Consultations, or municipal referendums in which the voting population asserts their preference on the issue. The first three Consultations took place in 2014 in San Jose Las Flores, San Isidro Labrador, and Nueva Trinidad in the northern department of Chalatenango, and now the fourth Consultation will take place in the municipality of Arcatao on November 8th.
International Observer Delegation, Nov. 4 - 10, 2015
Community Consultation, Arcatao, Chalatenango, El Salvador
El Salvador has been at center stage in a decade-long struggle against gold mining since the early 2000’s when the rising price of gold drew mining companies to explore what is known as the “Gold Belt”, which runs through the middle of Central America. Widespread popular resistance to the projects has managed to exert enough pressure on the Salvadoran government get a moratorium on mining, but transnational mining companies are using international investment tribunals to question the legality of denying mining permits while still allowing companies to explore potential mining sites and submit proposals for mining projects.
The communities in resistance to mining projects in El Salvador are now seeking a new tool to strengthen their cause, using the national Municipal Code in a constitutionally-recognized process to legally say NO to mining in their territory. For the first time ever, municipalities in El Salvador are holding Community Consultations, or municipal referendums in which the voting population asserts their preference on the issue. The first three Consultations took place in 2014 in San Jose Las Flores, San Isidro Labrador, and Nueva Trinidad in the northern department of Chalatenango, and now the fourth Consultation will take place in the municipality of Arcatao on November 8th.
The town council, which is organizing the consultation, and CRIPDES (Association for the Development of El Salvador) have emphasized the importance of international observers’ participation in these consultations in order to lend greater legitimacy and recognition of the process in anticipation of pushback from transnational companies. Electoral observation has been an important component of international solidarity work for decades, exercising in both a symbolic and concrete way the accompaniment of the international community with the pueblo of El Salvador, and calling broader attention to cases of injustice, fraud, or illegal maneuvers.
This delegation aims to provide a condensed, immersive understanding of the mining struggle and broader social context by visiting a former mining site, the site currently at stake in the $301 million dollar lawsuit, and the organized communities in resistance to future mining projects. The delegation will culminate with the observation of the Arcatao Community Consultation.
This delegation is being organized by CRIPDES in coordination with US El Salvador Sister Cities. The $500.00 fee for participation includes local transportation, food and accommodation. Anyone interested in participating should contact Catie Johnston at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, November 4th
6:00pm – Dinner and lodging at Hotel Los Pinos
Thursday, November 5th
7:00am – Depart for San Sebastian
11:30am – Lunch in Santa Rosa de Lima, La Union
12:30pm - Visit to the San Sebastian mine, a mine abandoned by US based Commerce Group that highlights the toxic legacy of mining in El Salvador.
6:30pm – Arrive and have dinner at ADES in Sensuntepeque, Cabañas
Friday, November 6th
7:00am – Breakfast at ADES
7:45am – Meeting with leaders of ADES and Radio Victoria
10:00am – Visit La Maraña, meet with community leaders impacted by the El Dorado mining project and the Pacific Rim / Oceana Gold lawsuit
5:30pm – Arrive in Arcatao, Chalatenango, stay with host families
Saturday, November 7th
9-11am – Exchange with community leaders to learn about strategies and successes in other towns and countries.
3:00pm – Observer Training
Sunday, November 8th
7am-4pm – Observation of Community Consultations
4:00pm – Observers gather in the town hall to share observations
5:00pm – Announce preliminary results and make observer statement
6:00pm - Travel back to San Salvador
Monday, November 9th
8:30am – Press Conference in San Salvador
PM – Evaluation and down time at the beach
Tuesday, November 10th
AM – Fly back home