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URGENT COMMUNIQUE: To the people of Asuncion Mita, the national and international community

Urgent Communique from the Municipal Commission Specific to the Consultation on Mining  

The members of the Commission recognized and designated by the Municipality of Asuncion Mita, Jutiapa to organize the Municipal Consultation on Mining petitioned by citizens of our municipality, are facing the undemocratic backlash of the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) through a statement dated September 19, where it took a position against the Municipal Consultation, a historic event that clearly marked the determination of the people against the installation of metallic mining operations through a consultation carried out under article 64 of the Guatemalan Municipal Code.  

We express: 

  1. That today, September 21, 2022, at 3:45 pm, we were notified about an injunction against the Commission specifically created to organize the municipal consultation filed by Juan José Monroy González, assisted by lawyer Orlando Raúl López Salguero, on behalf of the association Mita Avanza,  
  1. That the people of Asunción Mita have already exercised their right to be consulted as per the political constitution of the republic and the municipal code, and the overwhelming results should be considered indicative for government authorities in the licensing process. Moreover, the consultation is binding for the municipality according to the municipal autonomy principle established in the political constitution of the republic. 
  1. That we are not surprised by the statement published on September 19, because the people of Asunción Mita know which side the government is on. The government is using the law not to protect its people but to favor big business. 
  1. The statement published by the Ministry of Energy and Mines states that the consultation, which the rejection of mining projects, "lacks a legal basis" and therefore "it lacks the authority to recognize the validity of the results". In this sense, we argue that said institution lacks the knowledge of the laws or intends to give that impression as the consultation was based on article 64 of the Municipal Code and not on the 169 convention of the ILO where the ministry has jurisdiction and advantage against indigenous communities.  

The people of Asunción Mita identify themselves as mestizo or ladino. In addition, as 27% of the registered inhabitants of Asuncion Mita participated in the vote, the expectations in the consultation were exceeded, therefore, the consultation results are binding for the municipality on the issuance of construction licenses or other permits under its competency for the development of mining projects.  

  1. We regret and publicly and fully reject the few misinformed citizens of Asuncion Mita, whose particular interest is to generate disinformation for the local population while supporting mining projects that may negatively impact the natural resources of our municipality in the future. 
  1. That the mining companies, up to the moment, have not proven to be rational, responsible, or friendly with the environment. They have not respected article 125 of the political constitution of the republic of Guatemala, on the contrary, they used it to delegitimate the consultation process. 
  1. Also, we reject any attempt by mining companies and the ministry of energy and mines to pressure the municipal authorities and to disregard the sovereignty of the people of Asuncion Mita.  

Therefore:  

We communicate to the people of Asunción Mita that the consultation is legal because the notification to the commission regarding the injunction was delivered three days after the consultation took place. In addition, there is relevant jurisprudence in three previous consultations in the municipalities of Mataquescuintla, San Juan Tecuaco, and Jalapa set a relevant legal precedent to declare the consultation legitimate, where the Constitutional Court dismissed injunctions presented to delegitimize the consultations and declared the results to be binding. 

 

Asuncion Mita, September 21, 2022 

Municipal Commission Specific to the Consultation in Mining 

The Cerro Blanco mine and the right to consultation

Screen_Shot_2022-09-22_at_14.25.05.pngA municipal referendum was held on September 18 in Asunción Mita, Guatemala, that will impact the future of the Cerro Blanco mine.  The question on the ballot aske

d people if they were in agreement with the presence of mining projects that would affect the natural resources in their territory, and the answer of the people was a resounding no.    

Asuncion Mita is the capital of the eastern department of Jutiapa in Guatemala and is home to the Cerro Blanco mining project. Local communities and environmental organizations have long been concerned about the environmental impacts of this project on shared waterways in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. But years of frustrations about the lack of information on the project by government authorities and lack of prior consultation by company officials led local organizations to exercise their right to call a local referendum as outlined by article 64 of the municipal code.   

