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

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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.

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  The permit was granted by a previous administration and since rescinded due to concerns about the negative impact the project would have on the environment and local agriculture.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

English translation: If I were Palestinian, by Eduardo Galeano

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Source:  Walter Lippman

Translation from CubaNews, Walter Lippman:

gaza, child, human rights

Child injured in assault on Gaza. Photo credit: Jewish Voice for Peace.

“If I were Palestinian”
Eduardo Galeano

2012

A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.

Since 1948, the Palestinians have been condemned to live in never-ending humiliation. They can’t even breathe without permission. They have lost their homeland, their lands, their water, their freedom, everything, even the right to elect their own government.

When they vote for whom they shouldn’t, they are punished. Gaza is being punished. It became a dead-end mousetrap since Hamas won the 2006 elections fairly. Something similar had happened in 1932, when the Communist Party won the elections in El Salvador: the people atoned for their misbehavior with a bloodbath and lived under military dictatorships from then on. Democracy is a luxury deserved by just a few. The homemade rockets that the Hamas combatants cornered in Gaza shoot with sloppy aim at formerly-Palestinian lands currently under Israeli rule are born out of helplessness.

And desperation, the kind that borders on suicidal madness, is the mother of the threats that deny Israel’s right to exist with ineffective cries while a very effective genocidal war has long denied Palestine’s right to life.

Very little is left of Palestine.

Step by step, Israel is wiping it off the map.

The settlers invade, followed by soldiers who retrace the borders.

Bullets shot in self-defense consecrate the plundering.

No aggression fails to claim it’s purposes are defensive.

Hitler invaded Poland to prevent Poland from invading Germany.

Bush invaded Iraq to prevent Iraq from invading the world.

With each of its defensive wars, Israel swallows another piece of Palestine, and the feast goes on.

 

Excelente artículo de Eduardo Galeano sobre GAZA

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The following post about Palestine was written in 2012, but is just as relevant today. The United States continues to generously fund the Israeli war machine, and our leaders have only tepidly criticized the recent violence committed by the Israeli military. Activists must continue to call on Congress to ban military aid to Israel. I’m attaching an English translation of Galeano’s words.

Falsasbanderas.com

cartel_noaz[1].jpgPalestina.Cartel de NOAZ.

GAZA

Por Eduardo Galeano

Para justificarse, el terrorismo de Estado fabrica terroristas: siembra odio y cosecha coartadas. Todo indica que esta carnicería de Gaza, que según sus autores quiere acabar con los terroristas, logrará multiplicarlos.

Desde 1948, los palestinos viven condenados a humillación perpetua. No pueden ni respirar sin permiso. Han perdido su patria, sus tierras, su agua, su libertad, su todo. Ni siquiera tienen derecho a elegir sus gobernantes. Cuando votan a quien no deben votar, son castigados. Gaza está siendo castigada. Se convirtió en una ratonera sin salida, desde que Hamas ganó limpiamente las elecciones en el año 2006. Algo parecido había ocurrido en 1932, cuando el Partido Comunista triunfó en las elecciones de El Salvador. Bañados en sangre, los salvadoreños expiaron su mala conducta y desde entonces vivieron sometidos a dictaduras militares. La democracia es un lujo que no todos merecen.

Son hijos de…

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The Desperate Choices Behind Child Migration by ALEXANDRA EARLY

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Source: Counterpunch

As someone who just returned from living and working in El Salvador, I’m still having a hard time adjusting to our mainstream media’s never-ending wave of know-nothing commentary on the subject of immigration. A case in point is the column penned by New York Times columnist Ross Douthat on Sunday, June 22nd. Douthat expresses alarm about the “current surge” of “unaccompanied minors from Central America” who are dangerously crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in such unprecedented numbers that the Border Patrol and the courts are now “struggling to care for the children and process their cases.”

What has caused this “children’s migration?” According to Douthat it is “immigration reform’s open invitation”–“the mere promise of amnesty” that has now worsened “some of the humanitarian problems that reformers say they want to solve.” Douthat is a conservative but his solution is a familiar, bi-partisan one: “let’s prove that a more effective enforcement system can be built and only then codify an offer of legal status.”

That immigration policy proposal, per usual, totally ignores what’s really driving the big increase in border crossings by impoverished young Central Americans and what the U.S. government could be doing to make staying in Central America a viable choice.

The “Push Factors”

To see things differently, it helps to put yourself in the shoes of others. Let’s imagine that you are poor single mother living in Apopa, a dangerous city next door to the capital, San Salvador.

