El Salvador and its fight to life

But for the grace of, what, luck? Place of birth and station in life. Just imagine being transplanted to El Salvador, and as a peasant or indigenous who depends on water, from streams and rivers, for drinking, cooking, washing and other basic needs of life. And El Salvador is a very poor country, of which the World Bank is aware, since it collects and disseminates data on the country, and provides loans and technical assistance.

Which brings us to what seems like, at first blush, a bit of good news. As The Guardian reported, World Bank tribunal dismisses mining firm’s $250m claim against El Salvador

Reminded of the country’s condition, we learn of its outlay in its defence against the MNC,

El Salvador, where almost a third of the population lives under the national poverty line, spent more than $12m on its legal defence.

And to cast a light on the sometimes inconsistent operations of the World Bank,

Manuel Pérez-Rocha, an associate fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, said: “The fact that it took more than seven years to release the ruling, and that a country with so many economic difficulties like El Salvador has had to pay millions for its defence, is immoral and shows the complete discretion with which these tribunals sponsored by the World Bank, and its infamous ICSID arm, operate.”

But he added: “This is a law suit that should never have been allowed. The millions of dollars that El Salvador has spent in legal costs could have been used to strengthen badly needed social programmes in our country.”

But that is just part of the story, as TeleSUR reported, with seeming relief, El Salvador Beats Mining Giant OceanaGold at World Bank Court But the details would be disturbing, even infuriating, as we learn, for example,

The conflict sparking the US$301 million lawsuit dates back to 2007, when El Salvador took a stand for national sovereignty and clean water by denying OceanaGold, then Pacific Rim, a new permit to extract gold in the Central American country. The government raised concerns over the failure of the company’s El Dorado gold mine to live up to national standards regulating the industry, including the fact that it dodged submitting a feasibility study and Environmental Impact Assessment for the project. But the corporation saw the decision as an assault on its profits and retaliated.

[Bold added for emphasis.]

And deserving of a closer reading,

The government primarily rejected OceanaGold’s proposed mine over fears of water pollution and scarcity in the country, the most water-stressed in Central America. Water quality is a major problem in El Salvador, where some 90 percent of surface water resources are considered unsafe to drink by international standards. Metal mining has been a big offender in fomenting the contamination crisis.

[Bold added for emphasis]

And for the troubling bit of news so often overlooked in news reports,

Not only is the gold mining industry notorious for toxic metals into surface and groundwater systems through its cyanide-intensive extraction process, but it is also sucks up staggering amounts of water on a daily basis. OceanaGold proposed mine would have used thousands of tons of cyanide and hundreds of thousands of liters of water every day it operated in the parched country.

Immediately obvious in all this is the corporation’s sense that it is more powerful than the state – which is the main objective of those ‘free trade’ schemes being peddled by the US president. And its strategy is to undertake litigation with resources that the victim cannot match, and by prolonging the case, it will weaken the country’s ability to continue. Fortunately, El Salvador had the patience and prevailed – at a cost.

And if we needed reminding on the water situation in the country, this news item of earlier this year, El Salvador Declares Drought Emergency for First Time Ever We are reminded that,

In the last four years, rainfall has decreased considerably in the Central American country, and river and water reserve levels have reached a critical state, President Salvador Sanchez Ceren said at a news conference.

Yes, that luck of birth, and that luck of having some skill to promote awareness of the plight of the poor and generally undefended as corporate marauders invade, even with deadly intentions. As we had learned, community leaders have become an endangered species – just a few examples,  it was March of this year that Berta Cáceres of Honduras was assassinated, and just last week, a Brazilian environmental activist suffered the same fate, and, like a daily occurrence, again in Honduras.

As the saying goes, ‘The unexamined life is not worth living’. And others will end the activist life, and with no compunction.

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