According to the Municipal Code, any community can request a referendum from municipal authorities, on any issue that affects the public interest, if 10% percent of the registered voters sign a petition addressed to local municipal authorities. Once the petition is received, the local municipal council is obliged to put a process in place to consult the population. At least 20% of the registered voters must participate in the referendum for it to be binding.             

From tunnel to open-pit mining: deficiencies in the Environmental Impact Assessment 

In 2007, ENTREMARES S.A., a subsidiary of Goldcorp, obtained an exploitation license from the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources. Yet, this Ministry had initially rejected the same environmental impact assessment (EIA) twice due to inconsistent information affirming that there would be no impact on the environment and the population. 

Fifteen years later, the Ministry received an updated EIA presented by its new owner, Bluestone Resources. The 3545-page update details an open pit rather than a tunnel mining extraction process. Julio González, from the Guatemalan MadreSelva environmental collective, explained that “instead of an update, a process to present the EIA for the new, different project should have been open." 

The company has publicly stated that there is local support for the project and that any opposition comes from external sources.” But last May, local organizations collected more than 4,000 signatures from registered voters to request municipal authorities of Asunción Mita to carry out a Municipal Consultation, as per art. 64 of the Municipal Code. 

Historically, communities closest to mining projects suffer the worst consequences. At Cerro Blanco, the company has proposed a filtered tailings storage facility will be built in dangerous proximity to communities that would be banned in many countries as it risks being too steep and wet compared to mining industry standards. 

An analysis of the Environmental Impact Study of the Cerro Blanco mine carried out by Dr. Steven Emerman, an expert in mining waste systems, recently published by the Heinrich Boll Foundation confirms the concerns expressed by environmental organizations. Dr. Dina Lopez, a retired vulcanologist from the University of Ohio, has also expressed concerns about the heat management models presented by the company in an ecosystem characterized by the prevalence of thermal waters; and Dr. Vladimir Pacheco, an expert on mining closure plans, said that he has concerns that the Environmental Impact Study does not present a closure plan, instead, it plans to start the process four years before the mine closes.      

Mining operations’ solid and liquid waste will contaminate shared watersheds, worsen current water scarcity, and increase environmental vulnerability in Central America, says Jose Mario Lopez, of the Central American Alliance on Mining, a regional organization that supports mining-affected communities in the region and has been key in sharing advice to local organizations for the consultation process.  

Salvadoran and Guatemalan Catholic Church representatives also issued statements of support advocating the protection of water as well as supporting the consultation process. According to González, "Pope Francis Laudato Si (2015) has been a considerable source of inspiration within the religious sectors in Guatemala.” 

Preparing an EIA for a major extractive project always requires consulting the affected communities, but the lack of informed consultation in the extractive industry is a driver of socio-environmental conflicts in Guatemala. As González stated, “impunity and the trade of private interests is a characteristic of the mining industry.” 

The Guatemalan Constitution (1985), ILO 169 (ratified in 1996), the Municipal Code (2002), and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007) all recognize the rights of Guatemalan citizens to be consulted on important matters that could affect their lives and territories. 

Sowing division in the communities

Following the results of the consultations where 28% of the registered voter participated and of those who participated 89.3% voted against the mining projects in their territory.  

Bluestone Resources and the Ministry of Energy and Mines responded by issuing a public statement declaring the referendum illegal and not sanctioned by the government of Guatemala, however, local activists said that neither the ministry nor the company has jurisdiction over local consultations. “If the company wishes to have the referendum overturned, it must find a pro-mining group to initiate an injunction through a local court,” said Armando Teo, a local community organizer.         

In that sense, a legal precedent established by the Guatemalan Constitucional Court in 2012 may be on the environmentalist's side as it ruled that these municipal consultation mechanisms are important because they make it possible to strengthen local democracy, promote transparency in the public administration, and are tools for citizens to exercise their democratic rights.  

