1.2 million silver of lower quality.

Apparently this is a good thing; however, experience in neighboring countries such as Guatemala and Honduras demonstrates how harmful the mining industry is to people and the environment. Especially when it comes to water resources. According to a recent UCA publication, the Marlin mine in Guatemala uses about 6 million liters of water per day; and nearby communities have reported 40 dry communal wells in the eight years of the mine’s operations. Likewise in the region of Valle de Siria in Honduras, the San Martín mine has dried 19 of the original 23 rivers in the area throughout its’ nine years of operation.

These effects could be worse in El Salvador, due to the fragility of its ecosystems and the population density of around 300 inhabitants per square kilometer. In these circumstances the human rights of the population would be seriously affected. In this regard, the Attorney for the Defense of Human Rights (PDDH), in a recent statement said: “The harmful effects of mining activity constitute serious violations of the human rights of the population. Among them is the right to life, health, water and food. The concern persists because the mining industry still has an interest in developing its projects in the country and there is no legislation or institutional mechanisms to guarantee the protection of the environment against mining activity.”

The interest of the mining industry to which the PDDH refers to is manifested in a series of actions carried out by the mining company Oceana Gold, which MOVIAC has repeatedly denounced. For instance, in a letter delivered to the Legislative Assembly on November 24, 2016, MOVIAC states: “We know that in all the impoverished countries of the world, transnational mining companies use the same strategies: division of communities, murder of environmentalists, bribing corrupt officials and false media campaigns such as the promises of job creation and social development. The truth is that mining does not generate more jobs than it destroys. Where there is mining there is no agriculture, there is no livestock, there is no tourism, there is no health, there are no peaceful or free communities.”

For all these reasons at the moment, in El Salvador there is a strong debate about the need to pass a law that definitively prohibits metal mining.


El Salvador Debate la Prohibición de la Minería Metálica

En el año 2002 la corporación canadiense Pacific Rim se registró en El Salvador, invitada por el gobierno, para explotar el potencial del país en cuanto a oro y  plata. Desde el inicio en sus exploraciones, la minera identificó al menos 25 sitios propicios para la extracción de oro, uno de estos es el lugar conocido como  El Dorado, en el departamento de Cabañas. En Diciembre de 2004 la empresa solicitó formalmente el permiso de explotación de la mina El Dorado, el gobierno negó el permiso por inconsistencias en el estudio de impacto ambiental y porque la empresa no contaba con la autorización de los propietarios de las tierras en donde se realizaría la explotación del oro y la plata.

Ante la negativa del gobierno salvadoreño de no conceder el permiso de explotación del proyecto El Dorado,  en julio de 2008Pacific Rim inicia una demanda contra el Estado salvadoreño, en El Centro Internacional de Arreglo de Diferencias Relativas a Inversiones (CIADI) del Banco Mundial.

La petición pedía que el Estado salvadoreño le pagara $77 millones de dólares, por el monto invertido antes de que se le negara la autorización de explotación, más tarde esta exigencia fue incrementada a $ 301 millones y finalmente se redujo a $ 250 millones. A finales de  2013, Pacific Rim se declaró en quiebra y vendió sus acciones a la transnacional Australiana Oceana Gold, quien continuó el proceso de demanda.

Después de un largo litigio, el 14 de octubre de 2016, el tribunal internacional falló a favor del Estado salvadoreño y en contra de la empresa minera. El veredicto también determinó que la empresa deberá indemnizar con 8 millones de dólares al gobierno salvadoreño para cubrir los costos procesales del litigio.

A raíz de este fallo, el 24 de noviembre de 2016 el Movimiento de Víctimas y Afectados por el Cambio Climático y Corporaciones MOVIAC, presentó un escrito a la Asamblea Legislativa solicitando la prohibición de la minería metálica en el país. Está petición abrió un intenso debate que cada vez está cobrando más fuerza. El 6 de febrero la Universidad Centroamericana José Simeón Cañas, UCA y la Iglesia Católica presentaron una propuesta de ley de prohibición de la minería metálica.

