Received from the Superior General … As you may know, El Salvador is facing a major lawsuit under the foreign investor provisions of the U.S.-Dominican Republic/Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA). Pacific Rim Mining, a Canadian company that transferred a subsidiary to Nevada to take advantage of DR-CAFTA (since Canada is not a signatory), is suing El Salvador for at least $77 million for the government’s decision not to approve their application for gold extraction. (See related story inSeptember-October 2010 NewsNotes.)

Furthermore, there have been kidnappings and death threats against journalists, community organizers and religious leaders in the communities surrounding Pacific Rim’s mines in the northern region of Cabañas, including the murder of three environmental defenders in 2009 (Miguel Rivera, Dora Sorto and Ramiro Rivera, presente!)

We believe that the United States, as the chief architect of DR-CAFTA, has a moral and political obligation to take concrete action to support El Salvador’s position in the face of this lawsuit.

This case is a huge test-balloon – if Pacific Rim wins, it’s just the beginning for these attacks throughout Central America. This type of lawsuit could be a major problem if and when governments stand up to the mining companies or other extractive industries that pose a huge risk to the environment and human rights.

[On a surprisingly positive note, on March 14, the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) ruled that a lawsuit brought by Milwaukee-based Commerce Group Corporation (CGC) against El Salvador is NOT within the jurisdiction of DR-CAFTA. CGC had hoped to win $100 million from El Salvador for cancelling its existing exploitation permit on the grounds of environmental devastation to the San Sebastian River (see photos of the river here). Read the ICSID decision here; the ruling is on page 46.]

Reps. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Michael Michaud (D-ME) and Donald Payne (D-NJ) have written a letter (see here) calling on President Obama to take several actions during his March 22-23 visit to El Salvador to support El Salvador in the Pacific Rim lawsuit and take measures to avoid such lawsuits in the future.

Take action today: Please call you representative (202-224-3121) and ask him/her to sign on to the letter from Congress to the president. The deadline to sign the letter is Thursday, March 17.

Possible script:

Hello, my name is ________ and I am a constituent of Representative __________, living in _______________. I am calling to ask that he/she sign on to a Dear Colleague letter to President Obama that is being circulated by Representative Tammy Baldwin’s office. The letter urges the president to support the government of El Salvador in the case brought against it by Pac Rim Cayman; to publically condemn the human rights violations linked to community disputes around the mining activities and to support the efforts to fully investigate the violence against journalists, community organizers and religious leaders that continue today in Cabañas, El Salvador; and to commit to replacing private dispute resolution mechanisms in the pending free trade agreements with Korea, Panama and Colombia, as well as in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is currently under negotiation, with a more democratic mechanism. One blueprint for fair investment rules worth exploring is proposed in the TRADE Act (HR 3012 in the 111th Congress).

Please contact Amber Shipley in Rep. Baldwin’s office by Thursday, March 17, to sign on to the letter ( or 5-2906).

Thank you.

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