Media Releases

PRESS RELESE: Environmental Organizations Dennounce Privatization of Water in El Salvador

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THE GENERAL LAW ON WATER RESOURCES APPROVED BY THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY LEGALIZES WATER INJUSTICE, PROMOTES THE THEFT AND DISPOSSESSION OF WATER IN THE TERRITORIES

San Salvador, December 22, 2021. On December 21 of this year, the ruling party of the Legislative Assembly approved the General Law on Water Resources. Following the approval, environmental organizations such as the Water Forum, the National Alliance against the Privatization of Water, the Roundtable of Churches in El Salvador and the Central American University state the following:

The Law continues to harm the rural and urban Community Water Systems. It maintains the privatizing spirit in which it was presented last June by the President of the Republic. It is a Law that deepens water injustice as it includes mechanisms that will generate more injustice, such as the collection of the taxes from community water systems, and the use of water supply systems that don’t consider access for the population's domestic consumption a priority.

In El Salvador, there are more than 2,500 rural and community water systems that supply almost 25% of the Salvadoran population. The absence of the State that has historically neglected its responsibility has forced local communities to assume water supply by themselves, with the support of NGOs and international aid.

Although the Law recognizes community water systems in a nominal way, it does not provide a mechanism to recognize their non-profit social function and the exemption from paying taxes. By not incorporating this mechanism, community water systems will be obliged to pay taxes and increase service rates of their users, who are often the most impoverished communities in the country.

Although the Law regulates domestic use and human consumption as a priority, it does not regulate how water should be supplied to populations. The first two meet the basic family needs for food, personal hygiene, cleaning, including raising domestic animals that do not constitute a commercial or lucrative activity; but the supply systems for populations should be collective, not for profit and capable of providing water in sufficient quantity and quality for the communities. The community water systems are a good example of these systems. Consequently, by not incorporating a regulation for water supply as priority for domestic use in the article 63, the law would generate a conflict between the supply for the general population and the supply for industrial use, risking that supply systems prioritize the latter.

The law does not solve the injustice generated by the agreements signed between ANDA and construction companies.  Another mechanism that generates water injustice, and favors theft and dispossession, are the private agreements between ANDA (National Association for the Management of Sewers and Aqueducts) and the oligarchies of the construction industry. This Government continues to sign agreements between ANDA and the construction oligarchies, providing them with water extraction concessions to supply their urban development projects, thereby generating scarcity in impoverished populations; two emblematic cases of these practices are the Agreements signed between ANDA and the Dueñas and Poma families, which unconstitutionally allocate more than 25 million liters of water per day. With this amount of water ANDA could supply half a million people, ending shortages and injustice in impoverished municipalities of Apopa, Tonacatepeque, Cuscatancingo, Soyapango, Ilopango and San Martín.

This Law does not resolve these injustices, because its content does not regulate ANDA´s operations, it does not oblige them to review the current cooperation agreements with construction companies, and it  does not make it subordinate to the ASA (Salvadorean Water Authority) established in the law. Considering that the ASA will be in charge of reviewing such permits and will be the competent authority to process new authorizations for exploitation in accordance with the respective regulations; the use of water for large urban projects should be considered as industrial and commercial projects, due to their lucrative purpose, as such they should be expressly regulated so that their permits are not prioritized as priority needs, as it has been done to date.

The Law does not solve the injustice that is generated in the coastal marine territory of the country. The illegal exploitation carried out by the sugar agribusiness in the coastal zone, who hide behind the structural weaknesses of the MAG (Ministry of Agriculture), entity in charge of regulating the use of water for agricultural irrigation, benefits the sugar oligarchy (headed by the Regalado and Wright Families) who freely use all the surface and groundwater of the coastal territories, often times without permits and paying a pittance for its use. This Law, however, does not seek to strengthen the institutional framework of the MAG.

The Law denies citizen participation. This Law creates a bureaucratic, vertical and centralized institutional framework that continues to deny citizen participation by not recognizing the territorial watershed committee structure proposed by social organizations.

