International humanitarian organization Oxfam America called on President Obama today to support the government of El Salvador in a trade dispute with a Canadian gold-mining company attempting to set up operations in the country. Mining-related conflicts in the northern part of the country have led to a wave of recent violence and death threats.
The call to action comes as President Obama travels to El Salvador today where he is expected to discuss a range of issues, including last year’s landmark announcement of a US Global Development Policy.
Canadian company Pacific Rim is suing the government of El Salvador for $77 million under the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), arguing that the government’s denial in 2009 of an environmental permit violates its rights as a foreign investor. The Salvadoran government has instituted a de facto moratorium on mining since then, in part due to concerns about the environmental impacts of mining on the country’s agricultural production. As a party to CAFTA, the US government has the right to intervene in the dispute.
“The Salvadoran government has recognized that not all foreign investment is good for the country,” said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America. “The Obama administration should help ensure that El Salvador’s development strategy is in the best interest of the people and protects human rights and the environment.
El Salvador’s government is right to acknowledge the people’s legitimate concerns about mining projects, and exercise its right to say ‘no‘ to mining within its borders,” said Keith Slack, manager of Oxfam America's oil and mining program.
Continued action by the US government through such proposed strategies as President Obama’s Partnerships for Growth—a key outcome of the US Global Development Policy that calls for a more coordinated US approach with countries that have shown a strong commitment to good governance and sustainable development—will ensure Salvadorans the United States is committed to working with El Salvador on development issues. Oxfam America recommends the United States continue to provide assistance to country-led efforts, and support Salvadoran’s right to know and decide what development projects will benefit their country.