Growing Calls to Investigate Assassinations of Anti-Mining Activists in El Salvador

Growing Calls to Investigate Assassinations of Anti-Mining Activists in El Salvador

This past weekend in El Salvador, leaders of the National Coalition Against Metallic Mining, the Ombudsman for Human Rights and members of the FMLN – the country’s majority political party – asked the central government, the National Civil Police and the attorney general to investigate the assassination of Dora Santos Sorto Rodriguez, the third anti-mining activist to be killed in the department of Cabanas, El Salvador, this year.

Francisco Antonio Pineda, president of the National Coalition Against Metallic Mining, demanded that the Salvadoran government mobilize its resources to find out who were the perpetrators of and the masterminds behind these attacks.

Pineda said that mayors and other officials in the department of Cabanas must not escape the scrutiny of these investigations. He claimed that several mayors in Cabanas have received money from the transnational mining company Pacific Rim, which is fighting to reopen its El Dorado gold mine in the region.

“Pacific Rim has dumped money at the doorstep of these mayors’ offices for the ostensible purpose of implementing projects of ‘social development,’ but the real motivation behind the corporation’s generosity is to persuade local governments to tamp down anti-mining sentiments in the department,” Pineda said.

Pineda qualified his statement by noting that the community in the Trinidad Canton is divided over the issue, noting that some locals support the reopening of the mine because it would create jobs in the area.

This past Sunday, Pineda handed Oscar Luna, the Ombudsman in Defense of Human Rights, a list of ten people who have received death threats similar to those that were sent to the three murdered activists.

Luna said that there have been “serious omissions” on the part of the authorities.

“They have not taken the effective measures necessary to safeguard the lives of these people,” Luna said. He filed an “urgent” request to deploy additional security personnel to protect those who oppose Pacific Rim’s proposed reopening.

The president of El Salvador, Mauricio Funes, instructed Minister of Justice Manuel Melgar to request that the National Civil Police (PNC) launch a thorough investigation into the assassinations. Adgusto Coto, the PNC’s deputy director of investigation and research, obliged the request.

Yet, before any such investigation could begin, Coto has already publicly suggested that the killings are the work of organized gangs. “We have no hypothesis regarding any potential motive, and we cannot confirm whether or not these people were killed as a result of their work as environmental activists,” he said.

Meanwhile, the FMLN has expressed its condemnation and outrage over the assassinations, which, in all three cases, were perpetuated against prominent members of the Cabanas Environmental Committee; all three of the victims were outspoken opponents of the exploitative mining proposals. The FMLN has demanded that the attorney general and the National Civil Police undertake a thorough investigation to bring those accountable to justice.

“We ask the Executive to make available all the necessary resources and personnel to discern the whereabouts of these criminals and make them pay with the full weight of the law,” said the party’s Political Commission.

Translation: Ryan Croken.

Ryan Croken is a freelance writer and editor based in Chicago. His essays and book reviews have appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Z Magazine and ReligionDispatches.org. He can be reached at ryan.croken@gmail.com.