Canadian Mining Company Pacific Rim Comes Under Fire From Environmental & Human Rights Organizations

News
Simultaneous demonstrations held in advance of World Bank hearing;


Lawsuit against El Salvador under U.S. trade agreement draws sharp criticism

CISPES Press Release, May 27, 2010
(see video and pictures from actions across the country: http://www.facebook.com/cispes)

Contact: Alexis Stoumbelis, Executive Director of CISPES: (202) 521-2510 ext. 205

In advance of a hotly-contested case that will be heard at the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) on May 31, a broad coalition of environmental, human rights, and trade organizations held vibrant demonstrations in Washington, DC, Boston, New York, Seattle, and Portland to expose the dubious conduct of Vancouver, BC-based mining company Pacific Rim.

Representatives of the company appeared in the form of empty business suits, skeletons on stilts, and the Grim Reaper. Hundreds of protestors chanted the names of three mining opponents, Marcelo Rivera, Ramiro Rivera and Dora Alicia Sorto Recinos, who were murdered last year, held up oversized photos of neon-orange rivers contaminated with cyanide and handed out bottles of cloudy, discolored drinking water.

The proposed El Dorado mine faced overwhelming opposition from local communities, primarily due to the grave environmental risks. In Washington DC, Vidalina Morales, a community leader from Cabañas, El Salvador, explained, "Most people in our town are subsistence farmers who get by on the little that they can grow. If our lands are destroyed and our water is contaminated, we cannot survive."

The Salvadoran government decided not to grant Pacific Rim's application for exploitation permits in 2005, as the company had failed to meet requirements, including the completion of a feasibility study. The company opened a subsidiary in Reno, NV in 2007 in order to file a lawsuit for at least $77 million under the foreign investor rights provisions of CAFTA, making this the first environmental case under the widely-opposed trade deal.

Manuel Pérez-Rocha, from the Institute for Policy Studies commented, "This case is exemplary of the proliferation of foreign investors that want to use free trade agreements to threaten countries that attempt to protect the human rights of their citizens." IPS awarded the prestigious Letelier-Moffit Human Rights award to the National Coalition against Metallic Mining in October of 2009; Marcelo Rivera, Ramiro Rivera and Dora Alicia Sorto Recinos were all members.

Miguel Rivera, the brother of Marcelo Rivera who was kidnapped, tortured and murdered in June 2009, spoke out in Washington. "This violence is a direct result of the free trade agreements, which limit the government's ability to defend the life of its residents and put economic rights above people's right to live."

Lisa Fuller, program director for CISPES, the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, agreed, saying, "U.S. trade policy should not give private companies the right to sue country for upholding environmental protections," noting that President Obama promised to "severely restrict" these same rules during his Presidential campaign.

In New York and Boston, actions at the Canadian consulates faulted the government for near-absence of regulation of the mining industry, fostering the impunity of companies that notoriously abuse human rights and the environment. In Seattle and Portland, constituents called on Representatives and Senators to end the trade model currently enshrined in NAFTA. In Washington, DC, the action was held in front of the offices of Crowell & Moring, the law firm representing Pacific Rim.

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