Release: Salvadoran environmental activist recognized with prestigious Goldman Prize

Press Release

Calls on U.S. to stopcorporate abuses under free trade, honors fellow activists who were murdered in 2009  ** For immediate release Contact: Alexis Stoumbelis (202) 521-2510 ext. 205

Washington, DC –Francisco Pineda, from the Environmental Committee of Cabañas in El Salvador, was one of sixactivists to be awarded the 2011 Goldman Environmental Prize in recognition ofthe courageous struggle against gold mining in El Salvador.

During Wednesday’s ceremony at the National Museum ofNatural History, Pineda reiterated the call of communities throughout Central America devastated by gold mining, “We can live without gold, but we can’t live without water.” According to studies, the mine proposed by Pacific Rim inPineda’s small farming community of San Isidro would use between 75 and 110 liters of water per second and two tons of cyanide per day to extract gold.

The Ministry of the Environment never approved extraction permits for Pacific Rim, due to the Vancouver, B.C. company’s failure to fulfill El Salvador’s requirements for an environmental permit, including a technicalfeasibility study. For the past six years, communities most directly threatenedby the proposed mines have led a broad-based, grassroots movement in ElSalvador to pass a national ban on metallic mining.

Pacific Rim is now suing the government of El Salvador forover $100 million dollars in compensation for alleged losses under the rules ofCAFTA, the US-Central America Free Trade Agreement, using a Cayman Islands subsidiary that was transferred to Reno, NV. During his speech, Pineda called on the United States to stop free trade agreements, which empower foreign investors tosue nations to challenge domestic policy. In advance of President Obama’s visitto El Salvador in March, nineteen Members of Congress and over 140 environmental and human rights organizations, including the Sierra Club and Friends of theEarth, expressed concern about the lawsuit and called on the President to fulfillhis campaign promise to “strictly limit” the scope of these provisions and to exempt policies concerning public health and safety.

The Goldman prize winners met with President Obama onWednesday, highlighting some deep contradictions in the President’s policy,according to some U.S. organizations. “It’s great that President Obamarecognized their sacrifice and commitment to defending the environment,” said LisaFuller, Program Director of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of ElSalvador, who has worked closely with the anti-mining movement in El Salvador. “Howcan he turn around and keep pushing for three more free trade agreements withthe same sweeping rights for foreign corporations?”

During the ceremony, Pineda gave special recognition to Ramiro Rivera and Dora Sorto, fellow members of the Environmental Committee of Cabañas, and Marcelo Rivera, anotherleader of the anti-mining movement in El Salvador, who were killed in 2009.Family members, local communities, and the international community continue tocall for a thorough investigation into the intellectual and financialarchitects of the murders.

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