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Monday, October 26, 2009

Stories of War and Hope

Stories of War and Hope  From Tim's Blog

Worth a visit is the website El Salvador: Stories of War and Hope. The website has collected oral testimonies of participants in the events of El Salvador's civil war. The words of these participants put a human face on that tumultuous period for an English speaking audience.

One Story

Defending Our Town - Miguel

Miguel (not his real name) grew up in a town terrorized by death squads. When he was merely six years old, he was forced to witness the death of his own first grade teacher. Historically, this event coincides with the repression against teacher's strikes (1969 and 1971) organized by the ANDES-21, or National Association of Salvadoran Educators.

By the time he was twelve, Miguel and other children in the town decided to create a defense group, armed with slingshots, to try to put a stop to the nightly kidnappings and murders. The group of approximately 50 adolescents slowly became a small guerrilla as they confronted the army with stolen weapons. They eventually joined the FMLN when the war exploded, and Miguel was among the survivors who “liberated” his town from the armed forces to incorporate it into guerrilla-controlled territory.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Impact of Global Warming on the River Basins of the Lempa River in El Salvador

By voicesfromelsalvador

This week, El Faro posted a story on a recent environmental report that identifies the Lempa River Basin as one of the regions particularly vulnerable to climate change. Dr. Edwin P. Maurer and his colleagues from the University of Santa Clara authored the report, in which they find that storms in the Central American region will continue to grow in both intensity and frequency. Their review of climate change models also reveals that the region is also vulnerable to more frequent droughts.

The Lempa River Basin is the largest river system in Central America, passing through Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador before emptying out in to the Pacific Ocean. With a drainage area of 18,000 km2, it is directly affected by changes related to global warming, according to the report. In addition to providing water resources to cities and communities throughout Central America, the Lempa River generates an estimated half of El Salvador’s energy via hydroelectric dams. The report attempted to answer 3 main questions. The first, what are the projected changes in the rain and temperature in the river? The second, what are the projected changes in the flow of the river? Lastly, will the impact of climate change be statistically significant?

The report found that by the end of the 21st Century, the Lempa River Basin will likely experience the following changes:

The average temperatures will rise 1.9-3.4 degrees centigrade, with the highest increases during the months of June and July;

Climate change models agree that the region will be drier, with a 5-10% decrease in precipitation – they project that May and June will be much drier, extending the dry season well into the first half of the rainy season;

The flow of water to the largest hydroelectric dams will decrease by 13-14%;

July and August will experience the greatest decrease in flow of water, falling off 21-41%;

The capacity to generate electricity will likely decrease by 33-53%.

The report’s findings have serious implications for El Salvador. The authors advise that agencies in charge of water management in the region prepare for a reduction in water resources for consumption purposes, and energy production. The impact will also affect agricultural production, at very least shortening the growing season, which traditionally begins in early May. Farmers who depend on the Lempa River to irrigate their crops may also have fewer water resources with which to do so. El Salvador’s water supply has already decreased in recent years, with dramatic drops in water tables, and widespread contamination of the country’s surface waters. A further decrease in water resources could be catastrophic.

The report also has implications for the El Chaparral Dam project in Northern San Miguel. While El Salvador’s demand for energy may increase, investing in another hydroelectric dam seems like a poor use of limited resources when other options such as solar and wind energy production are viable.

Though much of the report discusses the impacts of droughts and decreases in precipitation, the climate change models also predict that the region will experience stronger storms more frequently. This could mean that regions such as the Lower Lempa region San Vicente and Usulután could experience even more flooding.

Industrialized countries such as the U.S., China, India, and others have time to lower their carbon emissions and lessen these impacts. Until they do, communities in the region ought to begin preparing. Possible steps may include strict water management regulations that ensure equal access to water resources, and end the large-scale contamination of surface waters with industrial and municipal waste. El Salvador and its neighbors ought to continue its fight to prevent mining activities that threaten water resources such as the Lempa River with heavy metals and other toxic waste. The government of El Salvador must fulfill its obligation to complete the systems of levees and drainage ditches that protect the Lower Lempa of Usulután and San Vicente, and other regions from flooding during strong storms, prolonged rains, and mismanagement of the hydroelectric dams. And each community ought to have risk management and emergency response plans in place that anticipate all scenarios and consider impacts on food production and economic development. Most importantly, we should all take greater steps to lower carbon emissions, and pressure governments of industrialized countries to agree to tougher regulations that lower emissions.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009



By Dr. Juan Almendares, October 2009

The military coup in Honduras of 28 June, 2009, has been stripped of its democratic facade. The watchwords of the ‘de facto regime’, that have emerged from the violence, are: "God, Law and Order".

