One year ago the body of a student environmentalist, Juan Francisco Duran, was found buried in a common grave.When his body was found, Juan Francisco, had been missing for than 10 days.He was an active member of the Environmental Committee of Cabañas, and may people from his community believe his death is tied to the anti-mining struggle. For more information about his case read the Voice on the Border blog or watch the Democracy Now! report on his murder.
Recent Statements Cause Alarm for the Anti-Mining Movement
After months of waiting for the Salvadoran central government to release its mining sector Strategic Environmental Assessment, the Vice-Minister of the Environment and Natural Resources was quoted in a local newspaper as saying “It is not possible in the present conditions […] to introduce mining activities in the country and guarantee environmental measures.”She went on to say that there are two possible solutions for the problem:to not give out any more mining permits or suspend current mining activity.
The Vice-Minister’s statements have been strongly criticized by the communities and organizations resisting mining in El Salvador.In its news bulletin the National Roundtable against Metallic Mining (the Mesa in Spanish) responded “The news could be interpreted positively, but, on the contrary, the Mesa is very worried that, instead of considering a definitive ban on subsoil metal extraction, the only possible scenarios, according statements from officials, are not to give out more exploitation permits or the suspension of current mining activity. This is particularly alarming because it would indicate that the Salvadoran government is looking towards a moratorium on mining actively that would allow them to create the institutional and technical conditions necessary to active said industry in the future, in spite of the all the negative impacts on an environmental, social, and human rights level which are inherent in metallic mining."
In response to the statements by government officials, as well as news that mining companies have been increasing their activities in communities, on May 23rd members of the Mesa presented four separate requests for information to the Ministry of the Economy, using the recently enacted Access to Public Information Law.They asked for an official copy of the Strategic Environmental Assessment, as well as the names of the companies applying for mining permits and the names of their legal representatives.
At first the Mesa was told only one representative would be allowed to enter the Ministry building to present the requests, and that none of the press covering the event would be allowed in.This unexpected response provoked the question by many in the Mesa: “Why does the Ministry of the Economy not want to deal with us?” After some negotiating and standing outside a locked door for a while, all of the Mesa representatives and press were allowed into the Ministry to present the paperwork.
According to the Ministry official who received the petitions, the information will be returned within 10 days.However, the Mesa is not fully confident that all the information they requested will actually be provided.
A commission of representatives from the Mesa and community radio station Radio Victoria was received by the secretary in charge of communications from the Attorney General’s Office, who claimed they were not being negligent in guaranteeing the access to justice, but that the process of investigating intellectual authors is slow.When the representative from Radio Victoria pressured him as to why there had not been results in their case, is almost over three years old, he said they are still investigating. He also said that the Mesa should pressure the Supreme Court and the Ombudsman for Human Rights Office instead of the Attorney General’s Office.
The protest was held on the heels of the announcement of the new Attorney General of the Republic.On the 24th the Legislative Assembly named Astor Escalante Attorney General.Escalante was interim Attorney General in El Salvador for a number of months in 2009, including during time between Marcelo Rivera’s murder and cases of violence in Trinidad.In their paid ad the Mesa stated: “As the National Roundtable we, also, expresses our complete rejection for the return of Astor Escalante as head of the Attorney General’s Office, and would like to point out that during his period as Attorney General in 2009, the current situation of impunity and ineffective judicial systems, in general continued.