Tensions are rising on the San Juan del Gozo Peninsula this morning. Tuesday, workers arrived in La Tirana with tractors to start preparing more than 680 acres for planting sugarcane. On Monday residents of La Tirana and other communities blocked access to the region and met with the David Barahona, the Mayor of Jiquilisco in an effort to prevent direct confrontation with the sugarcane grower.
As the tractors rolled in yesterday, community members gathered along the road to protest. They are engaging in a much larger action this morning in order to stop workers from breaking ground. Local leaders have called the police, the Ministry of the Environment, and members of the press. Representatives from Voices, ACUDESBAL, ADIBAL, CESTA and other civil society organizations are also present.
The Law on the Environment requires that agricultural projects like large-scale sugarcane production should receive an environmental permit before they begin. The process for getting a permit requires an environmental impact statement, public hearings and other steps that are to ensure an activity does not harm the environment or surrounding communities. The Law on Protected Areas also requires that most if not all of the 680 acres should be designated a buffer zone due to its proximity to the mangrove forests and turtle nesting grounds.
Community leaders were hoping to stop the sugarcane production using the law and political process. Unfortunately, those systems still don’t work for peasant communities and residents are having to take more direct action, such as cutting off access to the region.
As mentioned in yesterday’s post, communities oppose sugarcane production because the adverse affects that agrochemicals and burning fields will have on the region’s mangrove forest and undeveloped beaches where at least four variety of sea turtles nest. The land targeted for sugarcane production is adjacent to some of the most pristine mangrove forests in Central America. Any agrochemicals sprayed or used on the sugarcane will immediately drift or leach into mangroves via a tidal estuary that comes within 100 feet of the field. The leaching agrochemicals will carry the toxic agrochemicals through the forest, killing vegetation and the wildlife.
The two communities that will be most affected are La Tirana and Monte Cristo, both of which are located in the mangroves and depend on crab (punches in Spanish), clams, and fish for their survival. The town of San Juan del Gozo will also be adversely affected as the sugarcane production will contaminate the pond, rivers, and forests where residents life and work.
Naún Diaz, a community leader from La Tirana says the forests sustain them – if the mangroves are healthy, the people are healthy. But if the mangroves are weak the people cannot survive. So when residents go out to block the road this morning, they will be defending their very existence.
(we will most an update later today or tomorrow with news on this mornings activities)
Welcome to the Voices on the Border (Voices) blog we’ve titled “Voices from El Salvador.”
Voices is a non-profit, grassroots network of individuals and organizations promoting just and equitable development in the departments of Usulután and Morazán in El Salvador.
We’re launching this blog on July 3, 2008; our goal is to provide you with up-to-date information about our activities and our partner communities in El Salvador and the U.S. In doing so, we will put local issues into context by highlighting and analyzing regional, national, and international development and social justice issues.
A little about Voices…
We began our work in 1987 as a project of accompaniment with over 10,000 Salvadoran refugees in Colomoncagua, Honduras and in other refugee camps. In 1989 and 1990, Voices accompanied these refugees as they returned to El Salvador. Upon their return, many refugees founded Comunidad Segundo Montes, in the northern department of Morazán, while others moved to the Lower Lempa region of Usulután.
We have continued accompanying our Salvadoran partners for over twenty years, responding to their needs and priorities, facilitating partnerships with U.S. communities and other international organizations, advocating for justice and equality, and informing U.S. citizens of the realities in El Salvador. At any given time, we are engaged in a number of activities, including:
- Grant making
- Community organizing
- Leading delegations to Salvador
- Initiating and supporting development projects and activities
- Advocating for social, economic and political justice
- Other activities that further the social justice and development interests of our partners
Voices strength is in our small staff, active board, and network of individuals, organizations, and communities that partner in our activities and support our programs. As we have for over twenty years, we continue to draw our energy and inspiration from our local partners in El Salvador, who face challenges and struggles with grace, humility, and determination.
If you’re interested in more information about Voices and the work we do, please visit our website – www.votb.org. I also welcome you to write us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our Washington D.C. office (202) 529-2912.