The SHARE Blog

Perspectives on Obama’s Visit to El Salvador

March 24, 2011

For two days this week, El Salvador was in the world media spotlight when US President Obama visited. Various news outlets did a wonderful job highlighting a variety of important, and often controversial, issues regarding Obama’s visit and US-ES relations more generally. Here is a selection of those thought-provoking perspectives in their own words:

A Missed Opportunity at Romero’s Tomb
For Maryknoll Fr. Roy Bourgeois, the visit was at best a missed opportunity. His organization, SOA Watch, revealed that Romero’s killers were trained at the U.S. Army School of the Americas, now named the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC).
“I and many other human rights activists were hopeful,” he said, that Obama would acknowledge “that Romero and thousands of others were killed, tortured and disappeared by graduates of this school.”
“Obama didn’t even acknowledge, let alone apologize for, the U.S. role in El Salvador,” Bourgeois said.
Read more at: http://ncronline.org/news/obama-romeros-grave-missed-opportunity

US Funds for Security Initiatives: Human Rights and Sovereignty?
During his visit to El Salvador, President Obama announced $200 million to finance “ security and anti-narco trafficking in Central America at a joint press conference held on Tuesday, March 22nd with his Salvadoran homologue, President Funes. Read More »


Dear Mr President: Please Renegotiate CAFTA

March 23, 2011

Dear President Obama:

On your upcoming trip to Latin America, we ask that you state your support for renegotiation of the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and for El Salvador’s request to have dismissed a pending CAFTA investor-state arbitration suit challenging El Salvador’s environmental and safety policies relating to metals mining concessions.

Pacific Rim Mining Corp. and Commerce Group Corp. CAFTA cases
As the unfortunate record of mining in Guatemala and Honduras has demonstrated, certain forms of metals mining can irreparably pollute fresh drinking water, contaminate water used for crop irrigation, and pose grave threats to fishing livelihoods, thus permanently endangering the health and well-being of generations. El Salvador, the smallest and most densely populated country in Central America, already grapples with severe shortages of clean water, as 90 percent of its surface water is contaminated. Read More »


Letters From El Salvador: Final day in Huisisilapa


The next day we awoke to the realization that we were about to
encounter an extremely enthusiastic and talented group of soccer players. A game was scheduled for 9:30 am on the cancha, or field, seemingly the hottest place in the entire
community. A team of Northwest Students (and a few guest players) and a
team of Huisisilapan community members were formed, and the game began,
with many excited spectators. Numerous people, from both sides, opted not to
play, and sat, talking and mingling, in the shade next to the field.
This was preferable, as each time a player would come off the field,
both the sunburn, and sweat soaked clothing was extremely apparent.
However, by some miracle, or by the kindness on behalf of the
Huisisilapan team, the Northwest School prevailed, winning by one goal. Read More »


Members of Congress call on Obama to support environmental protection and trade reform in El Salvador

March 22, 2011

A press release from CISPES regarding Obama’s stay in El Salvador.

Members of Congress, policy experts call on President Obama
to support environmental protection and trade reform in El Salvador
Washington, D.C. & San Salvador – As President Obama travels to El Salvador, leaders in Congress and national policy organizations are calling on him to support the Salvadoran government in protecting the country’s environmental and social rights rather than succumbing to pressure from multinational mining corporations.

Nineteen House Democrats and over 140 environmental, religious, and human rights organizations signed letters to the President asking him to amend investment rules in U.S. trade policy, to prevent corporations from challenging other countries’ regulations through private arbitration.  The letters also ask Obama to denounce a $100 million lawsuit by a Canadian mining company, Pacific Rim, against the government of El Salvador for allegedly violating the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).

“I urge President Obama to offer support for El Salvador’s legitimate right to develop policies protecting human rights and the environment,” said Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), who co-sponsored the congressional letter.  “The U.S. should applaud El Salvador’s commitment to promoting the health and well-being of its citizens, and the protection of the environment.  Instead, our trade policies enable North American mining companies to sue the Salvadoran government for upholding its legitimate right to protect its air, water, and soil.  This is unacceptable; I’m grateful to my colleagues for joining me in calling on the President to raise this issue during his upcoming visit to El Salvador.” Read More »


Social Movement Presents Demands to Obama


 

Protest in front of the Salvador del Mundo monument

The MPR-12 Movement along with a number of other groups in the social movement held a march this morning to present their demands to President Obama during his visit to El Salvador.  Those demands include:

-Close the U.S. military bases in Central America-Close the ILEA (U.S. run police training academy in El Salvador)-Revoke CAFTA-Respect the rights of immigrants-Freedom for the 5 Cuban political prisoners in the United States-Not allow the reintegration of the Coup Government in Honduras into the OAS-Stop the military agression in Libya Read More »


Letter From El Salvador: Day Three- Return to Huisisilapa

March 21, 2011

During the delegation, Northwest students and teachers participated in two one-night homestays in the community of Huisisilapa. Families returning from refugee camps in Honduras in 1991 founded the community, starting with a swath of overgrown land, and the few belongings they had brought with them. In the initial years, community members taught students to read under the trees. Today Huisisilapa has elementary school all the way through high school, a dream few rural communities have realized. This next excerpt describes returning to Huisisilapa for the second homestay.