This Law is generic as it does not try to resolve the crisis situation in the country. It does not develop a sustainable watershed management system at the national level, nor it establishes measures aimed at the protection and conservation of the Lempa River. Despite the fact that is the most important strategic aquifer reserve in the country and that it is currently in crisis, it does not grant a Special Administration Regime, nor does it address in detail a Water Planning System, nor the cross-border threats that may impact its basin.

It is a law that will privatize water in El Salvador. According to Article 71 of the law, the ASA will authorize the use of water to private sectors in quantities equal to or greater than 365,000 cubic meters of water per year for 15 renewable years, with no upper limit on the quantity of water concessions for commercial purposes, compromising the priorities for domestic human consumption and creating conditions for the violation of the human right to water of the population, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable.

As social organizations, we will continue to demand a General Water Law that guarantees sustainability and the human rights of the population, above the interests of any oligarchic group in the country.

Water is not for sale, it is cared for and defended!

Water is a right, not a commodity!

Communique: Community organizations fear the return of metal mining in El Salvador

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Communique: Community organizations fear the return of metal mining El Salvador

San Salvador December 16, 2021 - Only four years have passed since El Salvador banned metal mining in all its forms. The struggle led by communities affected by the threat of mining lasted more than twelve years, and this struggle was joined by different sectors of Salvadoran society and the international community that were aware of the impacts that mining exploitation would have on water and the environment in general.

In recent days we have learned that the Salvadoran government has approached specialists from the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Development (IGF), an organization of Canadian origin that promotes best practices of mining in its member countries. According to policy statements of this institution, "the objectives of the Forum are to improve and promote the contribution of the mining, minerals and metals sector to sustainable development and poverty reduction."

Some representatives of this organization visited our country a couple of weeks ago and held meetings with different government institutions such as the Ministries of the Environment; Economy, through its Hydrocarbons and Mines Directorate; Public Works; Foreign Relations and Finance; as well as the Central Reserve Bank, Some municipalities, FOVIAL; and with some institutions in the private sector and academia.

According to the Ministry of the Environment, MARN, the visit of the Forum specialists was aimed at determining the viability of quarrying to obtain raw materials for the construction industry. MARN also stated that "at the end of the visit of the IGF consultants, they expected to have a diagnostic of the mining industry in El Salvador and to know the real situation of the resources in order to evaluate the social, economic, legal and environmental aspects"

According to MARN, “El Salvador recently joined this Forum, which includes 78 countries around the world and which provides a series of services to its members, such as sector evaluations; capacity building and individualized technical assistance; orientation documents and conferences that explore best practices and offer an opportunity to engage with industry and civil society, among others”. In other words, it is the organization in charge of exchanging “mirrors for gold” on behalf of the mining industry.

Similarly, it draws out attention the introduction legislation creating the General Directorate of Energy, Hydrocarbons and Mines, approved by the Legislative Assembly on October 26. The objectives of this new Directorate are to authorize, regulate and supervise the operation of those who participate in mining activities, without distinguishing between metallic and non-metallic mining. It also proposes obtaining mining resources as a "duty of the State" and establishes among the powers of the new Directorate, the capacity to establish, maintain and promote cooperative relations with foreign and multilateral institutions or organizations "linked to the mining sector; put out to tender for the exploration of special areas where deposits with proven economic potential are located; and coordinate with the Ministry of the Environment the evaluation procedures for mining and quarry exploration proposals.

These latest events cause alarm because they seem aimed at allowing activities related to metal mining in the country. In addition, these actions of the government disregard the anti-mining struggle that the country experienced for more than twelve years and for which at least four environmentalists from Cabañas who offered their lives so that Canadian mining companies such as Pacific Rim would not settle in the country.

The communities, social organizations, churches, universities and other sectors of Salvadoran society who fought for the ban on metallic mining remain convinced that the country is not prepared for the repeal of the Law of Prohibition of Metallic Mining. It is clear that the ecological conditions why metallic mining was banned have not been overcome in the country and, on the contrary, the environmental and water crisis continues to worsen day by day.

