Posted by: r.m. | March 14, 2014

choosing environment and democracy over short-term profit and threats

Governments standing up to trade agreements that violate their national sovereignty? Refusing to bow down to international pressure? Governments refusing short-term economic gain to protect their natural resources and their waters? Yes. They exist. They are few – but they exist. The question becomes how can we learn from these countries, support them, and emulate them.


El Salvador stopped issuing gold mining permits half a decade ago. “The Salvadoran government did so despite sky-high gold prices and the argument that exporting gold was one of the country’s few chances to boost aggregate economic growth (in the short-term, at least). They did so largely because the majority of Salvadorans get water from one large river system, and gold mining invariably pollutes nearby rivers and watersheds. Hence, this decision to say no to gold mining has widespread support in El Salvador, even in the local communities that might have gotten some mining jobs.

“The government of Costa Rica has said no to open-pit mining. (While open-pit mining is only one method of mining, it is among the most environmentally destructive.) … As in El Salvador, this “no new mining” policy reflected the majority wishes of constituents both in affected communities and on a broader national level. In El Salvador, more than 60 percent of the population has indicated opposition to mining; a 2010 poll showed more than 85 percent of Costa Ricans were against Infinito’s proposed mine.”

Note that when these governments, as representatives of their people, seek to protect their environment, they are threatened with legal action and fines!

“Global mining companies are trying to ensure that no government is allowed to say no. These corporations are making their cases based on a controversial Central America “free trade” agreement with the United States, and on El Salvador’s former investment law (written with the help of the World Bank), which opened the door for mining firms to sue governments for policies that impeded future profits. Canadian-Australian gold mining corporation Pacific Rim/OceanaGold claims its so-called “investor rights” are being trampled by the ban, and that El Salvador must give it a license to mine (or compensate it for what it claims is $301 million in expenditures and in profits foregone). But the Salvadoran government is serious that no means no—and it has already spent $5 million (an amount likely to more than double or triple) to defend itself against this suit at the World Bank’s International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). So too the Costa Rican government, which is finding itself having to defend its right to say no. In February 2014, Infinito announced that, rather than accept the Supreme Court rejection of its appeal, it was also initiating an investor-state case against the Costa Rican government at the World Bank’s ICSID. Infinito is suing Costa Rica for the $94 million it claims to have invested so far.”

Meanwhile, in Guatemala, anti-mining resistance is celebrating two years of their struggle

Do read that inspiring article in full. Here’s an excerpt:

La Puya started, as many great movements do, with a single act of civil disobedience.  A woman, concerned by the sudden arrival of a gold mining operation in her community, decided to park her car sidewise across a dusty, rural road in order to stop a convoy of massive mining machinery in its tracks. Others quickly joined her, taking a stand in defense of their water supply, farmland, health, and environment.  This impromptu roadside gathering of community members became, essentially, a human roadblock, preventing tractors, dump trucks and other equipment from entering the Tambor mine site. Over time, the roadblock grew into the resistance movement known as “La Puya.”  La Puya – against all odds – celebrated its second anniversary on March 2.

Yuri Melini, director of the environmental group CALAS, reminded the families of La Puya that they have “the right to be informed and consulted” about any mining project that affects them. He finished by sending a clear message to the government and the transnational corporations: “when the communities say ‘no’ to mining, ‘NO’ means ‘NO’!”

The power of this message became clear when P&F Contractors, a Guatemalan company that rents out dump trucks, excavators, and other heavy machinery, decided to withdraw their equipment from the Tambor mine site, stating that Exmingua (and parent company Kappes, Cassiday & Associates) hadn’t paid them since October 2013. In a letter to La Puya, owner José Ricardo Pinetta Chacón, stated that P&F “has no intention or interest in continuing to offer our services” to the mining company and that P&F “respects the point of view of the communities affected by the mining in the area.” On February 26 and 27, just days before the second anniversary celebration, the company arrived to withdraw the machinery. The entire operation was carried out without incident, and the atmosphere in La Puya became more festive as the hours passed and the long parade of massive mining equipment was permanently removed from the mine. Nothing remains on the mining company land – another victory for the families at La Puya.