While Bluestone Resources attempts to obtain support from locals by investing in infrastructure, scholarships, and promises of employment, development, and economic growth, the company should realize that this approach risks sewing divisions as those who benefit from the mine’s presence will continue to find ways of criminalizing the will of the people.  

 

PRESS RELEASE: The municipal consultation on Cerro Blanco mine is valid and legitimate

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Different environmental and ecofeminist organizations, ecclesial movements, and regional activist alliances participated as international observers in the municipal consultation held this past Sunday, 18th of September in the municipality of Asunción Mita, Jutiapa, Guatemala. The consultation was related to the presence of metal mining projects in Asuncion Mita, home to the controversial Cerro Blanco mining project that poses environmentmental threats for both Guatemalan and Salvadoran communities. 

The International Observation Mission was made up of the National Roundtable Against Metal Mining in El Salvador (Mesa Nacional Frente a la Minería Metálica en El Salvador, MNFM), the Ecofeminist Movement of El Salvador (Movimiento Ecofeminista de El Salvador, AMAES), the Central American Alliance On Mining (Alianza Centroamericana frente a la Minería, ACAFREMIN), the Central American Network for the Defense of Cross-border Waters (Red Centroamericana por la Defensa de las Aguas Transfronterizas, RedCAT) and the Mesoamerican Ecological Ecclesial Network (Red Eclesial Ecológica Mesoamericana, REMAM).

Results released by the Municipal Commission in charge of the the consultation shows that 87.98% of those who cast ballots voted against metal mining projects and only 10.63% expressed were in favor. The Commission is made up of representatives of the municipal government of Asunción Mita, the Catholic Church, civil society organizations, and representatives of the mining company Elevar Resources, who resigned from their positions shortly after the establishment of the commission. However, the observation missions were able to verify on site that the company assigned prosecutors during the voting process, covering the 6 voting centers designated for the population to cast their vote.

Based on the procedures and results of the community consultation in Asuncion Mita, the aforementioned international observers delegations, express

  1. We recognize the validity and legitimacy of the municipal consultation process of residents in Asunción Mita, department of Jutiapa, Guatemala, held this Sunday, September 18, 2022. The local communities expressed by vote that they did not agree with the installation and operation of metal mining projects in any of its modalities that impact resources and environments natural in their municipality.
  2. As international observation missions, we identified some operational irregularities, but these do not call into question the transparency and forcefulness of the results obtained in the municipal consultation process, nor we idenfied improper actions by members of the Municipal Commission outside the provisions or legal requirements which would imply invalidating the results of the votes and the will of the 7,481 participants who voted against the metallic mining projects.
  3. We denounce actions of intimidation and harassment registered against the different international observation missions that subscribe to this communique, during the development of the municipal consultation. Said acts were committed by people who are linked to the mining company and who, among other things, tried to block the work of the international observers and induce a vote in favor of the mining company in the different voting centers.
  4. The municipal code of Guatemala establishes that a municipal consultation is binding if 20% of the registered voters of the municipality participate. The Municipal Commission of Neighbors of Asunción Mita reported that during Sunday´s vote, 27.91% of the registered voters participated.
  5. Guatemala has carried out 180 municipal consultations on metallic mining projects. There are also several constitutional resolutions which recognize these as truly democratic processes. According to these rulings, such as the one issued in the department of Jalapa, municipal consultations are legitimate. We believe that the position of the Ministry of Energy and Mines of Guatemala, in its attempt to invalidate the overwhelming results in Asunción Mita and reveals the interests of the Guatemalan government to promote extractive industries, even if this is against the will and welfare of the people.
  6. We demand from the Republic of El Salvador states its position on the cross-border mining issue highlighted by the Cerro Blanco porject, and urge it to activate a bi-national dialogue comission as soon as possible, along with its Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources to effectively enforce treaties such as the Trifinio Plan. The Trifinio Biosphere Reserve is a trinational, protected border area in Guatemala, Honduran and El Salvador. It is urgent that the Salvadoran government promote regulations that guarantee mining-free borders with a shared basin approach and give priority to the negotiation of a Treaty of transboundary waters.
  7. We alert the international community about possible criminalization actions against environmental and human rights defenders of Asunción Mita, Jutiapa, Guatemala, and we urge the Guatemalan government and the company Bluestone Resources INC to respect the decision of the people of Asuncion Mita who rejected metallic mining projects in their municipality.