In this sense, as civil society organizations that at that time fought for the prohibition of metallic mining, we call on the Salvadoran population to be attentive to the proposals that the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Development (IGF ) will present to the Government, since a potential reversal of the Law for the Prohibition of Metallic Mining would generate possible conflicts between communities and mining companies, exacerbate the country's water and environmental crisis and foster even more conflicts over land and water.

In the same way, we demand that the Executive Branch and the Legislative Assembly refrain from repealing the prohibition law and we demand that the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Development be publicly transparent when presenting the results of their visit to El Salvador.  

Finally, we demand that the Legislative Assembly accelerate the ratification of the human right to water in the Constitution and expedite the approval of a general water law that guarantees, as a priority, water for domestic consumption, which is economically accessible and sufficient in quality and quantity for our communities.

Central American antimining activists gather in El Salvador to discuss joint strategies for action

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acf3 15Yolanda Flores, DHUMA: more than 80% of the Peruvian territory has been concessioned to mining activity. Photo: ACAFREMINSan Salvador - Representatives of indigenous communities, social movements, environmentalists and human rights defenders gathered in El Salvador to participate in the IV Regional Meeting of the Central American Alliance against Mining -ACAFREMIN.

The meeting aimed at strengthening the dialogue, knowledge exchange and analysis of the impacts of the extractive industries in the CA4 region, particularly focusing on:  

  • Continuing the information exchange and analysis of the impacts of extractive industries in the CA4 region;
  • Deepening the knowledge on the topic of technical closure of mines, which has been identified in the region as a priority for environmental organizations and communities that have denounced the abandonment of mines in a state of contamination by unscrupulous mining companies;

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Over two hundred organizations denounce multimillion-dollar suit brought by U.S. mining firm against Guatemala

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April 24, 2019
 
Today, a letter signed by 227 Guatemalan and international networks and organizations was delivered to Guatemalan authorities and the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala. The letter denounces the US$300 million-dollar suit that the U.S. mining company Kappes, Cassiday & Associates (KCA) is bringing against the Central American country as a shameless attempt to undermine the will of the communities affected by its project and the decision of the courts. The company filed the suit in December 2018 at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) for alleged violations of the Central America–Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR).
 
Community members from the peaceful resistance of ‘La Puya’ presented the letter to government authorities during a congressional hearing on the ICSID process, including representatives from the Ministries of Energy and Mining, Environment and Natural Resources, and Economy, as well as the Human Rights Section of the Public Prosecutor’s Office and others.

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Founding statement: National Alliance against Water Privatization in El Salvador

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San Salvador June 16, 2018

This morning members of more than seventy social organizations, environmentalists, youth, women groups, churches, unions and universities across the country marched through the main streets of San Salvador to make the public launch of the National Alliance against the Privatization of Water in El Salvador, as a space for coordinating the popular struggle against the threat of commodification of our vital liquid.

We denounce the arrogant water privatization strategy promoted by the oligarchic groups of the country and pushed through the Legislative Assembly by the right wing parties ARENA, PCN, GANA and PDC in coordination with the National Business Association ANEP, through the approval of the so called "Integral Water Law".

The law proposes the creation of a National Water Authority, an autonomous entity that guarantees a majority representation of the business sector in its board of directors through the appointment of two directors from ANEP and its business chambers and two directors from COMURES (a private corporation that brings together municipalities of El Salvador). Both institutions are closely linked with ARENA and add four votes while the executive government can only appoint one. To complement the privatization strategy, a super board of directors is created with absolute powers to control every action, from hiring personnel, managing the water tribunal, controlling local watershed committees, assigning permits, resolving conflicts over the use of water, establishing fees for services, regulating tariffs and other strategic policies of the national water distribution system ANDA.

That is to say, the law proposes the creation of a mechanism that allows the legalization of dispossession (exploitation and contamination) currently carried out by some companies (such as the sugar cane industry) in the interior of the country; in addition to exercising control of ANDA to privatize its most profitable activities.