While there is much to celebrate, the struggle at the Puya isn’t over. Addressing the communities from the stage during the anniversary event, Daniel Pascual, of the Committee for Campesino Unity (CUC), congratulated them on “the victory of this peaceful resistance,” but warned them to stay vigilant because “greater repression awaits us all.”  Indeed, as a new tactic, the leadership of la Puya has been accused of “illegal detention, threats, and coercion.” Just days after the anniversary celebration, a judge decided not to drop these trumped-up charges against three members of La Puya. Instead, he set a trial date for March 18. Another ten leaders, including Yolanda Oquelí, have been dragged into the process and have their hearing on April 2.  Meanwhile, the U.S. parent company, Kappes, Cassiday & Associates, has shown no sign of withdrawing. The men, women and children of the resistance aren’t giving up, though. They’re at La Puya now. And they’ll be there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week—and have vowed to maintain their peaceful struggle as long as it takes.”



  1. The title by itself “choosing environment and democracy over short-term profit and threats” integrates 3 important factors: Environmental, Social, and Economical factor. I see that this article is really vital and I agree totally with it. Many countries forget one important factor which is the Environment! All governments urge to make money in any way possible, even if it threatens their social or environmental lives … In my opinion Lebanon is one of these countries that isn’t giving the environment a priority. I believe that making profits can be achieved by more “Eco-friendly” ways, taking into consideration the environmental consequences. I would like to end with the fact that mentioned above that when governments try to protect their environment,they are threatened with legal actions and fines. This idea in particular makes me drive a wall! I just totally dislike the fact that people respecting their environment and trying to avoid future dramatic problems, are prevented legally from doing that (of course not in all countries) !!!

  2. Nicolas Abdallah (BIO207)

    This post reminds us of our snobbish nature, that we care about our esthetic accessories more than the suffering of other human beings! We don’t pay attention when buying a “Zoughaib” 24 carat gold necklace to how many peasant lost their lands for us to get this fancy piece. It goes even further than that when people are loosing their access to water as it’s being contaminated by cyanide, a very potent poison used in the extraction of gold.

    What Costa Rica and Guatemala did to protect their lands from being gnawed by gold investing companies benefits is quite impressive, especially that these governments are poor! But they still have the nerves to bravely resist all kinds of financial pressures implied on them because of the “no” wave they initiated, which hopefully will spread further and reach our beloved region soon. Perhaps then our mentality will shift from dying because of hot virgin mermaids awaiting us (not “us”, but retards that unfortunately share with “us” the arab identity) towards sparing our lives for something more important. How nice will it be if we learn from people who died in the defence of a real cause like the examples given in the articles! How depressive on the other hand that is! To see a corporate reaching this stage of cruality against a resistant to its strategy is an indication to how evil and malign this investor is.

    I would usually worry about causing many mine-workers to be workless if the mine-banning movement succeeds. But after knowing that global corporate pays only half a dollar for workers per hour, I think that it’s by closing the mines that we can not only preserve our resources and protect our environment, but also release workers from their slavery, leaving them free to work anywhere else where they will earn more and be able to feed their families.
    Closing the mines entirely is an extreme unrealistic solution, the best applicable one as I see is to regulate the mining activity, to make it limitted to places far from vital sources for local residents. It also would help if the investing companies become submissive to the laws of the hosting nation, not the contrary. This condition will still a dream until capitalism starts to fade.

    A last thing I like to comment on is the simple act of a woman in Guatemala, and how it lead to a massive resistance movement. This teaches us that small actions are really the first steps for bigger, more important, and more effective ones. People ARE aware of what’s threatening their well-being, or else we wouldn’t see many of them from different occupations participating in the second anniversary of “La Puya”. The only thing that holds us from rebelling against the over exhaustion of our mother earth’s resources is our fear, a lot will change if we can get over that!