San Salvador, September 21, 2022

 

Translated by: Giada Ferrucci

Source: 

https://twitter.com/no_mineria_sv

Public statement of the Local Governments of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, members of the Lempa River Trinational Border Association, regarding the “Cerro Blanco” mining project, developed by the Canadian company Bluestone Resources.

INTERCAMBIO DE EXPERIENCIAS “EN MANEJO INTEGRAL DE DESECHOS SÓLIDOS” |  Mancomunidad Trinacional Fronteriza Rio LempaThe Governments and Local Authorities of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, represented hereby are members of the Lempa River Trinational Border Association, and also the "Trinational Network for the Rescue of the Lempa River", are gathered today in response to the threat represented by metal mining exploitation and especially the "Cerro Blanco" mining project, located in the municipality of Asunción Mita, Department of Jutiapa, Republic of Guatemala, to issue the following public statement before the national and international public opinion:

 

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MIRIAN MIRANDA: There is a genocidal plan against the Garífuna people

Thelma Gómez Durán | Mongabay

mirina miranda* As of the 2009 coup, Honduras became a perfect political laboratory to destroy the institutions, says Miriam Miranda, coordinator of the Honduran Black Fraternal Organization (also known as Organización Fraternal Negra Hondureña, OFRANEH). This organization works to vindicate the cultural, political, and territorial rights of the Garifuna people.

* For its work defending the rights of the Garífuna people, OFRANEH received the Letelier-Moffitt Prize for Human Rights from the Institute for Political Studies (IPS).

* The territory of the Garífuna people in Honduras has been facing the expansion of palm plantations, tourist developments, mining, drug trafficking, and the government project known as the Economic Development Zones (Zonas de Desarrollo Económico ZEDE).

Miriam Miranda grew up in a Garifuna family that migrated from their community in Santa Fe, Colón, to live and work in a banana field. In those plantations, she saw how people were treated like slaves: the end of the month came and the workers were paid almost nothing because a large part of their salary was owed to the stores that belonged to the same company that hired them.

It was in these plantations that Miriam Miranda became who she is today. Since she was a teenager, Miranda participated in student and social movements; a passionate reader that was a member of the Visitación Padilla Women's Movement, and she was involved in the struggle of indigenous and black peoples. This is how she became one of the founders of the Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Honduras (the Confederación de Pueblos Autóctonos de Honduras, CONPAH) and the current coordinator of the Honduran Black Fraternal Organization (OFRANEH).

Miriam Miranda - recipient of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation Human Rights Award in 2019 - has been one of the voices that have warned about what is happening in Honduras: the dispossession of the ancestral territories of indigenous peoples and what she considers to be the genocide of the Garifuna people.

In the last five years alone, more than 50 Garífuna men and women have been killed; 30 have been jailed and 32 have a court order, prosecuted for the alleged usurpation of their own ancestral territories.

In addition, several Garífuna communities are experiencing forced displacement. One of them is Triunfo de la Cruz, where 400 families left the community in 2019, and in July 2020, during an operative by the Police Investigation Directorate (Dirección Policial de Investigaciones, DPI), four young people, including the president of the community board of trustees, were kidnapped and are still missing.

OFRANEH has denounced the situation that the Garífuna people of Honduras are experiencing before various international bodies. In 2015, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) declared Honduras responsible for the violation of the right to collective property to the prejudice of the Garífuna communities of Punta Piedra and Triunfo de la Cruz. So far, the Honduran State has not complied with the ruling.

