Thursday, December 29, 2011
Sunday, November 20, 2011
I would like to write a series of posts on Compadres. The project includes teacher and student trips and there are all sorts of possibilities for the future.
Right now, I am working on recruiting participants for the July trip. One of our participants has put together a great video collection of pictures from last July - I am happy to share it here.
It is hard to say how many people we will be able to attract for this year's trip. We have had an introductory meeting and lots of good e-mail traffic. There is also the possibility of linking our program up to university credit. I hope I will soon have more to share on this soon.
For now, as the days get cooler and darker, I am working on my Spanish via Skype with a great teacher from Celas Maya!
Monday, November 7, 2011
We held our first information session today. You have all received the main presentation we used today and there is not much to add to this. Now, I am working on developing a group for the 2012 trip.
A few important notes:
1) I am looking for a commitment by December 15. By this date, I am asking for a deposit cheque of $500.00 made out to Compadres. I will use this first cheque to secure a reservation on flights - I want to do this early so I can get a good price for us.
2) I am happy to visit your school to do a presentation on the upcoming program. All that I ask is that you gather a few people together for the presentation. No other commitment is necessary. I have found it is important to have a face-to-face meeting before people commit, so I am willing to come out - the presentation is ready!
3) I am ready to bring a group down as long as I get four people. Do you know someone who should come down with you?
4) This will be a terrific trip - we plan on building on the success of last summer and we will be looking for ways of making the experience even better than what we planned last year!
Thanks to all those who have been in contact with me through Facebook, e-mail and phone. We are slowly building a group which is the way I like to do things.
Please feel to write me with your questions, concerns and requests!
Sunday, November 6, 2011
Sunday, October 30, 2011
Thursday, October 20, 2011
How to help flood victims in El Salvador Is this email not displaying correctly?
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SALVAIDE LAUNCHES $100,000 CAMPAIGN FOR FLOOD VICTIMS IN EL SALVADOR
- 150,000 PEOPLE AFFECTED
- 85% OF COAST FLOODED
- TENS OF THOUSANDS EVACUATED
- HUNDREDS STILL STRANDED
- DOZENS KILLED
- HUNDREDS OF HOMES DESTROYED
- CROPS RUINED
SalvAide and its Salvadoran Partners Respond:
Torrential rains over the last few days in El Salvador have devastated coastal areas with heavy flooding and mudslides (click here for BBC coverage). Poor hydroelectric dam management has only exacerbated the crisis. Salvadorans have not seen such devastation since Hurricane Mitch. SalvAide's Salvadoran sister organizations, CRIPDES and CORDES, are on the ground and mobilizing relief efforts in one of the most affected flood zones - El Salvador's Lower Lempa River region (Bajo Lempa). With more than two decades of experience in grassroots community organizing and development in the Bajo Lempa, SalvAide's sister organizations have been quick to respond with:
- evacuation and emergency shelter
- food and basic health needs
- rescue and further disaster mitigation
- plans for reconstruction
The need remains great, so SalvAide is aiming high. Our goal is to raise $100,000 for ongoing relief and reconstruction efforts. The best way to help is with a tax-deductible donation that SalvAide can channel to our partners on the ground as soon as possible to purchase emergency supplies, fund relief efforts, and rebuild for the future.
We Need your Support!
Ways to Contribute:
Please help us reach our goal!
- Call 613-233-6215 to donate with Visa or MasterCard.
- Donate online through CanadaHelps by clicking here.
- Send a cheque or money order to: SalvAide, 219 Argyle Ave, Suite 411, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K2P 2H4
- Attend SalvAide's 14th Annual Benefit Cocktail & Auction in Ottawa on 27 October - see details below
- Attend the SalvAide sponsored Salvadoran-Canadian Cultural Association (ASALCA) Diaspora Dinner in Toronto on 17 December - call 416-577-6426.
Donations from Canadian residents over $20 will receive a charitable donation tax receipt for income tax purposes.
For more information, call us, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.salvaide.ca. Thanks very much in advance for your generous support and solidarity!
