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EXCLUSIVE: Hillary Clinton sold out Honduras: Lanny Davis, corporate cash, and the real story about the death of a Latin American democracy – Salon.com

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EXCLUSIVE: Hillary Clinton sold out Honduras: Lanny Davis, corporate cash, and the real story about the death of a Latin American democracy – Salon.com.

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Participate in a solidarity delegation to Honduras

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Deadline: April 24: Last Call: Join La Voz de los de Abajo in Honduras for the International Week of the Disappeared (Semana Internacional de los Desaparecidos) May 23 – May 31, 2015. 
As I write this last call for our May delegation I am looking at a photo of Donatilo Giménez, trade union leader and LIBRE party activist in La Ceiba on the northern coast of Honduras. Donatilo was disappeared from his workplace at the National Autonomous University Atlantida Center on April 8th and has not been found yet. This Spring has also seen the death of 4 student activists in Tegucigalpa, one of whom was a 14 year old girl and a death threat by a government official against a human rights defender accompanying the students.
Human rights defenders are asking for international solidarity and accompaniment as harassment and threats and a campaign to discredit them is increasing in the context of their work against the continuing serious human rights violations in Honduras. We are invited by the Committee of the Disappeared Detainees in Honduras (COFADEH) to accompany their work and other human rights defenders for the International Week of the Disappeared. 
 
Forced disappearances by death squads and security forces are a global problem that has reappeared  in Honduras since the June 2009 coup. This year’s week to commemorate the disappeared occurs as we see the number of desparecidos and desaparecidas increasing alarmingly in Central America and in Mexico; there is an urgent need to understand what is happening and to build solidarity and resistance together across borders.  
 
We will also meet with campesino communities, students and others at risk during our visit. 
 
Please contact me with any questions or interest in the delegation by April 25th. 
 
saludos solidarios
Victoria Cervantes
La Voz de los de Abajo Chicago
lavozchicago@yahoo.com

Salvadoran General Deported from U.S. for Command Role in Human Rights Crimes During El Salvador Civil War

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UNREDACTED

General Vides Casanova] Credit: Latin America News Dispatch. General Vides Casanova. Photo Credit: Latin America News Dispatch.

Violations Cited in Justice Department Ruling Include Torture of Salvadoran Citizens, Murder of Four American Churchwomen, Among Others

By Alexandra Smith

Thursday, April 9, 2015—Gen. Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova, former chief of El Salvador’s National Guard and then Minister of Defense from 1979-89, was deported from Florida yesterday as a result of a precedent-setting decision by the Justice Department’s Board of Immigration Appeals, following 16 years of legal efforts by human rights groups against him.

In 1999, The Center for Justice and Accountability filed a case against Vides Casanova and another former defense minister, Gen. José Guillermo García, charging them with liability for the torture of three Salvadoran civilians under the “command responsibility” doctrine illustrating intellectual authorship. The case, Romagoza et al. v. Generals Garcia and Vides Casanova, cemented the legal authority of the command responsibility doctrine with a verdict demanding…

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Hip-Hop for Social Justice: MC Lethal from San Isidro Cabañas, El Salvador

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MC Lethal of El Salvador raps to protest Pacific Rim, a Canadian and U.S. mining transnational.  Pacific Rim is currently suing the state of El Salvador in international court, arguing that their investment “rights” were violated when the Salvadoran government refused to grant it a permit.  Popular opposition to mining has grown in El Salvador, due to concerns about economic exploitation, environmental and health concerns.

Mexican army faces questions over fate of 43 missing students

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The Tequila Files

Omar Garcia suffered a black eye and a bloodied face in a clash outside the army base in Iguala last week. Omar Garcia suffered a black eye and a bloodied face in a clash outside the army base in Iguala last week.

Four months on from the abduction and probable massacre of 43 students in southern Mexico, the survivors and the victims’ families have turned the focus of their relentless fight for justice on the Mexican army.

At least 97 suspects, including scores of corrupt police officers, gang members and the local mayor and his wife, have been arrested in connection with the disappearance of the students in the town of Iguala, in Guerrero state, on 26 September.

