What Salvadoran Activists Can Teach Us About Building Coalitions

The Nation

Robin Broad and John Cavanagh

Broad Cavanagh El Salvador getty imgIn March 2017, people from poorer communities across El Salvador stood up to corporate power and convinced their legislature to make their country the first in the world to ban mining to save its precious rivers. Their battle cries: “Water, not gold” and “Water for life.” In the process of their 13-year fight, these water defenders organized a national coalition that came to be known as La Mesa.

This essay is adapted from Robin Broad and John Cavanagh’s The Water Defenders: How Ordinary People Saved a Country From Corporate Greed.

During those years, Marcelo Rivera and three other defenders were brutally assassinated. But Marcelo’s brother Miguel, their friend Vidalina Morales, and the members of La Mesa never gave up. They linked up with international allies to defeat a lawsuit by OceanaGold, a multinational firm that argued the Salvadoran government did not have the right to prohibit mining.

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WATER IS LIFE. CAN WE PROTECT IT?

FPIF

Robin Broad, John Cavanagh

lempa river el salvador water gold miningFrom West Texas to Jackson, Mississippi, tens of millions of people struggled through late winter storms that froze pipes, broke water mains, and cut off electricity. They froze without showers, toilets, or washing machines — let alone drinking water — for days or even weeks.

The irony that Texas, the state built on fossil fuels, was completely unprepared for extreme weather disasters shouldn’t be lost on anyone.

Fossil fuel and utility firms have long plied state officials with money. In turn, officials failed to regulate utilities, weatherize their grid, or create programs to weatherize homes — much less upgrade the state’s decaying water infrastructure.

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An unlikely eco-alliance in postwar El Salvador

The World

Joyce

the water defenders coverA new book describes how environmental activists in El Salvador brought conservatives and progressives together to institute a nationwide ban on metal mining in 2017.

The World’s Marco Werman spoke with attorney Luis Parada, who led El Salvador’s defense team in a mining lawsuit at the World Bank, and Robin Broad, a co-author of the book, "The Water Defenders: How Ordinary People Saved A Country from Corporate Greed."

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NEW BOOK: The water defenders - how ordinary people saved a country from corporate greed

 

COVER JOHN AND ROBINS BOOKWater is life. Countless communities across the world, from Flint, Michigan to the Standing Rock Reservation to the Gualcarque River in Honduras, have used this phrase as a rallying cry against powerful corporations that value profits over the environment and the health of local communities. In 2002, a small group of citizens in El Salvador joined this global community of water defenders when representatives from multinational mining company Pac Rim appeared in their home province of Cabañas. This ignited a people’s fight against corporate power that would last for over a decade. In The Water Defenders: How Ordinary People Saved A Country from Corporate Greed, Robin Broad and John Cavanagh tell the harrowing, inspiring saga of El Salvador’s fight – and historic victory – to save their water, and their communities, from Big Gold.   

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