Posted by: Chloe Schwabe | October 23, 2009

Group resisting gold mining in El Salvador wins human rights award

I used to work at the Share Foundation: Building a New El Salvador Today with U.S. faith communities that accompanied communities in El Salvador to empower women and youth and and provide them with opportunities. In Fall 2005, I was in Wisconsin to help with a delegation from Chalatenango, El Salvador that shared with their sister parishes about emerging threats to mine for gold in El Salvador. This would mean that the communities living near the mine would possibly be displaced, suffer from health conditions related to the mining pollution, and that cyanide would contaminate the Lempa River- the lifeline that thousands in the country depend on for water.

The churches decided they wanted to accompany their brothers and sisters in Chalatenango and Cabanas and thus began a campaign. Since I left, the communities have achieved some successes. So far they have prevented any gold mining projects in El Salvador.

But they also face challenges. Pacific Rim, a Candian mining company with a subsidiary in the U.S., announced a law suit against the Salvadoran government under the Central American Free trade Agreement for not allowing them to go forward with their mining permits. This is the first international dispute filed under CAFTA. Another challenge the communities face is death threats. In June 2009, Marcelo Rivera was disappeared and murdered. He was one of the leaders of the National Working Group Against Mining in El Salvador. Jamie Moffett, a U.S. film maker, made a short film about Marcelo.

Despite these challenges, the National Working Group Against Mining in El Salvador continues to work to protect God’s Creation and human rights. For their efforts, they received the Letelier-Moffitt Memorial Human Rights award last week in Washington, DC. I attended an event with them and the broader Salvadoran community in D.C. on Saturday to honor their courage and hear their stories.

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