We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Sunday, October 4, 2015

El Salvador vs Pacific Rim: The Price of Saying ‘No’ to a Gold Mine

Click here to access article by Ciara Nugent from The Argentina Independent

Gold mining is one of the most polluting mining industries there are, and El Salvadorians through their government refused to allow a mining company to continue to pollute their water supplies and are now facing a $301 million lawsuit.

North American mining corporations have been most notorious for using violent tactics to gain access to various metals throughout Latin America. Pacific Rim, a Canadian gold mining company, is one such corporation. The details are a bit complicated, but what is clear is that they first used terrorist tactics to mine gold in El Salvador, then they gained access to a legal weapon through the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism that has become a part of all "free trade" agreements. Read the article to find out what El Salvadorians, and all smaller countries, are up against with this weapon while fighting for clean water and healthy environments in their respective countries. Once again, it's the people versus powerful international capitalists whose corporations have the sole legally defined purpose as profits.
To challenge El Salvador’s rejection of their project, Pacific Rim activated the ISDS – investor-state dispute settlement provisions. Written into most trade agreements these days, and due to be expanded under the massive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the ISDS allows companies to challenge the decisions of governments that might be said to affect their investments in the country. The main forum for these cases, including El Salvador’s, is the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). It was established by the World Bank in 1966, and currently has more than 200 ISDS cases pending.

The ISDS is built into a free-trade agreement between the US and the countries of Central America. Pacific Rim initially gained access to this clause by transferring part of its business to the US, via a subsidiary.