Tuesday, March 31, 2015


In 2009, three of my closest friends were murdered. The four of us—and other members of the National Roundtable on Mining—were fighting to stop international conglomerate OceanaGold from building a gold mine near our home in El Salvador that would absolutely devastate our community. Because of our activist work, my three friends were murdered. To this day, I don't know why I got to survive and they didn't, but I do know I'll never stop fighting to win our cause.
We secured a major victory when our democratically elected government did not grant the permit to build this giant mine. Our government was right to make this decision, because the corporation didn't come close to meeting the environmental or social safeguards our laws require.
But now, OceanaGold is suing my country in an obscure court of the World Bank. They say that the nation of El Salvador owes them $300 million because we wouldn't let them build a mine that would contaminate our limited clean water and devastate our lands.
El Salvador is in the midst of a serious water crisis — in fact, more than 90% of the surface water in my country is contaminated. One river in eastern El Salvador contains nine times the amount of cyanide that is safe for human consumption because of a gold mine just like the one OceanaGold wants to build in my community. My family shouldn't lose access to clean water just because an Australian company wants to make money!
My wife Zenayda and I—and many others—have kept fighting to stop this mine, and we have endured countless death threats, armed robberies of important case files, even unknown assailants breaking into our home and and drugged us while they stole the evidence that linked the mine with local elected officials.
But through all this, we refused to give up. We cannot let our friends’ deaths be in vain.
Now, three people on a World Bank panel in Washington, DC will decide whether my country will be forced to give $301 million in badly needed tax dollars to a corporation that has terrorized my family and my community for years. I know that with your help, we can convince this panel to do the right thing.
Thank you for standing with my country, my family, and the memory of my friends. I have been shouting about this issue for so long, it is good to have your voice added with mine.
Héctor Antonio Garcia Berrios
Cabañas, El Salvador