The Mexican government has questioned but not charged 36 soldiers, and repeatedly denied allegations of the army’s involvement in the disappearance of the students. Yet their families are demanding a deeper investigation as well as unrestricted access to the military bases where they suspect the 43 young men may have been held.

Omar…

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Poor Guatemalans Are Taking On North American Mining Companies—and Have the Bullet Wounds to Prove It

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Tahoe On Trial

Jimmy Tobias, The Nation, January 14, 2015

As nonviolent protests have spread throughout the country, the right-wing government and the mines’ security operations have responded with force.

A bullet is lodged near Yolanda Oquelí’s liver. It’s been there since June 13, 2012, when two masked men on a motorcycle fired a barrage of bullets into her car as she drove home on a dusty mountain road after attending a protest with friends and neighbors. A ball of hot lead brushed her stomach and barely missed her spine. After the gunmen fled, she was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery.

For the full article, click here.

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Corporate “Rights” vs. State Sovereignty: OceanaGold sues El Salvador

OceanaGold, a Canadian transnational, is suing the government of El Salvador in a World Bank tribunal for $301 billion, for “losses” related to the cancellation of the “El Dorado” mining project permit.  The permit was granted by a previous administration and since rescinded due to concerns about the negative impact the project would have on the environment and local agriculture.  The movement protesting the project was described in this excellent article in “The Nation”.  Absurdly, the transnational OceanaGold is allowed to sue El Salvador for the “right” to mine its territory based on provisions of the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).

Source:  Inter Press News Service Agency

World Bank Tribunal Weighs Final Arguments in El Salvador Mining Dispute

WASHINGTON, Sep 16 2014 (IPS) – A multilateral arbitration panel here began final hearings Monday in a contentious and long-running dispute between an international mining company and the government of El Salvador.

An Australian mining company, OceanaGold, is suing the Salvadoran government for refusing to grant it a gold-mining permit that has been pending for much of the past decade. El Salvador, meanwhile, cites national laws and policies aimed at safeguarding human and environmental health, and says the project would threaten the country’s water supply.

“This mining process would use some really poisonous substances – cyanide, arsenic – that would destroy the environment. Ultimately, the people suffer the consequences.” — Father Eric Lopez

The country also claims that OceanaGold has failed to comply with basic requirements for any gold-mining permitting. Further, in 2012, El Salvador announced that it would continue a moratorium on all mining projects in the country.

Yet using a controversial provision in a free trade agreement, OceanaGold has been able to sue El Salvador for profits – more than 300 million dollars – that the company says it would have made at the goldmine. The case is being heard before the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), an obscure tribunal housed in the Washington offices of the World Bank Group.

OceanaGold, CAFTA, El Salvador, World Bank

Protest against the OceanaGold lawsuit. Photo credit: CISPES

“The case threatens the sovereignty and self-determination” of El Salvador’s people, Hector Berrios, coordinator of MUFRAS-32, a member of the Salvadoran National Roundtable against Metallic Mining, said Monday in a statement. “The majority of the population has spoken out against this project and [has given its] priority to water.”

The OceanaGold project would involve a leaching process to recover small amounts of gold, using cyanide and, critics say, tremendous amounts of water. Those plans have made local communities anxious: the United Nations has already found that some 90 percent of El Salvador’s surface water is contaminated.

On Monday, a hundred demonstrators rallied in front of the World Bank building, both to show solidarity with El Salvador against OceanaGold and to express their scepticism of the ICSID process more generally. The events coincided with El Salvador’s Independence Day.

“We’re celebrating independence but what we’re really celebrating is dignity and the ability of every person to enjoy a good life, not only a few,” Father Eric Lopez, a Franciscan friar at a Washington-area church that caters to a sizable Salvadoran community, told IPS at the demonstration.

“This mining process would use some really poisonous substances – cyanide, arsenic – that would destroy the environment. Ultimately, the people suffer the consequences: they remain poor, they are sick, women’s pregnancies suffer.”

