On December 26th, Dora Sorto, resident of village of Trinidad, municipality of Sensuntepeque in the department of Cabañas, El Salvador, was shot and killed in broad daylight. Eight months pregnant, Sorto was walking toward her home, carrying her two-year old son, when she was shot. Her son was wounded by bullets. Sorto was an active member of the Cabañas Environmental Committee and her murder seems to be linked to her fierce position against mining activity in the surroundings of Trinidad.
“We are very worried about the current situation,” said Andrés McKinley, Oxfam America’s program officer for the Extractive Industries program. “Mining activity here in the region has divided communities and is a source of violence.”
The murder of Sorto is not the first one related to mining activities. Barely one week before her assassination, Ramiro Rivera also was murdered. Rivera was member of the Board of the Cabañas Environmental Committee, and under protection of the Witness Protection Unit of the National Civil police and being guarded by two police officers. The disappearance of Marcelo Rivera, legal representative of the Friends of San Isidro Cabañas Association, this past June, whose body was found weeks later, preceded the two murders. The National Civil Police have not investigated any of the three cases satisfactorily, but all of them are publicly linked to the profound division that mining projects have provoked in the communities of Cabañas.
El Salvador has been debating mining and its possible social, economic and environmental impacts for the past four years. Farmers, environmentalist and the Catholic Church are against mining because of its impact on the environment in this small and densely populated country, where already 95% of its surface water is polluted. The current and the previous administrations have been very critical and even against this economic activity and have not given any exploitation licenses. Currently, two mining companies are suing the Salvadoran government under CAFTA regulation.
Oxfam America’s “Right to Know, Right to Decide” campaign is calling on international oil, gas and mining companies to fully respect the rights of communities to participate in the decision-making process on mining projects and to fully disclose information on revenues and payments to governments. Oxfam’s work in El Salvador is in line with this campaign.