For its work in defense of the Garífuna people, OFRANEH received the Letelier-Moffitt Award for Human Rights from the Institute for Political Studies (IPS), an organization based in Washington D.C. in the United States, which for almost six decades has been conducting research and supporting progressive social movements and leaders.

In an interview with Mongabay Latam, Miriam Miranda highlights that the award to OFRANEH comes at a time when pressure from the Honduran government is increasing to deprive indigenous and black peoples of their territories; a moment in which there is a humanitarian crisis that is creating the notion that “everyone wants to leave this country”.

OFRANEH was born in the late seventies. At that time, OFRANEH concentrated its fight against the racism suffered by the black population working in the banana plantations in Honduras. How has the organization evolved?

OFRANEH emerged in 1979 and since then it has been mutating. In the last 15 years, at least, we have fought to vindicate the cultural, political, spiritual, and territorial rights of our Garífuna people. We are a people that arises from a mixture, from an indigenous composition — from the Arawaks of the Caribbean — with Africans. We are a people that have a culture, an identity and that is why, even, our language, music, and dance were declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

What moment is Honduras living today?

As of the 2009 coup, Honduras became a perfect political laboratory to destroy institutions. In reality, there have been three coups d'état in Honduras: in 2009, 2012, and the electoral coup of 2017. Those three coups made it possible to create a country that today is submerged in one of the deepest crises that can exist in the modern era.

Honduras has several crises. First of all, we have migrant caravans. Honduras is also the most violent and insecure country for human rights defenders; it became a narco-government, where the president´s brother has been tried and sentenced in the United States for drug trafficking. Honduras is a country where there are no constitutional or institutional guarantees for those of us who defend life. That is the product of the comprehensive strategy to destroy the institutionality.

It is a country where, even today, this Machiavellian project called Special Economic Development Zones (ZEDE) can be installed, small states within a state (a government project to create areas subject to a special regime, where investors would be in charge of tax policy, security and conflict resolution). They are actually monarchies because we are talking about the territories being given to people who have money.

How does the ZEDE project affect the Garífuna people?

In recent years we have been facing such strong pressure. The “Ciudades Modelo”, (Charter Cities as the ZEDE have also been called) have become the death blow to make us disappear as a people. As such, we promoted several cases before the Inter-American Human Rights System. We have to protect ourselves because if they displace the communities of the Garífuna people, they will disappear. And that is the goal of this government.

One of the big impacts on the Garífuna people is forced displacement, but also the violation of human rights because we have compañeras in the Bay of Trujillo that have been criminalized. In the last five years, 30 Garífunas men and women have been imprisoned or criminalized; 32 have a court order. They are being persecuted for allegedly usurping their own ancestral territories.

In Honduras, an important boost has been given to the cultivation of African palm and tourist developments; at the same time, it is a country that is already suffering the consequences of the climate crisis ...

Today, more than ever, we have to understand that this model of consumption, that this model of "development" is destroying natural resources and the entire web of life. It is a model that is causing great pressure in the territories where there are still natural resources. All these conflicts in our territories have to do with the control of the few remaining resources.

We witness how national investors want to be partners with foreign investors and exert pressure on the territories of our people. These investors also have the absolute support of the justice system of our countries. Proof of this is the case of our Guapinol brothers (eight defenders of the Guapinol river, in northern Honduras, who have been in jail since August 2019, after they were arrested in a protest against mining activities of a Honduran company). It is not possible that people who defend water have been deprived of liberty for more than two years when we have legislators who are not being punished for embezzlement.

What we are facing is a machinery against the peoples, because we are involved in the fight and in defense of resources, of life. We have a system that responds to the logic of death, with a form of "development" that is making our planet sick and killing it.

