Arcatao Community Consultation

International Observer Delegation, Nov. 4 - 10, 2015

Community Consultation, Arcatao, Chalatenango, El Salvador

Sin título-2El Salvador has been at center stage in a decade-long struggle against gold mining since the early 2000’s when the rising price of gold drew mining companies to explore what is known as the “Gold Belt”, which runs through the middle of Central America. Widespread popular resistance to the projects has managed to exert enough pressure on the Salvadoran government get a moratorium on mining, but transnational mining companies are using international investment tribunals to question the legality of denying mining permits while still allowing companies to explore potential mining sites and submit proposals for mining projects.

The communities in resistance to mining projects in El Salvador are now seeking a new tool to strengthen their cause, using the national Municipal Code in a constitutionally-recognized process to legally say NO to mining in their territory.  For the first time ever, municipalities in El Salvador are holding Community Consultations, or municipal referendums in which the voting population asserts their preference on the issue. The first three Consultations took place in 2014 in San Jose Las Flores, San Isidro Labrador, and Nueva Trinidad in the northern department of Chalatenango, and now the fourth Consultation will take place in the municipality of Arcatao on November 8th.

The town council, which is organizing the consultation, and CRIPDES (Association for the Development of El Salvador) have emphasized the importance of international observers’ participation in these consultations in order to lend greater legitimacy and recognition of the process in anticipation of pushback from transnational companies. Electoral observation has been an important component of international solidarity work for decades, exercising in both a symbolic and concrete way the accompaniment of the international community with the pueblo of El Salvador, and calling broader attention to cases of injustice, fraud, or illegal maneuvers. 

This delegation aims to provide a condensed, immersive understanding of the mining struggle and broader social context by visiting a former mining site, the site currently at stake in the $301 million dollar lawsuit, and the organized communities in resistance to future mining projects.  The delegation will culminate with the observation of the Arcatao Community Consultation.

This delegation is being organized by CRIPDES in coordination with US El Salvador Sister Cities. The $500.00 fee for participation includes local transportation, food and accommodation.  Anyone interested in participating should contact Catie Johnston at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.





Wednesday, November 4th

6:00pm – Dinner and lodging at Hotel Los Pinos

Thursday, November 5th

7:00am – Depart for San Sebastian

11:30am – Lunch in Santa Rosa de Lima, La Union

12:30pm - Visit to the San Sebastian mine, a mine abandoned by US based Commerce Group that highlights the toxic legacy of mining in El Salvador.

6:30pm – Arrive and have dinner at ADES in Sensuntepeque, Cabañas 

Friday, November 6th

7:00am – Breakfast at ADES

7:45am – Meeting with leaders of ADES and Radio Victoria

10:00am – Visit La Maraña, meet with community leaders impacted by the El Dorado mining project and the Pacific Rim / Oceana Gold lawsuit

5:30pm – Arrive in Arcatao, Chalatenango, stay with host families

Saturday, November 7th

9-11am – Exchange with community leaders to learn about strategies and successes in other towns and countries.

3:00pm – Observer Training

Sunday, November 8th

7am-4pm – Observation of Community Consultations

4:00pm – Observers gather in the town hall to share observations

5:00pm – Announce preliminary results and make observer statement

6:00pm - Travel back to San Salvador

Monday, November 9th

8:30am – Press Conference in San Salvador

PM – Evaluation and down time at the beach

Tuesday, November 10th

AM – Fly back home

How Local, Grassroots Organizing Drove El Salvador’s Mining Ban

* Yevgeniya Yatsenko and Sebastian Rosemont : Foreign Policy in Focus

U.S. environmentalists take note: El Salvador's activists proved that a national consensus on environmentalism can be forged one town at a time.

Amid a natural gas boom, could U.S. activists ever dream of a national ban on fracking? If it seems impossible, they should look to the south for inspiration.

On March 29, the small Central American nation of El Salvador passed a total ban on metal mining. The historic vote on the law was unanimous, bridging strong partisan divides, and was the culmination of more than a decade of activism, coalition building, and direct political participation by the people of El Salvador.


Salvadorean Human Rights Attorney Congratulates Municipality that Rejected Mining Through Referendum

El Pais/EFE

San Salvador, Feb 28 (EFE) .- El Salvador's Human Rights Ombudswoman, Raquel Caballero, congratulated today the residents of the town of Cinquera (northwest Cabañas), who last sunday rejected the implementation of mining projects through a popular consultation.

"The prosecutor congratulates the people of the municipality of Cinquera for their active participation" in the popular consultation and "especially for deciding and promoting the defense of life and the environment," said a statement by the Office of the Attorney General for the Defense of Human Rights (PDDH).


Western University Professor Brings El Salvador Anti-Mining Struggle to Canadian Audience

By Tanya Sahni & Erica Wallis

On February 28th, Amanda Grzyb,  associate professor of Information and Media Studies at Canada’s Western University gave a talk as part of an ongoing public interest lecture series, bringing the anti-mining struggle of El Salvador to the Canadian north with an informative presentation.

amandaIn a local library, a crowd gathered to learn about the environmental crisis in El Salvador and Salvadoran efforts to protect precious water resources from transnational mining companies. Having just returned from overseeing an international delegation in El Salvador herself, Grzyb was able to show her audience video footage of Salvadoran community leaders speaking about their ongoing struggles. Bringing the words of community leaders directly to a Canadian audience proved a powerful experience for those watching, and a passionate discussion followed the presentation. The audience was composed of a diverse group of students, professors, and many members of the local community. Also present at the talk were several members of the international delegation that had observed a referendum on mining in the community of Cinquera the previous week, as well as the Director of SalvAide, Alfredo Marroquin.


Another Town in El Salvador Votes No to Mining

By Aruna Dutt : IPS News

Cabañas, El Salvador, Mar 1 2017 (IPS) - The citizens of Cinquera municipality in Cabañas delivered a resounding vote against mining, on Sunday February 26th, when 98 percent of residents voted in favour of becoming El Salvador’s fifth “territory free of mining.”

“Mining companies have a wide field with major extension in other countries, and often they need to use the comparative law of other countries to be able to apply their practices here in El Salvador. But the truth is that El Salvador is a country so small that industrial mining is not viable,”Attorney for the Defense of Human Rights, William Iraheta told IPS.

El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America, but also has the highest population density, with 300 people per square kilometer. It is also he fourth most vulnerable country to climate change according to GermanWatch, with 95% of the population living in a high-risk zone. READ MORE 

How communities in El Salvador are organizing to block mining projects

Sandra Cuffe : Waging NonViolence and organizations in northern El Salvador continue to organize referendums in an effort to keep their territories free of mining. Established by the country’s Municipal Code as a mechanism for community participation, the consulta popular is an official municipal-level referendum on an issue of local concern that can be invoked by petition if residents are able to gather signatures from 40 percent of registered voters. On the books for years, the mechanism had never been used, but it now plays an important strategic role in the country’s movement against metallic mining. The most recent referendum took place on February 26, when more than half of all registered voters in the municipality of Cinquera flocked to polling stations in four communities. The final tally was along the lines of the four previous referendums on the issue: 98.1 percent of participating registered voters in Cinquera cast a ballot opposing metallic mining exploration and exploitation. The local government will now draw up an official municipal ordinance prohibiting mining in its jurisdiction. READ MORE

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