The regime has openly adopted the methods of Stroessner, the late dictator of Paraguay, on declaring a State of Emergency - in reality a State of Siege - that aims to suppress all resistance and silence all opposition. It has closed down Radio Globo and CHOLUSAT SUR, two principal media houses that have continuously and valiantly provided news on the real situation in Honduras.

The legitimate president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya Rosales, together with his family and associates, have been subjected to physical and psychological torture; and for all practical purposes deprived of their liberty in the embassy of Brazil, in violation of international treaties.

International pressure has forced the de facto regime to dialogue with President Zelaya. But this is a solipsistic dialogue that is being prolonged cynically and endlessly, with the aim of legitimising the forthcoming [November 29th] `presidential elections´ being conducted by the illegal regime under their `democracy´.

The country is divided between the coup forces and the anti-coup forces. The two sides have completely different and antagonistic philosophies, discourses, practices and methods.


The golpista (coup) philosophy assumes that it is the owner of reality, by right, and by inheritance. This 'reality' is fixed and immutable. It is established and sanctified by the god of the powerful and the theology of armed and violent oppression; a reality in which the gilded world of the rich is in confrontation with the oppressive world of the poor and with those who have no right to justice and to love.

The golpistas´ conception of the world is based on an a-historical, ontological vision; one in which the social being has no place and the people do not exist.

It is this frame of reference which justified the military coup that aborted the holding of a non-binding poll - the "Fourth Ballot" - in which the people were to be asked their opinion on the installation of a National Constituent Assembly.

The golpista ideology holds that the "Constitution is God." It's advisors and practitioners are disciples of the Pentagon's 'School of the Americas' and of the extreme right in the United States and Latin America.

The epistemology underlying the vision of the golpistas is one that totally ignores the potential of the people as subjects, capable of understanding and changing social reality.

Knowledge and education are a function of the market and of capital accumulation. The regime´s assumptions of its own validity and political legitimacy go along with a kind of legal formalism in which the law is completely separate from social life.

This view is not only perverse but false, for it flagrantly distorts the truth. It denies that a military coup took place, falsifies records and ignores the systematic violations of human rights and corruption.

The method of the golpistas is to promote a "syndrome of attrition and of physical, mental and political exhaustion". The strategy seeks to defeat the opposition by means of irregular warfare; media, religious and military terrorism; detentions, beatings and torture. It includes assassinations of leaders, teachers, artists, youth and women - femicide has increased by 60 percent.

The economic cost of the military coup, in the first three months, has been over $800 million, implying a loss of nearly $30 million a day.


But in the face of all this pain and suffering a giant has awoken; a new hope has been born. The Honduran people has rediscovered itself. Moved by its dreams of freedom, it acts in defiance of those who have hitherto sought to shut it out from the making of history.

The myths of media power have been shattered. The powerful, with their technology of manipulation, have failed to deceive the people. The walls of silence have collapsed. Charcoal burners, the colours of the earth, have served as tools for the working people and artists in the making of their own history: in writing, painting, dancing, acting, singing the poetry of freedom; confronting tanks, shrapnel, toxic gases and treacherous daggers with shouts of pain and anger: "!Golpistas! Golpistas!".


A people have been born, a new hope, in the form of the National Front Against the Military Coup. Its objectives are organized mobilization to struggle against injustice, to build political power through genuine participation of the citizenry in the National Constituent Assembly and to profoundly transform the Constitution of the Republic.

Its principles are based on "Non-Violence". It has sustained over one hundred days of heroic marches under the sun and the rain of bullets, beatings, stabbings and the terror of noxious gases.

