El Salvador: another anti-mining activist assassinated

On Dec. 26, Dora “Alicia” Recinos Sorto, 32, was assassinated—the second anti-mining activist killed this week in the small community of Nueva Trinidad in El Salvador’s Cabañas department. Recinos Sorto was eight months pregnant and carrying her two-year old child when she was shot on her way back from doing laundry at a nearby river. She and her husband, JosĂ© Santos RodrĂ­guez, were outspoken opponents of the non-operational El Dorado mine which Vancouver-based Pacific Rim is seeking to reopen despite widespread community opposition.

RodrĂ­guez is a board member of the Environmental Committee of Cabañas, an organization that formed to educate the community about health and environmental risks of cyanide contamination from gold extraction. The Committee’s vice-president, Ramiro Rivera, was gunned down on Dec. 20 despite having been under 24-hour police protection since being shot eight times in August. President Mauricio Funes vowed to investigate the murder, stating, “I hope this case will not remain in impunity the way that so many others do.” These attacks follow the late June kidnapping, torture and assassination of Marcelo Rivera (no relation), in the nearby municipality of San Isidro.

Earlier this year, Recinos Sorto reported that her husband was receiving death threats and that unidentified men had come looking for him at their home. Oscar MenjĂ­var, the man accused of shooting Rivera in August, had previously attacked RodrĂ­guez with a machete. MenjĂ­var’s neighbors report that he was one of Pacific Rim Mining’s paid “promoters.” According to RodrĂ­guez, “It is Pacific Rim who is responsible for this, because Oscar and I were great friends before they arrived. They are the source of all of this.”

Pacific Rim ceased operations at El Dorado after local protests forced the company out and the Salvadoran government subsequently denied extraction permits. President Funes stated his opposition to the project during his presidential campaign earlier this year and University of Central America polls show that over 62% of the population opposes gold mining.

In response, Pacific Rim opened an investor-state arbitration case against the Salvadoran government in April under the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). The company filed the suit through a recently acquired subsidiary, Pac Rim Cayman, based in Reno, Nevada. According to Pacific Rim CEO Thomas Shrake, the company is seeking “hundreds of millions” of dollars in the arbitration, which is scheduled to begin in early 2010. In November, Pacific Rim received notice from the New York Stock Exchange that it is in danger of being delisted after posting net losses for five straight years; the company then announced that it will seek to generate CDN $2.36 million by selling shares of stock to finance its legal case against the Salvadoran government. The company does not have any other mining projects in operation. (CISPES, Dec. 28)

See our last post on El Salvador and the mineral cartel.