14th Annual Benefit Cocktail & AuctionThursday, 27 October, 6:30PM
1000 Byron Ave, Ottawa (map)
Tickets: $40 ($15 tax receipt) Entertainment by Shaman Rhythms
Licenced and catered gourmet cocktail
Silent & live auctions plus raffles *All proceeds go toward flood relief efforts in El Salvador* Call 613-233-6215 or email email@example.com for tickets.
Flooded farmer's field - lost livelihood Temporary shelter One of many flooded communities
Copyright © 2011 SalvAide, All rights reserved.
You received this message because you currently or previously supported SalvAide and its work.
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SalvAide219 Argyle Avenue, Suite 411Ottawa, Ontario K2P 2H4
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Monday, October 17, 2011
Sunday, October 16, 2011
There is a great deal of information coming out of El Salvador this week about the flooding that is taking plce. Some estimates predict that the flooding will ruin as much as 60% of the crop yield this year.
Thousands of people have been displaced from their homes. La Prensa has a good gallery of photos on the flooding.
Here re some excerpts from other blogs:
The country is under a state of emergency. In a press conference Saturday night, president Funes called for all elements of Salvadoran society to pull together. As of tonight some 13 thousand Salvadorans have been forced to flee their homes, and the death toll has risen to 10.
Emergency efforts to distribute food are underway for families forced from their homes. Donations are being received from many sources, and the Salvadoran armed forces are participating in distribution of emergency aid.
we are under constant rain here, 5 full days now and no clear end in sight.
a tropical depression is just sitting here by the coast and another possible storm approaching, the whole coast and central volcanic mountain chain are under red and orange alert, highly vulnerable, rivers are swollen and flooding surrounding areas, some bridges are out, 2 out of 4 border crossings to Guatemala are closed.
the president has declared a state of emergency so that all resources can be directed to responding to saving lives and repairing damage as well as looking for international aid.
there are 13,000 people in 170 shelters, 8 people have died mostly due to mudslides, the soil and rivers are over-saturated, classes are suspended.
Voices From El Salvador
Voices staff is headed back down to the Lower Lempa tonight, where a total of some 2,570 + personas are evacuated, and many more unsure of how they’ll get through the storm. Many families are also camped out along the road, with their homes flooded out, but unwilling to go to a shelter.
We are meeting up with a delivery of mattresses from our friends ADES, in Cabañas. The mattresses will be delivered to the Amando López shelter, where 460 people are currently sharing 30 mattresses.
The Prensa Grafica reports 8,000 people evacuated at the national level, but since the numbers have been increasing rapidly this afternoon, we imagine that it is much higher.
An emergency appeal is being organized through Salvaide
I will send out more information when an appeal has been organized.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Saturday, September 17, 2011
Compadres Staff Trip to El Salvador Summer 2012
Are you interested joining us on a 12-day trip to El Salvador?
meet key civil society organizations in San Salvador
visit sites associated with Oscar Romero
live and work with teachers in the community of San Jose las Flores
visit the beautiful town of Suchitoto
enjoy a wonderful day at the beach!
If you are interested, please contact Paul McGuire at
you will be added to our e-mail list
We will have an information table at Christian Community Day - Ottawa, October 7th
Information meeting Monday, November 7 - details to follow
please see www.compadres-elsalvador-canada.ca for more information
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Monday, August 22, 2011
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Begin forwarded message:
The prosecution in Spanish courts for the murder of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter took another step forward today. In May of this year, the Spanish court indicted 20 former Salvadoran military officers for participation in the planning, execution and coverup of the murders. That indictment resulted in an arrest warrant going out through Interpol. Today, nine high-ranking retired military officers, surrendered themselves at a military barracks. The BBC describes:Nine former Salvadoran soldiers have turned themselves in to face charges that they shot dead six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter during El Salvador's civil war.They had been indicted in Spain under its universal jurisdiction law, which holds that some crimes are so grave that they can be tried anywhere.The killing became one of the most infamous of El Salvador's civil war.El Salvador will have to decide whether to extradite the nine to Spain.The men handed themselves in at a military base after reportedly hearing that Salvadoran police were going to detain them under an international arrest order issued by Interpol.A total of 20 former soldiers, including two former defence ministers, were indicted by the Spanish court.Among those in custody is Gen Rafael Humberto Larios, the minister of defense at the time of the massacre. Somehow, however, I have my doubts that these retired officers would voluntarily turn themselves in without some prior assurance that the Salvadoran justice system will not extradite them to Spain. Of the remaining 11 defendants, General Emilio Ponce has died, and the other ten are not yet in custody.