However, in a country still under military occupation by the United States, where the cowardly Honduran armed forces and police spend huge amounts of money at the expense of hunger and disease of children and environmental destruction by multinational corporations; they will never extinguish the courage and the voices of nonviolence shouting in every corner of Honduras: 'Long Live the Resistance!'

The martyrdom and heroism of the Honduran Resistance is a call to all peoples of the world for no more military coups and no more military bases in Latin America.

It is a call for human and world peace; for respect for the dignity of our peoples and for their history; for social and environmental justice in the heart of Mother Earth.

The path of hope and liberation, in the face of crimes against humanity, is through full consolidation of the Resistance as a nonviolent political, cultural and spiritual force that builds and leads the taking of power.

No change that is genuinely democratic can occur if it excludes the National Front Against the Coup as the largest and most significant political force in Honduras. It is the most indisputable historical fact of our present and of the future; a force with which the people dream and are constructing the dawn of a new day for our country.

Juan Almendares, Tegucigalpa, October, 2009

Landline: 504-237-5700; Cell-phone 504-9985-4150

(Google translation revised by Norman Girvan)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Action Alert: Tell Pacific Rim to Drop the $77 Million Lawsuit Against El Salvador

In the department of Cabañas, El Salvador, communities have been protesting against a proposed gold mining project by Pacific Rim, a Canadian mining company. Their concern? That cyanide used to extract gold would poison El Salvador’s largest river, the primary source of drinking water for millions in the country. Their protests were strong enough to shut down the El Dorado gold mining site. In 2007, the Ministry of Environment denied Pacific Rim’s permit to start drilling for gold.

But Pacific Rim is not listening. Instead, the company is suing the Salvadoran government for $77 million for “lost profit” (read more about the Pacific Rim lawsuit). How can they do this?! The U.S. Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) protects the “rights” of corporations over national laws that safeguard workers and the environment. Chapter 10 of CAFTA gives private foreign investors the “right” to sue for “profit infringement” and extort millions of dollars from governments like El Salvador.

Since the U.S. Congress voted to approve CAFTA in 2005—by a mere two votes—the cross-border resistance has continued. The Salvadoran people have successfully mobilized to block the privatization of health care and water and other policies tied to this “free” trade agreement.

But death squad violence in El Salvador has resurfaced since the passing of CAFTA, specifically targeting trade unionists, resource rights activists and members of the left political party, the FMLN (Farabundo Martí Front for National Liberation). In June 2009, the anti-mining struggle turned deadly when outspoken community leader Marcelo Rivera was tortured and killed. The right-wing Attorney General has refused to investigate this as a political assassination, or to investigate numerous death threats, kidnapping and assassination attempts in Cabañas.

Pacific Rim’s lawsuit could devastate El Salvador’s economy, taking state funds out of necessary social programs like farming, health care and education and putting it in the pockets of corporate shareholders in North America. Call CEO Thomas Shrake and demand that Pacific Rim withdraw its lawsuit and respect the will of the Salvadoran people by closing the mines!

CALL Pacific Rim Headquarters today -- from the U.S. 1- (888) 775-7097 or from Canada (604) 689-1976 -- and leave a message with the corporate secretary (see call script below).

You can also email Pacific Rim directly.

For more information on local actions and the anti-mining struggle, please visit

* Find out about actions happening this week in U.S. and Canadian cities near you

* Check out recent CISPES Updates and Action Alerts

* Read the CISPES lawsuit info-sheet “CAFTA’s Golden SWINDLE”


Use the following script to contact Thomas Shrake, CEO and President of Pacific Rim:

To call from the U.S. dial 1- (888) 775-7097, or from Canada (604) 689-1976, then leave a message for the corporate secretary:

1. Hello, I am calling to urge President and CEO Thomas Shrake and the Board of Pacific Rim, to drop the lawsuit you filed against the government of El Salvador. Local and national civic organizations have been actively opposing the El Dorado mine since 2004. Salvadoran environmentalists, economists and social movement leaders have roundly rejected the mine, and now this outrageous lawsuit, on a number of grounds.

2. Choose 1 or 2 of the following points.

· Environmental: Salvadoran community activists and environmental organizations have consistently denounced the devastating environmental impacts that would result from the El Dorado mine. The mine would contaminate the river that serves as the primary source of drinking water for the majority of Salvadorans and use over 10,000 gallons of water a day. All this in a country where 30% of the rural population lacks access to potable water.