The next day we arrived earlier than usual, around 9:30 am, after a decent distance traveled to the soundtrack of “The Sound of Music”. We got off the short bus, throats hoarse from a good group sing-a-long, and dispersed to go to our various home stays. That morning the plan was to participate in the Polaroid photography project, in which each family, as well as those who were staying there, had their picture taken. Then each person photographed was asked to attach their image to a piece of paper and write about their personal hopes and dreams, as a form of intercultural and personal exchange within the household. For this morning activity, however, we were only taking the images. Read More »


First Success Against Commerce Group!

March 16, 2011

Great news everyone! The ICSID (International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes) has discarded one of the suits filed against El Salvador by Commerce Group! This is a small but important success for the government and people of El Salvador in keeping mining and its negative health and environmental effects out of its country. We want to send a huge thank you to all of those who called, sent letters, e-mails, and faxes to the Commerce Group- you have helped the Salvadoran people win one part of the battle, but it still not over! The urgency against other mining companies like Pacific Rim continues! Please continue your support as we continue our support of the Salvador people against mining.

For more information see the Decision here


Letter From El Salvador: Day Two- Sihua Batucada


In the afternoon of the 26th, Northwest students and teachers met with an empowered group of young women receives trainings in sexual and reproductive health from the Institute of the Woman, IMU. These young women have also formed their own drum band, the Sihua Batucada. SHARE supports these women with partial high school scholarships.

After a full morning of exchange, we continued to Suchitoto,where we shared a particularly good lunch with a group of youngSalvadoran women who, not only go from town to town talking about sexualand reproductive rights in the face of criticism, but also have theirown drum and dance group called Sihua Batucada. We got to know a littlebit about them through intermingling between chewing at the lunch table,but even more so when they presented their cause through a presentation.This was a particularly interesting meeting, primarily because ElSalvador is a notoriously religious country; the country’s name means“The Savior”, or Jesus Christ.

In such a strong presence of religion,talking about sexual and reproductive rights, as well as sexuality, canbe considered “taboo”. Abortion is illegal here, and re-emphasized assuch many times in the national constitution. The women talked aboutthis challenge, and how they have been criticized on numerous occasions.At one point, the criticism and lies being spread about them were sostrong that they thought the group would have to stop meeting.Fortunately, they overcame the negative attention, and now pride in informing women (and men) all over about their sexual rights, pregnancy prevention, sexuality, and the issue of violence toward women. At one point, a member of our group brought up the question ofhomosexuality: Is it illegal? If not, is the gay lesbian population asmarginalized as it is in the US? Read More »


Letter from El Salvdor: Day One- Scholarship Youth Assembly

March 11, 2011

February 20th to March 4th, twenty-four high school juniors and seniors along with five teachers from the Northwest School in Seattle Washington joined SHARE for a thirteen-day delegation. The Northwest School has strong roots in social justice, and has been in partnership with SHARE and our sister organization UCRES for several years now. For the past two weeks, Northwest students had the opportunity to interact with Salvadorans their age who are active leaders in their communities, to meet with members of various organizations working towards justice in many areas, to visit the community of Huisisilapa and stay with families, and to travel to Cabañas to learn the latest in the struggle against mining, amongst other things. During the delegation, the teachers wrote home to the students’ parents every couple of nights to share events and emotions. One night, one of the students wrote the letter home. Over the next few days we will share excerpts of her letter.

For the first excerpt, on February 26th, the delegation spent the morning with high school and college students who SHARE and sistering groups like Northwest support in their studies and leadership development lead by UCRES, one of SHARE’s counterparts. Read More »


Amicus Brief: Environmental and Human Rights Impacts of Mining


Dear SHARE community,

We continue our support of the anti-mining groups in El Salvador. Many of our delegations have witnessed first hand the health risks, human rights violations, and environmental impacts that mining can cause. We realize the importance this issue has to our base of supporters and would like to share with you all what could be a very helpful case against mining in El Salvador.
(If you would like to read this and other articles in Spanish, please visit our Spanish Blog)

Amicus Brief Highlights the Environmental and Human Rights Impacts of Mining in $77 Million Investment Arbitration Case

Washington, DC: On March 2, 2011, the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), on behalf of civil society organizations of the Mesa Nacional Frente a la Minería Metálica (Mesa), filed an amicus curiae brief in the Pac Rim Cayman LLC v. Republic of El Salvador case, currently being heard at the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). The Mesa is a coalition of human rights and environmental organizations working to ban metals mining in El Salvador. Read More »


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