Thursday, August 4, 2011
Women’s sewing co-op in San Salvador
We asked to meet with representatives of the Concertacion as part of our orientation this year. It is difficult to really understand the relationship between men and women in El Salvador, but we felt it was important to get some sense of how things are for women and especially how things are changing. Rosa, the President of CRIPDES spent two hours talking about women’s issues with us. I hope this session will become a regular part of our delegation program. Later, after meeting with Rosa, we were able to visit a women’s sewing co-op to see an empowerment program in action. The women are currently making t-shirts for the Canadian Federation of Students. I hope they will soon be able to make Compadres y Comadres shirts for us!
In 1995, a collection of women’s organizations and Development and Peace started the Concertacion as a way to develop awareness in El Salvador of the inequality that exists between women and men. The group decided to work in marginalized communities and with the rural poor. Their main goal was to talk to women about their rights. Inequality exists in many ways, women are victimized by the police, and there are no long-term shelters for women who are being abused by their partners. Men still play a dominant role in the family and in society in general. This position is reinforced by the Church in most cases.
It was explained to us that work needs to be done to change attitudes amongst women and men. Women are being taught to realize that they have rights and options especially when they find themselves in an abusive relationship. In general, the task of promotion of equal rights focuses on three main initiatives – the promotion of women’s rights within society, the education of women so that they know what their rights are and the development of economic initiatives to help women become more independent. Micro credit projects were mentioned several times as a way to help women develop some independence.
The current government has initiated the development of women’s centers in some of the rural communities. These centers will act as a resource for women when they need medical care or legal advice. The government is also refurbishing the main maternity hospital which has for years suffered from very overcrowded conditions.
Rosa speaks to us about women’s issues in El Salvador
Monday, August 1, 2011
Free trade agreements like CAFTA allow international companies to come in and exert authority over the national government of the country. Currently, Pacific Rim is suing the government using mechanisms available under CAFTA.
Why is there such opposition to mining in El Salvador? First, the environment of the country is fragile. El Salvador’s major river, the Lempa is shared with Honduras. El Salvador relies on the river for irrigation, power, tourism and fishing. There is grave concern that mining operations would deplete this vital national resource. Most of the potential mines are located in the north of the country. Most of the agricultural production also occurs in the north. This is a country that already relies on food imports and needs to put more land into production. Mining is a threat to initiatives that encourage food production.
While mining companies argue that their operations will bring jobs to poor underemployed areas, it is also recognized that 98% of the profits from mining will flow back to the country of origin, leaving very little permanent wealth in El Salvador.
There is also an unacceptable social cost to mining. As mentioned earlier, there is a high social cost to the search for minerals. In Cabanas, five people have died in fighting within communities. There is concern that there will be more violence in an area that has experienced a great deal of violence over the past twenty years. Apart from the murders, Radio Victoria a community radio station in Cabanas has received many threats in reaction to their reporting on the mining issue.
The solution may lie in creating a law against mining in El Salvador. Such a law exists in Costa Rica and is being studied by the government. While proposals are being studied, Pacific Rim and other mining companies continue to pursue claims against the country.
First day, our meeting with Rosa and Bernardo of CRIPDES
We met with Rosa and Bernardo, the current president and vice-president of CRIPDES respectively. Always on our delegations we begin to set context by meeting with our hosts, CRIPDES. Rosa started with a history of the organization. Formerly the Christian Committee of the Displaced, CRIPDES was founded in 1984 to support people displaced by the Salvadoran civil war as they returned to their homes. At the time, there was much repression in the countryside. Massacres had taken place on the Sumpul River in and around Suchitoto, San Vincente and other areas. People were forced to move from place to place. Many left for Honduras, Nicaragua, the United States and also San Salvador. Most of the original board members were women. CRIPDES quickly got involved in resettling the displaced population. They linked themselves to Salvaide in Canada and Sister Cities in the United States.
