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Escalating violence against anti-mining campaigners in El Salvador

Kate Wrigley | 27.12.2009 23:32 | Ecology | Repression | Social Struggles | World

As locals campaign against gold mining by Canadian Company Pacific Rim, two more anti-mining activists have been murdered.

On 26th December, Dora Alicia Recinos Sorto became the third victim of a wave of violence against environmental campaigners in the Cabañas Region of El Salvador, where community members are protesting against the re-opening of a Gold Mine by Canadian Company Pacific Rim.

Dora Alicia was a member of the Cabañas Environmental Committee, and had been active in opposing the mine. She was eight months pregnant when she was shot dead, and her two year old son was also wounded in the attack.

Her murder comes six days after the fatal shooting of Ramiro Rivera Gomez, Vice President of the Cabañas Environmental Committee, who had survived being shot eight times in August this year. A passenger in his car was also killed in the attack, and a teenage girl wounded. In June, another environmental campaigner, Gustavo Marcelo Rivera Moreno, had been tortured and killed. Many other members of the community have received death threats, including youth workers and journalists for the local community radio station Radio Victoria, and the local priest Father Luis Quintanilla narrowly escaped an attempted kidnapping.

Despite the clear indications that these murders and threats have been politically motivated, and organised, the local prosecutor has refused to investigate adequately, putting the initial attacks down to 'common delinquency'.

The campaigners have been opposed to Pacific Rim's El Dorado Gold Mining Project due to concerns about the environemntal and health impact of the mine, which they say would jeopardise the local water supply and agriculture, which the community rely upon for their survival. These concerns have lead the El Salvador government to suspend mining operations by the company, which has taken out a legal action against the government of El Salvador for loss of profits.

In view of the escalating violence against environmental campaigners, the community has made an urgent call for international action in solidarity with the campaign. In particular, they have asked for people to contact the Attourney General (Senor Rodolfo Delgado, and Human Rights Defence Office (Senor Oscar Luna,, asking them to investigate fully these crimes and bring the perpetrators to justice, and to Tom Shrake, the CEO of Pacific Rim (, to urge him to suspend attempts to mine in the area and the lawsuit against the El Salvador government. More information can be found at

A sample letter to the Attourney General and Human Rights Defenders Office follows
In English...
I would like to express my profound concern for the recent shooting and assassination of two members of the Comité Ambiental de Cabañas (Environmental Committee of Cabañas) Ramiro Rivera Gómez and Dora Alicia Recinos Santos. I consider it of the utmost importance to conduct an exhaustive investigation of this case immediately, in order to bring to justice the intellectual and material authors of this heinous crime, and prevent further bloodshed.
Furthermore, we the undersigned remain deeply concerned about the kidnapping and brutal assassination of Gustavo Marcelo Rivera Moreno—another activist and community leader from the town of San Isidro in Cabañas, whose body was found murdered and with signs of torture in July of this year. Marcelo, Dora and Ramiro both worked tirelessly to protect the environment and opposed industrial mining by the Canadian mining company Pacific Rim in San Isidro.
The assassinations of Ramiro Rivera and Marcelo Rivera, alongside the attempted kidnapping of Father Luis Quintanilla and death threats to youth who work at community radio station Radio Victoria who were reporting on environmental impacts of Pacific Rim’s proposed El Dorado mine, point to an increasingly violent atmosphere in the department of Cabañas for activists who oppose gold mining.
I appreciate the efforts of the Victims and Witness Protection Unit of the National Civilian Police and the commitment of the Human Rights Ombudsman to guarantee the security of community leaders in Cabanas. I hope that these efforts will be redoubled to stop any further human rights abuses.
I believe that the assassination of Ramiro Rivera and Dora Alicia were a direct result of the impunity of Marcelo Rivera’s case. While the intellectual authors in the case of Ramiro Rivera and Marcelo Rivera remain at-large, politically motivated acts of violence will only continue and worsen.
As a member of the international community in solidarity with the people of El Salvador, I call on the Office of the Attorney General to carry out an impartial, exhaustive, and effective investigation in order to bring to justice the intellectual and material authors of this horrendous crime.
I thank you in advance for looking into this matter and hope that the families of Ramiro Rivera and Dora Alicia will see justice in this case.

In Spanish...
Como miembro de la comunidad internacional quiero expresar mi profunda preocupación por los asesinatos de Ramiro Rivera Gómez y Dora Alicia Recinos Santo, del Comité Ambiental de Cabañas. Considero que es de suma importancia que la Fiscalía General de la República inmediatamente realice una investigación exhaustiva con el fin de llevar ante la justicia a los autores materiales y intelectuales de este crimen terrible.
Además, estoy muy preocupado por el secuestro y asesinato brutal de Gustavo Marcelo Rivera Moreno, otro activista y líder comunitario de la cuidad de San Isidro en Cabañas, cuyo cuerpo fue hallado con señas de tortura en julio de este año. Tanto Ramiro y Dora como Marcelo trabajaron incansablemente para proteger el medioambiente y se oponían a la minería industrial que propone la empresa canadiense Pacific Rim en San Isidro.
Los asesinatos de Ramiro Rivera y Marcelo Rivera, mas el intento de secuestrar al Padre Luis Quintanilla y las amenazas de muerte a los jóvenes del radio comunitario Radio Victoria por sus reportajes acerca de los impactos destructivos de la mina El Dorado propuesta por Pacific Rim, señalan un ambiente violento en el departamento de Cabañas, especialmente para miembros de organizaciones sociales que se oponen la minería de oro.
Agradezco los esfuerzos de la Unidad de Protección de Víctimas y Testigos de la Policía Nacional Civil y el compromiso de la Procuraduría para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos para garantizar la seguridad de los líderes comunitarios en Cabañas. Les pedimos redoblar los esfuerzos para detener cualquier atropello más de los derechos humanos.
Creo que el asesinato de Ramiro Rivera es el resulto directo del hecho de que el caso de Marcelo Rivera sigue en impunidad. Mientras los autores intelectuales de los asesinatos se mantienen en oscuridad, se seguirán y posiblemente se empeorarán los actos de violencia de naturaleza política.
Como miembro de la comunidad internacional en solidaridad con el pueblo de El Salvador, hago un llamado a la Fiscalía General de la República para llevar a cabo una investigación imparcial, exhaustiva y efectiva para llevar ante la justicia a los autores intelectuales y materiales de este crimen horrible, y para prevenir mas violencia.
Le agradezco su atención y espero que las familias de Ramiro Rivera y Dora Alicia vean que se haga justicia en este caso.

Kate Wrigley
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  1. Another murder linked to Canadian Mining Corporation — Martin O'Neill