Salvadoran Activists Denounce Human Rights Abuses During Visit to Washington, DC


by Emma Boorboor, DC CISPES

            On October 14, 2009, in Washington, D.C., the Institute forPolicy Studies (IPS) presented five delegates from the NationalRoundtable Against Metallic Mining with the prestigiousLetelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award for their work to stop unwantedmining. “This prize inspires us to keep moving forward, until thethreat of mining is abolished forever in El Salvador,” exclaimedVidalina Morales, representative from the Roundtable upon receiving theaward. During their time in Washington, CISPES accompanied theorganizers to meetings with Congress, where they challenged U.S.Representatives to take action to change unfair U.S. trade deals likeNAFTA and CAFTA that privilege corporate rights over community, laborand environmental rights.

            In an event entitled “Extractive Industries: Trade Justiceand Human Rights” at American University, Roundtable representativeWilliam Castillo asserted that he was primarily concerned with theunderlying problem: the imposition of the neoliberal economic doctrine.He solemnly reported that the people of El Salvador still have not seenthe social benefits promised by neoliberal economic programs; instead,Salvadorans have only seen negative impacts, including increasedmigration and new environmental problems.

            Despite the celebration surrounding the award, the presentations were marked by profound sadness. Marcelo Rivera, co-founder and president of ASIC, was found dead with signs of torture on June 28th after he was disappeared ten days earlier. Since his assassination, there have been continued death threats and attempted kidnappings in the department of Cabañas, including of priest Luis Quintanilla and staff at Radio Victoria, a community radio station. On August 7th, community leader Ramiro Rivera, quoted above, survived an attempt on his life. Though he was shot eight times, he is now recovering and in a safe refuge. Community members claim that the shooter, Oscar Menjívar, is a former employee of Pacific Rim; the company denies that he was ever an employee.

            CISPES is joining with human rights and solidarity organizations to put international pressure on El Salvador’s new Attorney General, Romeo Barahona, to do a thorough investigation into this rise in death-squad style violence against environmental activists and to stop the impunity.

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