Home Politics El Salvador Ruling Offers a Reminder of Why the TPP Must Be Defeated

El Salvador Ruling Offers a Reminder of Why the TPP Must Be Defeated

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If you needed one more reason to take sides in the last great fight of the Obama years, that of the corporate giveaway package known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), here it is. 1

Last week, the tribunal at the center of the proposed TPP ruled against a global mining firm that sued El Salvador, but only after seven years of deliberations and over $12 million spent by the government of El Salvador. Equally outrageous, legal shenanigans by the Australian-Canadian firm OceanaGold around corporate ownership will likely prevent El Salvador from ever recouping a cent.2

The ruling simply reinforces what Salvadorans have said all along. This mining giant, whose Pac Rim Cayman subsidiary sued El Salvador after it didn’t get a mining license, did not deserve to get a license because it never fulfilled all the legal requirements for one. The tribunal should have thrown out the case from the start.3

And the Pac Rim subsidiary that filed the suit was a Cayman shell company. OceanaGold, which purchased Pac Rim in 2013 and financed the lawsuit, will never have to pay for the environmental and social damage its mining “exploration” left behind. Hence, in the end, El Salvador simply won the right to implement its own laws. In other words, like the rest of these tribunal cases in the World Bank Group’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), there is no such thing as a “win” for the country getting sued.4

The good news is what we’ve found on the ground in El Salvador, most recently in July, where communities and the government have put the right to water before corporate profits. As The Nation has reported, a decade ago communities in gold-rich northern El Salvador learned of the environmental horrors that would accompany gold mining and especially the danger of mining with toxic chemicals—notably cyanide—near fragile watersheds. OceanaGold’s proposed mine was near the Lempa River, which supplies drinking water to over half of El Salvador’s population of 6 million. At least four “pro-water” activists—one of them pregnant—were assassinated as mining opposition grew.5

Community leaders in the north helped build a national coalition against mining (La Mesa), and convinced the Catholic Church and ultimately the government to say “no” to mining. You’d be hard pressed to find a better example of a government following the will of its people. Close to two-thirds of Salvadorans polled in 2007 opposed mining, a figure that rose to 77 percent in a 2015 poll by the University of Central America.6

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