We are convinced that one of the main oligarchic groups that promotes the "Integral Law of Water" is the sugar industry, (that utilizes 30% of the water consumed throughout the country annually).

The industry finances right wing political parties to continue to avoid paying for exploiting water resources and regulation.  A report by the Secretary of Citizen Participation on the financing of political parties indicates that sugar mills, including CASSA, El Angel, La Cabaña, Chaparrastique, Jiboa and people linked to the industry as Tomas Regalado Dueñas and Tomas Regalado O'sullivan, disbursed at least $ 3.2 million in political campaign donations mainly to the ARENA party, which in 2013 alone received $ 1.3 million and $430 thousand in 2017,  the same year the PCN and PDC parties received $200 thousand and $80 thousand respectively.

We reject the repression that authorities of the university community were subjected on Thursday June 14th, by the Presidency of the Legislative Assembly, for the simple act of marching against the privatization of water. We also reject the accusations from parties and media outlets at the service of the oligarchy, that we are terrorists, FMLN-linked groups that are launching a smoke screen in the face of government corruption. 

We want to clarify that the fight for water began in 2006 with the presentation of the General Water Law proposal by the Water Forum.  Since then we have promoted a dialogue a at the legislature for the law to be approved.  The dialogue was ended by the right wing parties and the ANEP in June 2017 with the presentation of the "Integral Water Law".

We make an urgent call to social organizations, churches, students and Salvadoran society in general to join in one voice to fight until a General Water Law that guarantees Public Management, community participation, sustainability and the human right to water for the Salvadoran population is approved

Members of the National Alliance against Privatization of Water:

Foro del Agua El Salvador, ASGOJU, AMEYALLI, ASAVIPAZ, ACTIVISTA, ANDES 21 de Junio, Asociación Juvenil Santaneca, ADES, ARPAS, ARUMES, ASPRODE, ACUA, ADESCOLCO, Asociación Juvenil pioner@s de El Salvador, BPJ, Centro de Desarrollo Comunal, CDC, CRIPDES, CONFRAS, CONPHAS, CESTA, Comunidades Unidas de Santiago Texacuangos, Caminata Ecológica, Coordinadora Estudiantil, Colectiva Shumul, ECOS El Salvador, Foro Nacional de Salud, FECORACEN, FSS, FSM, Federación LGBTI, FESPAD, FURD, IMU, KAWOQ, MESUTSO, MOVIAC, Mesa Territorial Ahuachapán Sur, MECH, MSM, MOMUJEST, MJDVERDA, Movimiento 5 Mas, MPR-12, Mesoamericanas en Resistencia, MPS, Mesa por la Soberanía Alimentaria, Movimiento Enlaces por la Sustentabilidad, Movimiento por la Defensa de Tacuzcalco, Movimiento de Profesionales de la Salud “ Dr. Salvador Allende”, Movimiento de artistas y creadores, ORMUSA, PROES, Patronato Lidia Coggiola, PROVIDA, Kolectivo San Jacinto, LAS MELIDAS, RACDES, RAA, Red de Genero de ALAMES, Red de ambientalistas de Santo Tomas, REDES, SITRANDA, SENAMA, Sínodo Luterano Salvadoreño, SETA, SITRAUES, SETUES, TUYULU, UNTS, UES, UCA, UJRM, UNES, SITADMES.

It is urgent to permanently close the dark chapter of metallic mining in El Salvador

PRESS RELEASE

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San Salvador, May 31st 2018. Last week the Environment and Climate Change Committee of the Legislative Assembly moved to archive all files and petitions related metallic mining in El Salvador, declaring that the "subject is closed" because “there is already a Law that permanently prohibits it”.

Organizations that for years have led the antimining struggle in El Salvador such ADES, CRIPDES, UNES, ARPAS and UCA welcome this action because before the new legislature was installed, we warned the country about the dangers of reverting of this Law and we demanded that the newly elected legislators maintain the prohibition of mining.

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