We are there fighting, while the system has created the conditions for its entire structure to be against human rights defenders. And not only in Honduras, but we are talking about regions all over the world. That is why it becomes a crime for us to fight for water, for us to fight for the forest, for us to fight for nature; it becomes a crime because there is a political and economic class that is struggling to own the few resources left.

And do you have hope that this panorama will change?

Yes, I have a hope in the sense that the earth will not withstand it. The planet is not resisting and that attracts attention of people. It seems serious to me that, even with this scenario, they still think about solving the issue of the (climate) crisis with money or false solutions. They say: "we are going to invest here, we are going to invest here", but they do not want to invest in behavioral changes, in changing the consumption patterns, in letting the earth rest. We, as an indigenous people, have the fallow system; we do not use pesticides to produce yucca, we let the earth rest.

Today the climate crisis is reflected not only in Latin America, we are also seeing it in the north, in Germany, in the United States. I harbor the hope that it will helps things change.

It is necessary to connect the extractivist industries with all that is happening (with the climate); it must be connected to a model that is not working, that is putting humanity at risk because the earth regenerates, but we humans are all going to disappear. And nobody wants to understand it.

How did the murder of Berta Cáceres, in March 2016, impact the work of women defenders of the environment and the territories in Honduras?

Berta's murder showed us that in this country you are not safe even in your own home. The fact that they came to kill her at home was a very clear message for the defenders, it was to tell them: "you are not safe in your own home."

But that did not stop us from demanding justice. We, together with the Defenders Network and other organizations, set up the Feminist Camp "Viva Berta" for three and a half months (in the trial against David Castillo, who was identified as a co-author of the murder of Berta Cáceres), in front of the Supreme Court of Justice. It has been shown and continues to be shown, that women have a lot of inventiveness and capacity to join in our struggles.

It was also shown that international pressure, the permanent accompaniment, the insistence is important for a trial like the one that took place; it would not have reached as far as it did if international pressure had not existed. The problem is that those who gave the order (for Berta's murder) have not yet been brought to trial.

Berta's murder did not stop women defenders in Honduras ...

Berta's legacy is great. Children from the fields, people from anywhere say: "Berta, Berta." That chorus of Berta multiplied makes her present, many people know her. She is a woman who was murdered, but could not be silenced.

That is why, in 2019, a decade after the coup d'état, the Assembly of Women Fighters of Honduras Asamblea de Mujeres Luchadoras de Honduras) was held in Garífuna territory, where more than 1,500 women and more than 300 girls and boys gathered. That was an event where we said: women have to speak and take the floor, but we also have to give ourselves the opportunity to change this country, to build alternatives. Representatives from 16 of the 18 departments in Honduras attended. That gives us a lot of hope that women unite their word and their action. We have been able to keep Berta's memory alive in each corner of the country. Her word keeps walking.

I spent 25 years of my life with Berta; strategizing together about what we could do for this country, for the future of our daughters and sons. Because to fight is to think about your daughters and your sons, your own and those of others.

Women not only give birth to daughters and sons, but we also give birth to ideas, thoughts, constructions and we have to be able and intelligent so as not to build and perpetuate the same thing that, for centuries, men have been doing. We must be able to transcend that, we have to be able to build something else. And we need to build it from our passion, from our heart, from our identity. We have to be convinced that that grain of sand that we are contributing is building a whole mountain of sand that is going to be strong.

In the Garífuna people, women have a leading role ...

The Garífuna people are matrilineal people. The power of women is great, it is part of our culture and identity. In Garífuna communities, women can be left alone and the community will always continue to function.

In practice, the Garífuna people do exercise and work under a motto that we have now coined: "You for me, I for you." This is the theme of communality.

And is OFRANEH´s fight being materialized in Vallecito? How was this project born and what does it consist of?

Vallecito is a life project: a proposal for autonomy, food sovereignty, building local power, and a real power. In the sense that we can, as a community, make our own decisions, protect our territory, and also build a life for the future. Because one cannot be alone shouting: "I don't want this, I don't want the other." We also have to build emancipatory processes little by little, knowing that they are long-term processes.

