Another Opponent of Pacific Rim Mining Corporation's El Dorado Site Assassinated in El Salvador
Second community activist killed in less than a week
On December 26, Dora “Alicia” Recinos Sorto, age 32, was assassinated, the second anti-mining activist killed this week in the small community of Nueva Trinidad in the department of Cabañas. 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, José Santos Rodriguez, were outspoken opponents of the non-operational El Dorado mine which Pacific Rim, a Vancouver-based mining company is desperate to reopen despite widespread community opposition.
Rodriguez 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 December 20 despite having been under 24-hour police protection since being shot eight times in August. Salvadoran 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 Menjívar, the man accused of shooting Rivera in August, had previously attacked Rodriguez with a small machete. Menjívar’s neighbors report that he was one of Pacific Rim Mining’s paid “promoters”. According to Rodriguez, “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.”
The ongoing violence in Cabañas, including assaults, attempted kidnappings and death threats, seems to be centered around the controversial presence of Pacific Rim Mining in the region, with prominent anti-mining leaders coming under attack. Pacific Rim ceased operations at El Dorado after local protests forced the company out and the Salvadoran government subsequently denied extraction permits. President Funes also 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 U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA (Pacific Rim 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.