You work cleaning houses for $15 a day. Your neighborhood is completely gang dominated. When you take the bus to the house where you work you are often late because the police check the bus and make all the men disembark for body searches. There are some mornings when you wake up and send your daughter to the corner store for eggs and she sees dead bodies in the street. They could be the bodies of a neighbor or a storeowner who refused to pay the extortionate demands of the local gang. Just a few days ago, walking with your son you were caught in a shoot out between two rival gangs. You could do nothing but duck and cover and try to comfort your wailing child.

Your son is 12 and one of the gangs–let’s say la Mara Salvatrucha (MS), the country’s most violent–is starting to recruit him. They want to use him as courier to send messages and deliver drugs. Perhaps more frighteningly, your older daughter, 14 now, is attracting the attention of an MS leader in the neighborhood. You tell her to reject his overtures, but you know how hard it is for any young woman to spurn such a relationship—or end it, once it has begun.

No Rural Refuge

You think about just packing up and moving to the countryside, but you have heard stories. Your next-door neighbor, an office worker, faced gang pressure to pay a fifty-dollar a month extortion fee. So she decided to move back to her hometown, a tiny village in rural San Vicente. But even small towns in El Salvador aren’t safe these days. After your neighbor moved back home, her nephew, a 16 year-old scholarship student was killed in the middle of the afternoon in his own front yard, right across the dirt road. He wasn’t the slightest bit involved in any gang activity. All he did was date the ex-girlfriend of a gang member.

In Apopa, you try to keep your kids inside as much as possible. And you worry. You worry about how you will pay the rent and find the money to send them to high school, let alone college. And you think about sending them to la Usa. Your brother lives in Maryland. Maybe he could cover part of the cost of their journey? You know the journey is dangerous but what other choices are there?

How many American parents have ever had to weigh such terrible options—the danger of daily life for their children versus the dangers of illegal immigration? How many have experienced the emotional pain of resulting family separation—first from parents leaving for work in Los Angeles or Maryland, with their children staying behind, and now from the stream of children and teens following the same route north in search of a safer and better life?

Forced to Leave

In February, with my U.S. passport in hand, I left El Salvador and hopped on a plane headed for the U.S. – adios gangs, adios fear, adios poverty. I left behind many Salvadoran friends who will never be able to do the same thing. Just a few months later, a bright young man from one rural community I often visited left to join his father in Washington State. To me, with a steady job and money in the bank, his beautiful mountainside community seemed like paradise. But the young man couldn’t gain admittance to the one affordable, public university in El Salvador and couldn’t find a job. While Douthat bemoans the fact that Border Patrol agents are “neglecting other law enforcement duties” to deal with the influx of child migrants, I am hoping they will be too busy to catch my young friend and that he will reach his destination safely.

The vast majority of Salvadorans, like other Central Americans, don’t want to migrate to the U.S. They love their families and communities and would much prefer to stay and work or go to school in their own countries. Creating stricter immigration rules and deporting more children will not stop this wave of forced migrants; only giving them the chance to survive and prosper at home will.

U.S. Policy Impact

The U.S. Government could do a lot to make life better in El Salvador and Honduras. But right now they are doing just the opposite. In El Salvador, the Obama administration is currently undercutting efforts by the Salvadoran government to support sustainable, small-scale farming. The U.S. Ambassador has threatened to deny a multimillion-dollar aid package if the FMLN government continues to buy seeds from local farmers, instead of from foreign companies like Monsanto, as part of their highly successful Family Agriculture program.

Meanwhile in Honduras, since the military take-over of June 2009 the U.S. has been supporting a corrupt, illegitimate regime responsible for increased economic inequality and violence. I have participated in a number of human rights and electoral observation delegations to Honduras and heard from community leaders about the hundreds of murders of women, gay people, activists and union leaders that have occurred under the watch of the post-coup regime. If I were Honduran, watching right wing hard liner Juan Orlando Hernandez “win” the presidential election through blatant fraud and intimidation would have been the last straw for me. I would have left too.

I am no Harvard trained political analyst like Ross Douthat, but I know that only a dramatic shift in U.S. foreign policy will help change conditions in Central America and ease the humanitarian crisis at our border. The U.S. government must stop pushing free trade and privatization and start funding social programs. But most of all it must stand up for human rights. And these include the right not to migrate but to stay, study, work, speak out and live happily in your own home country.

Alexandra Early worked for four years in El Salvador as a Coordinator for U.S.-El Salvador Sister Cities. She can be reached at earlyave@gmail.com.

Two Salvadoran Generals Ordered Deported for Civil War Torture | Miami New Times

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Moving and thorough article by Trevor Back of the Miami New Times.

Two Salvadoran Generals Ordered Deported for Civil War Torture | Miami New Times.

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