The time around Christmas and New Year is as good a time as any to kill an opponent. Most folk are off with family or on holiday and are less likely than normal to be around to comment or protest. Thus this is a good time to kill, assassinate as some call it, an opponent of mining. The latest to be killed is an oponent of Pacific Rim Mining. The story is told in this report:
For the second time in a week, a prominent anti-mining activist has been assassinated in El Salvador. On Saturday, thirty-two-year-old Dora “Alicia” Recinos Sorto was shot dead near her home. One of her children was also injured in the shooting. Sorto was an active member of the Cabañas Environment Committee, which has campaigned against the reopening of a gold mine owned by the Vancouver-based Pacific Rim Mining Company.
This was a particularly nasty killing: Sorto was eight month pregnant at the time of the killing and was carrying her son in her arms as she was shot. The image resounds.
I can find no statement by Pacific Rim Mining. Their site was last “updated” well before the holidays. But one wonders if they need to comment at all. What is there to say? That they had no part in it? That they deplore the killing? Well maybe they should say that! That the killing was the result of local politics? I am inclined to believe that when I read reports from earlier this year about stolen elections in the local town.
This killing, coming as it does on the heels of other killings in Latin America of opponents of Canadian mining ventures, must make us pause. I do not want to believe that mining companies just one street over from my office cold-bloodedly called for the killing.
My racial instincts tell me that the good white woman, Catherine McLoud-Selzer whose picture appears besides this paragraph, and who runs Pacific Rim Mining would not do such thing. Why, her fellow male directors look just like the guys I pass every day on the street and sit besides in local restaurants.
My racial instincts tell me this must be the work of those nasty latin fellows with big black whiskers who excel at killing one another south of the border. I mean, how can you suspect a nice fellow like the President and CEO of Pacific Rime, Tom Shrake of anything other than a devotion to mining? Here are his details.
“As President and CEO of Pacific Rim, Tom Shrake oversees Pacific Rim’s technical programs and project acquisitions, and implements the Company’s objectives and strategies. Tom is a veteran explorationist and mine-finder, holding senior positions in the past with Gibraltar Mines and Placer Dome amongst others. Tom has numerous ore deposit discoveries to his credit, including the Lomas Bayas and Fortuna de Cobre deposits in Chile. Tom has his finger on the pulse of the mining industry and his market savvy is a strong balance to his technical expertise.”
Afterall in September 2009, we read the following about an earlier murder associated with the same mine: “In the Pacific Rim statement, company President Tom Shrake expressed “outrage” at Rivera’s murder. But the statement was issued only after the Business and Human Rights Resource Center requested comment from the company, and its August 20 release date was nearly three weeks after Rivera’s highly publicized funeral snaked through the streets of San Isidro. There is no place in the mining debate for threats upon people’s lives and safety,” Shrake explained in the statement. While the Shrake statement does not openly acknowledge the broad violence targeted at mining opposition, the CEO take pains to distance his company from some of the more sundry characters who have emerged as a result of the violent attacks. For example, Shrake specifically notes that his company has no connection to Oscar Menjívar, who is currently in jail awaiting arraignment for the shooting of prominent anti-mining protest leader, Ramiro Rivera. (No relation to Marcelo.)
Sad, but true, the mine has engendered the worst of human nature: accusations of environmental impact, connections in high places, permit irregularities, NAFTA litigation, and now three assassinations. Let us face it: some countries are just not nice places; civil society is not civil; the police are corrupt; people in high places put their enrichment before human rights; if you fall foul of the powerful, you could get gunned down.
When Canadian mining companies enter such places, they do so knowingly. They know the politics are nasty and corrupt; they know the death of an opponent is but a trigger-pull away; they know they could be forced out on a whim by somebody they fail to bribe. That is why they need the support of all Canada in providing finance and diplomatic support—all those things Bill C-300 threatens to remove. Taking on mining around the world, particularly in nasty places, has its risks and rewards. This latest killing is but another of the risks. For mining and the money and the potential profit that goes with it, will inevitably bring out the bad (and often the good). In nasty places, like so many of those corrupt Latin countries, the bad elicited by mining will only exacerbate the inherent tendency to murder that is at the heart of darkness.
Of course we can ask ,and sometimes even expect, that Canadian mining companies rise about the evil and seek to bring a ray of justice and decency to the heart of darkness. In the old days, in Africa, I was taught that was the white-man’s burden. Silly and imperial as those ideas now seem, maybe there is still an echo of the demands of decency to make me think that Canadian mining companies should do better, even in nasty places like El Salvador et al.
The least that Canada and Pacific Rim Mining should do is issue a sound condemnation of this latest killing that bismirches Canadian mining, regardless of who ordered or who undertook the killing. Or who benefits by the Christmas killings.