· Trade justice: The Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), the basis for Pacific Rim’s lawsuit, was widely opposed throughout the U.S. and Central America. Citizen advocacy groups in El Salvador charge that CAFTA is unconstitutional and have brought the case before their Supreme Court. As CAFTA’s legitimacy itself is in question, Pacific Rim’s lawsuit appears even more bogus.

· Economic: According to economic experts, the mine provides no long-term economic benefit for El Salvador, only for Pacific Rim. The gold mining industry contributes only 0.04% to El Salvador’s GDP while foreign companies like Pacific Rim plan to take away millions in profit.

· Human rights: I have heard first-hand accounts of horrible political violence against community members in Cabañas who have actively opposed the El Dorado mine. Even if Pacific Rim did not directly instigate this violence, the murder of Marcelo Rivera, and the attempted assassinations of Father Luis Quintanilla and Ramiro Rivera are undoubtedly a result of Pacific Rim’s presence. The fact that people are risking their lives to fight against El Dorado shows just how unwelcome gold mines are and how disgraceful this lawsuit is.

· Sovereignty: This lawsuit infringes upon the rights of sovereign governments to protect the interests of their people as they see fit. Each country has the right to determine how its land is used, as well as the fate of its natural resources. Your lawsuit tramples on those rights.

3. It is shameful that Mr. Shrake is willing to wreak profound economic damage on an entire nation for the financial gain of his company. These lawsuits will hit the poorest people in El Salvador the hardest. If Mr. Shrake has his way, much-needed funding for social programs like health care, food and housing will go directly into the pockets of your shareholders.

For these reasons, I again urge you to withdraw the disgraceful lawsuit that Pacific Rim has filed against El Salvador. that Pacific Rim has filed against El Salvador.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Make Poverty History Video

As we gear up for a monumental event on October 16th, 17th and 18th, we want to share with you our latest video. "You Can End Poverty", launched on YouTube this week, focuses on a powerful truth: We are the first generation with the power to end poverty. Each one of us holds tremendous power to effect real change like never before. Our collective mobilization can send a clear message to world governments that we refuse to be silent in the face of ongoing poverty and inequality. We can achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals and end poverty 2015. Learn how we can do it.

Check out this video and join me in Standing Up Against Poverty!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Pacific Rim - panel discussion

Pacific Rim, a Canadian mining corporation with operations in El Salvador, has launched arbitration procedures against the Salvadoran government and is demanding millions of dollars in compensation for “failure to fulfill its obligations” under the C...entral America Free Trade Agreement, CAFTA-DR. If the law suit succeeds, other companies that hold exploration licenses covering over 20% of the country’s surface will follow suit. Is CAFTA the new “El Dorado” of Canadian mining companies in Central America? This panel invites you to debate these and other important related topics

Invited speakers:

Bernardo Belloso and William Castillo, Reps of the 2009 Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award Winners: La Mesa Nacional Frente a la Mineria en El Salvador; and

Jorge Velarde, Ph.D. Candidate, Université du Québec en Outaouais

Date: Friday, October 23, 2009
Time: 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Location: University of Ottawa--Colonel By Hall, room B205

This public lecture will be presented in French and Spanish. English translation will be available. A short documentary will be presented to facilitate the discussion.

Event sponsored by The School of International Development and Global Studies, Territorio Libre, SalvAIDE and the Salvadorian Canadian Association of Ottawa

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Threats to journalists in El Salvador

This morning one of our community correspondents received a written threat outside the front door of his house, saying they were still around, that he better be careful, that it would be better to leave and mentioning different people in the radio and saying he better stop expressing opinions against mayors and national assembly deputies or we will all be sorry, soon they will kill another and that they receive orders from above.

We are denouncing this new threat and also threats against a young woman around 20 years old from San Isidro who was very close to Marcelo Rivera and Jose Beltran. She has been followed, had men outside her house in the middle of the night pointing to her bedroom and received a threatening phone call.

we ask again that you denounce these threats to the General Attorney´s office, his name is Romeo Barahona, in San Salvador:

Jesse Freeston []