It was hard to bring people back to the countryside; the army did not want the people resettled. There were no services for the people, no access to education or health care. People had to learn to help themselves. They became their own teachers and they had to learn how to look after each other medically as well. People also did not have access to clean drinking water or even land. CRIPDES worked with communities and helped them to become organized.
After the war ended, the struggle continued. CRIPDES assisted women as they advocated for their rights. They trained popular educators in order to get schools going again. This work is on-going, some communities have schools and teachers however in other areas, there is a lack of teachers and schools. There is a great deal of work to do in this area!
CRIPDES has done a great amount of work on the issue of water privatization. Rosa was amongst several staff members who were imprisoned a few years ago as they took part in protests against water privatization policies of the government. CRIPDES members were actually charged as terrorists under post-911 legislation. The charges were eventually dropped, but the law they were charged under still exists.
CRIPDES works in 390 communities across the country. They are divided up into regional groupings that include the CCR (Chalatenango), PROGRESO (Suchitoto), San Vincente and La Libertad. Within each community there are local organizations. Good, strong organization is certainly the key to success for CRIPDES. Throughout the organization, there is a strong emphasis on programming for youth and women. Training is the key and CRIPDES uses popular education methods to empower youth and women.
CRIPDES, along with many other Salvadoran groups focuses on the issue of mining. National and especially international laws favor the exploitation of mineral resources by mining companies. Most of these companies are Canadian. The main problem is that El Salvador is a densely populated country. People live where companies want to mine. Currently there are 29 mining projects on hold as the current Salvadoran government studies the possibility of banning mining outright in the country.
The drive to exploit these resources has led to violence, especially in Cabanas, where Pacific Rim is hoping to develop a gold mine. Five people, including a woman eight months pregnant, have been killed over the past two years as a direct result of this conflict. An economy based on exploitation is not sustainable. CRIPDES advocates for the development of a local economy focusing on local crops and animals. Tourism is also being encouraged as a well to develop resources in a sustainable fashion.
This was our introduction to the work of CRIPDES. Themes relating to mining and sustainable development will reoccur throughout our meetings.
CRIPDES logo outside the main office in San Salvador
Friday, July 29, 2011
We need to understand the struggle of Salvadorans before and during the war. It is essential that we know that over 70,000 civilians were killed over a 14-year period. This is still a nation where the injuries of this war go unresolved. There was no 'truth and reconciliation' commission here. As Miguel says, we can forgive, but never forget, but we can't forgive until we know who we must forgive.
As I reflect on how Compadres y Comadres will work in the future, I will remember always to set context. What has happened here? How does this have an impact on the present? What will the future hold?
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
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Rights Action - July 20, 2011
- Article: "CANADIAN MINING COMPANIES AND INVESTORS MAKING A KILLING", by Grahame Russell, in The Global Educator Journal (British Colombia Teachers for Global Peace & Education), Summer 2011: http://pagebc.ca/documents/Summer_2011_Journal.pdf)
- Link to interview with Grahame Russell: "CANADIAN MINING COMPANIES: DEVELOPMENT OR EXPLOITATION?", by Ryan Sparrow Riaz Sayani-Mulji, June 29, 2011: http://rabble.ca/podcasts/shows/progressive-voices/2011/06/canadian-mining-companies-development-or-impoverishment-an
- Please re-post & re-publish this information
- To get on-off Rights Action's listserv: www.rightsaction.org
- Join Rights Action on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/RightsAction.org
* * * * * * * * * *
CANADIAN MINING COMPANIES AND INVESTORS MAKING A KILLING
By Grahame Russell, July 2011
The Global Educator Journal (British Colombia Teachers for Global Peace & Education) Summer 2011: http://pagebc.ca/documents/Summer_2011_Journal.pdf
On a given day, a Canadian might read the business section of her favourite newspaper or on-line news service, to check the price of gold or nickel and see how her investments are doing.