Provoking unrest?

The case’s jurisdictions are complicated and, for some, underscore the tenuousness of the ICSID’s arbitration process around the Salvador project.

It was another mining company, the Canada-based Pacific Rim, that originally discovered a potentially lucrative minerals deposit along the Lempa River in 2002. The business-friendly Salvadoran government at the time (since voted out of power) reportedly encouraged the company to apply for a permit, though public concern bogged down that process.

Frustrated by this turn of events, Pacific Rim filed a lawsuit against El Salvador under a provision of the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA) that allowed companies to sue governments for impinging on their profits. While Canada, Pacific Rim’s home country, is not a member of DR-CAFTA, in 2009 the company created a subsidiary in the United States, which is.

In 2012, ICSID ruled that the lawsuit could continue, pointing to a provision in El Salvador’s investment law. The country’s laws have since been altered to prevent companies from circumventing the national judicial system in favour of extra-national arbiters like ICSID.

Last year, OceanaGold purchased Pacific Rim, despite the latter’s primary asset being the El Salvador gold-mining project, which has never been allowed to go forward. Although OceanaGold did not respond to a request for comment for this story, last year the company noted that it would continue with the arbitration case while also seeking “a negotiated resolution to the … permitting impasse”.

For its part, the Salvadoran government says it has halted the permitting process not only over environmental and health concerns but also over procedural matters. While these include Pacific Rim’s failure to abide by certain reporting requirements, the company also appears not to have gained important local approvals.

Under Salvadoran law, an extractive company needs to gain titles, or local permission, for any lands it wants to develop. Yet Pacific Rim had such access to just 13 percent of the lands covered by its proposal, according to Oxfam America, a humanitarian and advocacy group.

Given this lack of community support in a country with recent history of civil unrest, some warn that an ICSID decision in OceanaGold’s favour could result in violence.

“This mining project was re-opening a lot of the wounds that existed during the civil war, and telling a country that they have to provoke a civil conflict in order to satisfy investors is very troublesome,” Luke Danielson, a researcher and academic who studies social conflict around natural resource development, told IPS.

“The tribunal system exists to allow two interests to express themselves – the national government and the investor. But neither of these speak for communities, and that’s a fundamental problem.”

Wary of litigation

Bilateral and regional investment treaties such as DR-CAFTA have seen massive expansion in recent years. And increasingly, many of these include so-called “investor-state” resolution clauses of the type being used in the El Salvador case.

Currently some 2,700 agreements internationally have such clauses, ICSID reports. Meanwhile, although the tribunal has existed since the 1960s, its relevance has increased dramatically in recent years, mirroring the rise in investor-state clauses.

ISCID itself doesn’t decide on how to resolve such disputes. Rather, it offers a framework under which cases are heard by three external arbiters – one appointed by the investor, one by the state and one by both parties.

Yet outside of the World Bank headquarters on Monday, protesters expressed deep scepticism about the highly opaque ISCID process. Several said that past experience has suggested the tribunal is deeply skewed in favour of investors.

“This is a completely closed-door process, and this has meant that the tribunal can basically do whatever it wants,” Carla Garcia Zendejas director of the People, Land & Resources program at the Center for International Environmental Law, a watchdog group here, told IPS.

“Thus far, we have no examples of cases in which this body responded in favour of communities or reacted to basic human rights violations or basic environmental and social impact.”

Zendejas says the rise in investor-state lawsuits in recent years has resulted in many governments, particularly in developing countries, choosing to acquiesce in the face of corporate demand. Litigation is not only cumbersome but extremely expensive.

“Governments are increasingly wary of being sued, and therefore are more willing to accept and change polices or to ignore their own policies, even if there’s community opposition,” she says.

“Certain projects have seen resistance, but political pressure often depends on who’s in power. Unfortunately, the incorrect view that the only way for development to take place is through foreign investment is still very engrained in many of the powers that be.”

While there is no public timeframe for ISCID resolution on the El Salvador case, a decision is expected by the end of the year.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be reached at cbiron@ips.org

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