KAIROS joins call for investigation into the murder of yet another mining activist in El Salvador
KAIROS is deeply saddened and concerned to learn that another environmental and community activist has been murdered in El Salvador. We join civil society organizations in El Salvador and Canada in calling for a full investigation into the murder of Juan Francisco Durán Ayala. This is the fourth murder in two years that local organizations believe are linked to the presence of Vancouver-based Pacific Rim Mining in the department of Cabañas.
On June 2nd, Juan Francisco Durán Ayala, a thirty-year old linguistics student at the Technological University in San Salvador, was hanging posters in the city of Ilobasco, in the department of Cabañas. The posters were part the Cabañas Environmental Committee (CAC) campaign which calls for the approval of a law against metal mining in El Salvador and for Pacific Rim Mining to leave the department of Cabanas. The next day, Juan left for classes in the capital city and was not heard from again.
Juan Francisco’s body was found shortly after midnight on June 4th. He had been shot twice in the head. When the Medical Examiner declared his body ‘unidentifiable,’ he was buried in a common grave in San Salvador. The following week, the Environmental Committee determined the whereabouts of Juan Francisco’s body, and on June 14th, Juan Francisco’s father positively identified his son.
KAIROS joins the Cabañas Environmental Committee (CAC), Juan Francisco’s family and human rights organizations in El Salvador and Canada in calling on the Attorney General of El Salvador to carry out an exhaustive investigation into this murder and to protect the lives of all human rights and environmental activists in El Salvador.
Please take a few minutes to write your own email to the Salvadoran Attorney General Romero Barahona calling for the following:
- A full investigation into all the cases of violence towards community leaders in Cabañas
- A task force to investigate the murder of Juan Francisco
- A commitment to ensure the physical safety of all community members and environmental activists in El Salvador, and respect for their human rights, including the legitimate right to expression, peaceful protest and dissent.
Please address your email to Attorney General Romero Barahona and send it to his assistant Hector Burgos (firstname.lastname@example.org) with a copy to Minister of Justice and Security Manuel Melgar (email@example.com) and his assistant (Sandra.firstname.lastname@example.org). Please also send a copy to KAIROS (email@example.com).
Juan Francisco’s murder is part of a pattern of violence in Cabañas which community members believe is linked to the presence of and ongoing dispute with Pacific Rim Mining in the department of Cabañas. His death comes two years after the murder of community leader and activist Marcelo Rivera. At that time, KAIROS issued a statement and urgent action. In December of the same year, Ramiro Rivera and Dora Alicia Sorto, who was pregnant, were also assassinated. In recent months, local journalists at Radio Victoria in Cabañas have received persistent threats. Francisco Piñeda, chair of the Cabañas Environmental Committee and winner of this year’s Goldman Environmental prize, now lives with around-the-clock armed guards to ensure his safety.
Civil society organizations in El Salvador have been engaged in a national debate over mining for the past several years. The “Mesa,” or National Roundtable on Mining, has brought together churches, community representatives, human rights and environmental organizations to advocate for an outright ban on metal mining throughout the country. While there is a bill being debated in Congress regarding such a ban, it has not received enough support to be passed. The current President, on the other hand, has placed a moratorium on extending mining exploration and exploitation permits until the completion of a National Strategic Environmental Assessment.
Vancouver-based Pacific Rim Mining has filed a $77 million lawsuit against the Salvadoran government, arguing that the government’s failure to issue a mining exploitation permit in 2009 due to environmental concerns violates the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Recently, the United States government supported El Salvador in the trade dispute, which is currently being heard by an international tribunal at the World Bank.
Last month (May 1-3), KAIROS hosted an ecumenical conference on mining that brought together over 150 people from all parts of the world, including 50 people from Latin America, Asia and the Pacific and Africa to consider the impacts of Canadian mining on their communities. The conference statement called for “greater and more committed solidarity and accompaniment of communities directly affected by mining”. The statement concludes by calling on “the Canadian churches and churches globally, to take responsibility in speaking out more publicly on the issues and concerns raised during the gathering”.