Some 5,000 campesinos, students and activists marched in the eastern Salvadoran port city of La Union on July 15 to protest plans to build two electric plants near the Conchagua Volcano. The Virginia-based AES Corporation, which controls most of the electric power distribution in El Salvador, plans to build a coal-burning plant, while Houston-based Cutuco Energy Central America wants to build a plant using natural gas.
At the demonstration, Ricardo Navarro, president of the Salvadoran Center for Appropriate Technology (CESTA), said the Cutuco plant would produce more electricity than is needed in the La Union area. The extra power would be sold to other countries in the region, he said, “while they leave us with the pollution.” The two plants would also add to global warming, which has caused a drought throughout the eastern part of El Salvador, according to Navarro. One of the protest organizers, Marta Cecilia Leiva de Ventura from the Project for Life, noted that AES was sued in California in 2000 over pollution from its plants and that the people of Puerto Cortes in Honduras were able to stop the building of a gas-burning AES plant in their area in 2002 because of the high levels of pollution it would have produced.
The marchers, including families with children, carried signs protesting gas and coal pollution and calling for “respect for the right to life.” Dozens of people came out of their houses to join the march as it passed by; sound trucks played a song by Brazilian singer Roberto Carlos with the words: “I’m not against progress as long as there’s real consent.” The protest ended peacefully in the municipal park. “In spite of the intimidation that they carried out in Suchitoto, the people are here, supporting us,” Leiva de Ventura said, referring to police attacks on a July 2 demonstration against water privatization. (Diario Colatino, San Salvador, July 16)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, July 22