Yet, the price of metals is not only the profits they bring to company directors, shareholders and other investors, from private equity funds to pension funds like the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), but also the prices that people pay in terms of environmental destruction, harm to personal health and human rights violations.
In today's global order, where trans-national companies often operate with immunity from prosecution and accountability, shareholder and investor profits go, all too often, hand in hand with environmental destruction, harm to personal health and various human rights violations.
HUDBAY MINERALS & NICKEL MINING IN GUATEMALA:Violent evictions, gang rapes & the killing of Adolfo Ich
- The bcIMC (BC Investment Management Corporation) has $281,061,874.50, and the CPP (Canada Pension Plan) $42,000,000, invested in HudBay Minerals.
In January 2007, Skye Resources (bought by HudBay Minerals in 2008) participated in the violent evictions of a number of indigenous Mayan Qeqchi communities in the municipality of El Estor in Eastern Guatemala). These are their ancestral lands long before mining companies arrived in the 1950s, claiming "ownership".
Hundreds of huts were burned to the ground; all personal property was destroyed or stolen; community member's crops and animals were destroyed or stolen. Hundreds of families - young and old, men and women - fled into the hills and forest for weeks, before returning to rebuild their huts and replant their subsistence crops.
In one community, Lote 8, 11 women villagers were gang-raped by private security guards, hired by HudBay Minerals (then Skye Resources), and by soldiers and police. This atrocity is only recently coming to light.
On September 27, 2009, Adolfo Ich, a Mayan Qeqchi teacher and community leader in El Estor, was captured by HudBay's security guards, hacked with machetes and then shot. Hours later, family members found him dead in the company building where the security guards had dragged him.
GOLDCORP INC & GOLD MINING IN GUATEMALA:
The attempted killing of Diodora Hernandez
- The bcIMC (BC Investment Management Corporation) has $142,239,000, and the CPP (Canada Pension Plan) $177,000,000 invested in Goldcorp.
Since 2005, Goldcorp Inc has been operating a very profitable and harmful open-pit, cyanide leaching gold mine in the Mayan Mam region of western Guatemala; a mine strongly opposed by much of the local population. Since 2000, they have operated a similar mine in central Honduras, with most of the same harms and violations occurring, and with the same local opposition.
At 7pm, July 7, 2010, in the rural community of Sacmuj, two men came to the small hut of Diodora Hernández asking for coffee. As Diodora was bringing them cups of coffee, one man shot her in the right eye and ran off into the night.
Miraculously, Diodora survived. After 3 months in the hospital, she is back in her community, with a prosthetic eye, still opposing the expansion of Goldcorp's mine onto her land. Goldcorp, a Canadian-American company, acknowledged the men had worked in its mine, but deny any responsibility for the attempted assassination.
PACIFIC RIM & GOLD MINING IN EL SALVADOR:
The killing of four community members
In July 2009, the body of Marcelo Rivera, a teacher and community leader, was found dumped in a well. He had been 'disappeared' weeks before. Signs of torture were found on his body, including burn marks; he was missing toe and finger nails. On December 20, 2009, Ramiro Rivera Gomez and Felicíta Echeverría were killed. On December 26, 2009, Dora Sorto Recinos (8 months pregnant) was murdered in the community of Trinidad.
These killings occurred in the department of Cabañas, bordering Honduras, where Pacific Rim Mining Corp., a Canadian-American company, wants to mine for gold. Prevented from mining by widespread opposition, Pacific Rim is now using a World Bank "mediation" procedure to sue the government of El Salvador for $100 million in "lost profits". No one has been held accountable for the killings, neither in the World Bank "mediation" process (where murder charges can't be filed), nor in any court in El Salvador or Canada.
These abuses happen because it is Canadian public policy to push for the expansion of our mining and investor interests around the world, while opposing attempts to enact enforceable civil and criminal law standards that could be used to hold our companies and investors accountable.