Vallecito was created thinking about that, about that life project, about building something different.

The recovery of this territory began in 1991 but was later taken over by drug traffickers for ten years. And in 2011 is when we began to make the new reoccupation. Today it has about 1,200 hectares and some 30 to 50 Garífuna families live there. It is a communal territory. A territory that could receive the environmentally displaced.

Vallecito is an area where we have fought against narco trafficking; we are surrounded by organized crime. We are there, however, promoting a project of life and food sovereignty. We are looking to have a coconut production to rebuild the diet of the Garífuna people. Next year we want to set up a factory to extract coconut products.

In addition, we hope that the first indigenous university with holistic perspective can be installed there, where we will work on the themes of health, nutrition, and everything that has to do with generating well-being.

With the pandemic, we realized that we have to work, more than ever, on the health issue and envision it in a comprehensive way. The pandemic has revealed to us how sick and ill we are from what we eat, from what we breathe, from what we drink.

For this reason, in 2020, OFRANEH promoted the ancestral health houses initiative to be able to work on strengthening the immune system of people. We knew that with such a poor health system, like the one we have in Honduras, we had to look for a way to save lives. And the only way was to work with the communities.

What does this award that OFRANEH received from the Institute for Political Studies represent?

This award comes when the Honduran state does not want to comply with the rulings of the Inter-American Human Rights System and has intensified the criminalization, repression, and prosecution of the Garífuna people. Human rights defenders have been assassinated and four young people have disappeared.

Given the lack of application of justice in the country, we created the Garífuna Committee for the Forced Investigation of Youth (Comité Garífuna de Investigación Forzada de los Jóvenes). At OFRANEH, we are promoting this committee as a space that allows us to find the truth, demand justice over the disappearance of our young people. This committee is very important, although the State does not want to recognize it.

It is very clear that at this moment the Honduran State is going to do everything possible to deprive the Garífuna community of its territory to hand it over to investors. That is why we reaffirm that there is a genocidal plan against the Garífuna people.

And that is why we are calling to monitor what is happening in Honduras. People have left the country en masse and continue to leave. The Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris´ reaction was to say “don't come.” However, the United States continues to support corrupt governments like ours, governments that violate human rights.

We all have the right to migrate, but we also have the right to stay in the country and live well. Because this is a country where we could live and ensure our well-being, except that Honduras has been captured by a mafia that does not let us live.

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Translated by Giada Ferrucci

Translated from: https://es.mongabay.com/2021/10/honduras-amenazas-pueblo-garifuna-entrevista-premio/?fbclid=IwAR1wATvkB6NLTwlkrYy3qSc7I69wrm8_jsx59HJNCXuXsvDr2ex9_7C7ijU

PRESS RELESE: Environmental Organizations Dennounce Privatization of Water in El Salvador

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THE GENERAL LAW ON WATER RESOURCES APPROVED BY THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY LEGALIZES WATER INJUSTICE, PROMOTES THE THEFT AND DISPOSSESSION OF WATER IN THE TERRITORIES

San Salvador, December 22, 2021. On December 21 of this year, the ruling party of the Legislative Assembly approved the General Law on Water Resources. Following the approval, environmental organizations such as the Water Forum, the National Alliance against the Privatization of Water, the Roundtable of Churches in El Salvador and the Central American University state the following:

The Law continues to harm the rural and urban Community Water Systems. It maintains the privatizing spirit in which it was presented last June by the President of the Republic. It is a Law that deepens water injustice as it includes mechanisms that will generate more injustice, such as the collection of the taxes from community water systems, and the use of water supply systems that don’t consider access for the population's domestic consumption a priority.

In El Salvador, there are more than 2,500 rural and community water systems that supply almost 25% of the Salvadoran population. The absence of the State that has historically neglected its responsibility has forced local communities to assume water supply by themselves, with the support of NGOs and international aid.