  3. This is interesting on so many levels; I mean how can it not be? It is a peaceful act where the people are saying “no” to what opposes their rights.
    Industrial companies are obviously taking over the whole world (if not already taken over) and their main aim is to make money; lots and lots of money. As Machiavelli said, “The ends justify the means.” This greatly correlates with the fact that these companies don’t really care how they get their money as long as it keeps on coming; whether it is on the expense on nature or people. These movements mentioned in the article are truly inspirational for they are showing us that people can actually say no what is against their will and rights. These people (aided by their governments whom I greatly respect) stood up in the face of huge companies since they are polluting their water just to get their gold.
    This forms of violations from big industrial companies can be seen in Lebanon every single day and despite the many voices that are being raised against these companies, no real support is provided from our government. I hope that this article makes its way somehow to the desks of our politicians to motivate them, perhaps? Who knows, maybe one day we’ll be able to stand in the face of these companies and tell them, “no more cutting trees, no more throwing wastes in our sea, and no more destroying our lands!”

  4. I wish there were courageous people in Lebanon like those in El Salvador and Guatemala. I wish the lebanese government could start thinking a little bit more about the environment and less about money. We surely have some lebanese people who care about the plants and animals. However, they are few in number and alone they can’t say ”no” to the huge companies or make anything to stop them. They need the government support, and as long as the lebanese government keeps on protecting these companies, we will keep on watching them destroy the beautiful lebanese flora and fauna. The article above is not only inspiratory, it’s extraordinary. I’m amazed that there are some brave people and governments that really care about nature. All the other countries should do the same. I hope to read a similar article as soon as possible, but this time talking about a brave act done by the lebanese people and government.

  5. “And let us hope that these citizens and these governments are not outliers , but will prove to be trailblazers of positive paths to the future..” Let us ! I mean only when governments and nations like El Salvador and Costa Rica take over that will know true prosperity and development.. Only when governments who are willing to go beyond limits, beyond their own benefits rule that we will know real independence and nationality. Our world today is in most need for governments like those. We see how governments today manipulate their people as long as rulers’ pockets are full. They are willing to destroy public places, ravage forests and take advantage of mining at the expense of nature and their own country.. And we wonder why Lebanon is the way it is..funny, isn’t it?

  6. It is good to see that governments all over the world are gradually becoming aware of the importance of nature. It is great to see some governments actually standing up for the rights of their people to live in a clean sustainable environment. On the other hand, I cannot help but reflect on our situation in Lebanon. A country where every single attack on nature and its richness and beauty is permissible if you have the right connections. Governments in countries with economies like ours and even worse have taken firm actions to protect their environments. We on the other hand just sit and watch while some millionaires destroy our environment to become billionaires. All of this happens under the watchful eye of the government and with its permit. This is truly enraging and sad at the same time.

  7. I’m used to the news about corruption, deforestation, and violent attacks toward animals. This article surprised me, it has been a long time since I read good news about the environment. Because nowadays, all we hear is that climate is changing and we are destroying our planet. Why? Because people are lazy, and the only thing they do is nag. They talk to much, but act too little. People from Guatemala and El Salvador are an amazing example to be followed all over the world. They stood up to protect what’s theirs by nature, and fortunately, their government supported them. A really small percentage of the people all over the world really cares about the environment, but if we join forces and spread awareness everywhere, we will be able to make a difference. Maybe not in the world, but at least in our community.

  8. These stories should be a source of inspiration to us, as Lebanese people. We should be reminded that we are Lebanon; therefore we have the choice and the ultimate right to protect our environment. Peaceful resistance is a challenge, however, it can be very effective in our times. The resistance’s voice can reach the whole planet in matter of hours and days. By the ability to spread the word worldwide, we can raise awareness to other population, and maybe someday we can wake up; I just hope it will not be too late.

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