La solicitud de prohibición se justifica por los graves impactos sociales y ecológicos que ocasiona la industria minera y por el alto grado de contaminación y deterioro ambiental que ya sufre el país. Según expertos internacionales El Salvador es el país del continente con mayor deterioro ambiental, después de Haití. Las Naciones Unidas ha calificado a El Salvador como el país con menos disponibilidad de agua de todo el continente, y el Ministerio de Medio Ambiente ha informado que más del 90% de las agua superficiales están seriamente contaminadas y que sólo el 10%  son aptas para potabilizar por medios convencionales.

Esta situación de crisis hídrica podría ser mucho más grave si se concretan proyectos de explotación de oro y plata ubicados en la cuenca del río Lempa, que es el río más importante del país, su cuenca comprende el 50% del territorio nacional, en donde habita el 70% de la población del país.

El Salvador es el único país de Centroamérica que no posee explotación de minerales y en una encuesta de opinión realizada por la Universidad Centroamericana UCA,  en junio de 2015, el 76% de la población está en contra de la apertura de proyectos mineros; no obstante se tiene gran presión de empresas transnacionales para iniciar proyectos de extracción de oro y plata, ya que según la exploraciones realizada por la empresa Pacific Rim, en el subsuelo de la zona norte del país existe un aproximado de 1.2 millones de onzas de oro de alta pureza y más de  7.5 millones de onzas de plata. Además de otras 558 mil onzas de oro y 1.2 millones de plata de menor calidad.

En apariencia esto es algo bueno; sin embargo, la experiencia en países vecinos como Guatemala y Honduras demuestra lo dañina que es la industria minera para las personas y para el medio ambiente, especialmente en el recurso hídrico. Según una publicación de la Universidad Centroamericana, UCA la mina Marlín, en Guatemala utiliza unos 6 millones de litros de agua por día, las comunidades que viven cerca reportan 40 pozos comunales secos en los ocho años de operaciones de la mina; así mismo en la región Valle de Siria en Honduras la mina San Martín en nueve años de operaciones ha secado 19 de los 23 ríos originales de la zona.

Estas afectaciones podrían ser peores en El Salvador, por la fragilidad de sus ecosistemas y por la densidad poblacional cercana a los 300 habitantes por kilómetro cuadrado, en estas circunstancias los derechos humanos de la población serían gravemente afectados. Al respecto la Procuraduría para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos, en un comunicado reciente expresó que: “los efectos nocivos de la actividad minera constituyen graves violaciones a los derechos humanos de la población; entre estos al derecho a la vida, a la salud, al agua y a la alimentación. La preocupación persiste porque aún concurre el interés de la industria minera de desarrollar sus proyectos en el país y no se cuenta con una legislación  ni mecanismos institucionales que garanticen la protección del medio ambiente ante la actividad minera”

El interés de la industria minera al que hace referencia la PDDH se manifiesta en una serie de acciones que lleva a cabo la empresa minera Oceana Gold, las cuales el Movimiento de Víctimas y Afectados por e Cambio Climático y as Corporaciones, MOVIAC ha denunciado en reiterada ocasiones, por ejemplo en una carta entregada a la Asamblea Legislativa el 24 de noviembre de 2016, el MOVIAC expone: “Conocemos que en todos los países empobrecidos del mundo, las transnacionales mineras emplean las mismas estrategias: división de las comunidades, asesinato de ambientalistas, compra de funcionarios corruptos y campañas mediáticas mentirosas como lo son las promesas de generación de empleo y de desarrollo social. La verdad es que la minería no genera más empleo que el que destruye, donde hay minería no hay agricultura, no hay ganadería, no hay turismo, no hay salud, no hay comunidades pacíficas ni libres”.

Por todas estas razones en el momento actual, en El  Salvador se debate fuertemente la necesidad de aprobar una ley que prohíba definitivamente la minería metálica.