Meet the Leaders of the Mining Resistance Denied US Visas
The US Consulate in San Salvador summarily denied travelvisas to the two intended guests for the CISPES Stop the Suits! Fall Tour onthe mining resistance in El Salvador and US trade policy. For more on thepolitical motives behind the visa denials, visit www.cispes.org. Here we offerthe words and profiles of these two courageous anti-mining activists that theUS government sought to silence.
Fr. Santos Neftalí Ruíz Martínez
Father Ruiz was born in the small town of Guacotecti,Cabañas in 1984 and has dedicated himself to his community as a priest,journalist and community organizer.
Beforehis ordination in 2009, he worked two years as an environmental reporter forthe community radio station Radio Victoria. As communities in the department ofCabañas began to recognize the environmental and social impacts of Canadianmining company Pacific Rim’s explorations for gold in the area, he becameincreasingly active in the resistance against the mine. Today, while pursing adegree in Theology at El Salvador’s Lutheran University, Fr. Ruíz serves assecretary of the grassroots community organization Cabañas EnvironmentalCommittee (CAC). The CAC is an integral part of the struggle against Pacific Rim’smining projects in Cabañas; members have even blocked roads to keep thecompany’s equipment from entering the proposed mining site. In December 2009,the organization suffered the loss of two of its members, Dora Alicia SortoRecinos and Ramiro Rivera, whose murderers remain unidentified. Fr. Ruíz andother members of the CAC board have also received death threats for theiropposition to the mine.
Fr.Ruíz leads the youth organizing program within the CAC, bringing together localrural youth for forums, marches, discussions and festivals concerningenvironmental and social issues. “Young people comprise the majority of ourpopulation,” he says. “Our future depends on their involvement.” In the church,“I always bring a message of current social and environmental themes togetherwith a spiritual message.” In addition to this local work, Fr. Ruíz serves asthe CAC representative to the broad-based National Roundtable Against MetallicMining in El Salvador (known as the Mesa). In this capacity, Fr. Ruíz is currently involved in theMesa’s energetic campaign to pass a national ban on all metallic mining in ElSalvador, which would be the first of its kind in the world.
Fr.Ruíz hopes that the fall tour will strengthen ties with the US solidaritymovement. “Above all, we need accompaniment. We need [US communities] to becomeconscious of the environmental and social situation in our country.”
Mrs. Teresa Zenayda Serrano Iraheta
Mrs. Serrano was born in the rural town of San Isidro,Cabañas, in 1982, where she currently lives with her husband and 2-year-olddaughter. A certified lawyer, Mrs. Serrano studied law at San Salvador’sTechnological University with the intention of examining the “humane side” ofthe profession. “The judicial path would allow me to serve my community,” sheexplains.
Mrs.Serrano is an active member of the Francisco Sánchez Unified Movement-1932(MUFRAS-32), which she co-founded in 2001 as “the first and only socialmovement born of a private university,” she says proudly. The grassroots organization now hasbases in San Salvador and San Isidro, and has been instrumental in the localand national struggles against mining. As the MUFRAS-32 representative to the Mesa, Mrs. Serrano calls for athorough and impartial investigation into the material and intellectualauthorship of the political violence that has been afflicting Cabañas since thearrival of Pacific Rim.
Mrs.Serrano herself experienced political repression in 2009 while organizingagainst the corrupt electoral practices of the mayor of San Isidro, an openpromoter of Pacific Rim. While her family slept, their home was broken into anddocumentation of electoral fraud and mining damages were stolen.
Undeterredby these acts, Mrs. Serrano works with MUFRAS-32 to promote “more creativeforms of resistance” and popular education in her community, organizingeducational murals, cultural and environmental festivals and ecologicalmarches. Mrs. Serrano hopes that the tour will bring greater understanding ofthe disastrous effects of free trade agreements like CAFTA-DR to the people ofthe United States and that they will join in the battle to repeal CAFTA-DR infavor of just and equal international trade relationships. She emphasizes thatthe people of the United States “must understand the impact of their nation onpoor nations” like El Salvador.