Special CISPES Update: Pac. Rim Files Charges against Anti-Mining Activists: Trial begins Nov. 25
On Thursday, November 25, seven members of the EnvironmentalCommittee of Cabañas (CAC) will face charges filed by the Canadian miningcompany Pacific Rim in the local Sensuntepeque Court of the Peace in Cabañas.Currently, Pacific Rim is suing the government of El Salvador for $77 million dollarsin alleged “lost profits” using the investor protections from chapter 10 of theUS-Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), after the Salvadorangovernment denied Pacific Rim permits to extract gold from Cabañas. The anti-mining activists werenotified of these charges on Saturday, November 13, which accuse the activistsof kidnapping, aggravated robbery, acts of terrorism and damages anddestruction to private property. Francisco Pineda, president of the CAC and one of the activists to standtrial, responded to the charges declaring, “At no time did we kidnap, at notime did we commit robbery. Robbery and kidnapping is not what socialorganizations do. We knowperfectly well who are the ones in charge of kidnapping and we know who thethieves are.” In 2009 soon after Pacific Rim filed its CAFTA lawsuit, threeenvironmental defenders from Cabañas were murdered, including two leaders ofthe CAC, while other members of the local mining resistance have been kidnappedand received death threats. Withthe exception of the case of MarceloRivera, none of these acts of violence have been prosecuted.
The allegations are connected to a protest that occurred inNovember of 2006. Communitymembers of Trinidad, Cabañasdemanded that Pacific Rim stop its mining exploration activity surrounding theSanta Rita mine, located in Cerro Limón. When the mining company ignored the request, the CAC coordinated aprotest at the mine site, calling on mine workers to dismantle the machineryand stop explorations in the area. The action was a success – workersdismantled the machine and mining exploration came to a halt, although thecompany later resumed activity. More details surrounding these charges and the case are available on theVoices on theBorder Weblog.
In the past, Pacific Rim has filed criminal charges and threatened to charge members of the CACand the broader anti-mining movement as part of the company's strategy toundermine the local resistance. Allof the previous charges have either been dropped by the company or thrown outby judges for lack of evidence. The date of the hearing for these most recentset of charges was slated for November 15, only 2 days after the 7 activistswere notified of the allegations. However, Pacific Rim asked to postpone the hearing to have more time toprepare. The new hearing date istomorrow, Thursday November 25 in the Court of the Peace in Sensuntepeque,Cabañas. There will be a rally of outside the court house to support the CACcommunity members on trial. Staytuned for more information and CISPES action alerts in defense of thesepersecuted activists of Cabañas.