Although the Law recognizes community water systems in a nominal way, it does not provide a mechanism to recognize their non-profit social function and the exemption from paying taxes. By not incorporating this mechanism, community water systems will be obliged to pay taxes and increase service rates of their users, who are often the most impoverished communities in the country.

Although the Law regulates domestic use and human consumption as a priority, it does not regulate how water should be supplied to populations. The first two meet the basic family needs for food, personal hygiene, cleaning, including raising domestic animals that do not constitute a commercial or lucrative activity; but the supply systems for populations should be collective, not for profit and capable of providing water in sufficient quantity and quality for the communities. The community water systems are a good example of these systems. Consequently, by not incorporating a regulation for water supply as priority for domestic use in the article 63, the law would generate a conflict between the supply for the general population and the supply for industrial use, risking that supply systems prioritize the latter.

The law does not solve the injustice generated by the agreements signed between ANDA and construction companies.  Another mechanism that generates water injustice, and favors theft and dispossession, are the private agreements between ANDA (National Association for the Management of Sewers and Aqueducts) and the oligarchies of the construction industry. This Government continues to sign agreements between ANDA and the construction oligarchies, providing them with water extraction concessions to supply their urban development projects, thereby generating scarcity in impoverished populations; two emblematic cases of these practices are the Agreements signed between ANDA and the Dueñas and Poma families, which unconstitutionally allocate more than 25 million liters of water per day. With this amount of water ANDA could supply half a million people, ending shortages and injustice in impoverished municipalities of Apopa, Tonacatepeque, Cuscatancingo, Soyapango, Ilopango and San Martín.

This Law does not resolve these injustices, because its content does not regulate ANDA´s operations, it does not oblige them to review the current cooperation agreements with construction companies, and it  does not make it subordinate to the ASA (Salvadorean Water Authority) established in the law. Considering that the ASA will be in charge of reviewing such permits and will be the competent authority to process new authorizations for exploitation in accordance with the respective regulations; the use of water for large urban projects should be considered as industrial and commercial projects, due to their lucrative purpose, as such they should be expressly regulated so that their permits are not prioritized as priority needs, as it has been done to date.

The Law does not solve the injustice that is generated in the coastal marine territory of the country. The illegal exploitation carried out by the sugar agribusiness in the coastal zone, who hide behind the structural weaknesses of the MAG (Ministry of Agriculture), entity in charge of regulating the use of water for agricultural irrigation, benefits the sugar oligarchy (headed by the Regalado and Wright Families) who freely use all the surface and groundwater of the coastal territories, often times without permits and paying a pittance for its use. This Law, however, does not seek to strengthen the institutional framework of the MAG.

The Law denies citizen participation. This Law creates a bureaucratic, vertical and centralized institutional framework that continues to deny citizen participation by not recognizing the territorial watershed committee structure proposed by social organizations.

This Law is generic as it does not try to resolve the crisis situation in the country. It does not develop a sustainable watershed management system at the national level, nor it establishes measures aimed at the protection and conservation of the Lempa River. Despite the fact that is the most important strategic aquifer reserve in the country and that it is currently in crisis, it does not grant a Special Administration Regime, nor does it address in detail a Water Planning System, nor the cross-border threats that may impact its basin.

It is a law that will privatize water in El Salvador. According to Article 71 of the law, the ASA will authorize the use of water to private sectors in quantities equal to or greater than 365,000 cubic meters of water per year for 15 renewable years, with no upper limit on the quantity of water concessions for commercial purposes, compromising the priorities for domestic human consumption and creating conditions for the violation of the human right to water of the population, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable.

As social organizations, we will continue to demand a General Water Law that guarantees sustainability and the human rights of the population, above the interests of any oligarchic group in the country.

Water is not for sale, it is cared for and defended!

Water is a right, not a commodity!