North American mining companies benefit from immunity from prosecution in many countries where they operate mines - like Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. In the sphere of international law, they operate with immunity.
And, they operate with immunity from prosecution and accountability in Canada where the major corporate and investor decisions are made. There are no criminal or civil laws on the books to hold Canadian companies and investors accountable for harm or violations caused directly or indirectly by their business operations elsewhere.
Over the past few years, there were efforts in Canada to pass legislation - Bill C-300 - that would have provided a judicial framework for some government oversight and possible sanction (withdrawal of public funds a company might be receiving) in the case of mining company wrong-doing.
Bill C-300 would not have provided for criminal law sanctions where crimes were committed; it would not have provided for civil law sanctions, or for remedies to the victims of mining company activities if wrong doings and harms were proven. Even at that, Bill C-300 was defeated in October 2010.
Civil cases recently filed in Toronto (by Klippensteins Barristers & Solicitors) - "Choc v. HudBay Minerals" (for the killing of Adolfo Ich) & "Caal v. HudBay Minerals (for the gang rape of 11 women in the community of Lote 8) - are based on common law remedies and provide a possible crack in the Canadian wall of immunity from prosecution and legal accountability, and will need substantial political and financial support.
This opposition to enacting criminal and civil legislation to hold our companies accountable is self-serving and hypocritical. I wager that the mining company executives, investors and politicians who opposed the enactment of enforceable legislation swear by the values of democracy and the rule of law - just not when applied to their corporate and investment activities abroad.
Were these executives, investors and politicians victims themselves in their home communities of environmental and health and human rights violations caused by corporate activities, they would demand nothing less than full legal accountability and sanctions for the wrong doing and remedy for the harms and losses.
PUBLIC POLICY ISSUE
It is a public policy issue. Canadian governments, independent of which party is in power, support the expansion of Canadian mining and investor interests across the world, claiming that mining is good for "development", while ignoring or outright denying that Canadian companies have directly and indirectly caused harm and violations to communities around the world.
It is an investment issue. Investors from the wealthier sectors of society, and their private investment funds, through to a majority of Canadians with deductions paid into federal and provincial pension funds, benefit from the profits that mining companies - and other resource extraction companies and weapons producers - generate around the world.
Yet, there is little demand from investors that corporate activities be regulated by enforceable environmental, health and human rights standards.
Assurances of "responsible investing" by pension trustees and the management of bcIMC, for example, amount to little more than 'window dressing' in an attempt to hide what is really happening in the marketplace.
CULTURE AND MEDIA ISSUES
With notable exceptions, our media relegates corporate and investor issues to the business and financial pages and does not properly report on environmental destruction, harm to personal health and other human rights violations that Canadian companies can and do cause.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT UNJUST ENRICHMENT?
Most people would not, I believe, agree with unjust enrichment - the fact that their investments (private and/or public pension funds) benefit from corporate operations that are directly or indirectly causing environmental destruction, harm to personal health, and other human rights violations.
Until Canadian citizens hold our investment funds, corporations and government accountable to abide by enforceable environment, health and human rights standards, in all business and investment activities, at home and abroad, then the price of these metals will remain profitable for companies, shareholders and investors, and deadly for communities around the world.
Grahame Russell is a non-practising lawyer, an Adjunct Professor in the Geography Program at UNBC (University of Northern British Columbia), and author. Since 1995, he is a co-director of Rights Action. Rights Action funds community development, environmental defense, disaster response and human rights projects in Guatemala and Honduras, in as well as Chiapas, El Salvador and Haiti.)
To learn more about these issues, in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, and about the education and activism going on across Canada and the US, contact Grahame: firstname.lastname@example.org, www.rightsaction.org.
For more information about Canadian mining related issues and struggles around the world and in Canada: www.miningwatch.ca.
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for indigenous and campesino organizations defending their communities and environmental well-being from mega-"development" projects (like mining), and working for truth, memory, justice and real democracy in Guatemala and Honduras, make check payable to "Rights Action" and mail to:
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