October 25, 2016

EL SALVADOR: After Mining Giant, El Salvador Activists Want to Smash TPP Pushed By Obama, Hillary. El Salvador Ruling Offers a Reminder of Why the TPP Must Be Defeated.

TeleSurTV News, Venezuela
written by Staff
Friday October 14, 2016

For grassroots organizations, the fight to protect water and local communities continues, now on a larger scale.

After El Salvador won a decade-long legal battle against mining company OceanaGold on Friday, social organizations and communities pledged to continue fighting to protect the nation’s natural resources.

Friday's success story involved a US$301 million lawsuit and a court battle that first began in 2007, when El Salvador sought to defend its sovereignty by denying OceanaGold, then Pacific Rim, a new permit to extract the nation's gold reserves.

In an exclusive interview with teleSUR, Chico Montes, director of Association of Social Economic Development (ADES), a human rights organization, said the victory gives the Salvadoran grassroots a lot of strength in continuing its fight against exploitative industries.

Along with other rural organizations, they created the National Roundtable against Metallic Mining, which was crucial in achieving the positive ruling in favor of the Central American country.

According to Montes, the ruling is “a reflection of the struggle of the peasant and popular organizations."

“The communities have suffered for opposing these projects. Without their efforts, none of this would be possible.”

The battle now, according to Montes, will be against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and free-trade agreements with Europe and any other region.

Before the lawsuit, the government of El Salvador raised concerns over the failure of the company’s El Dorado gold mine to submit an Environmental Impact Assessment. OceaneGold then sued the small Central American country in the World Bank's International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes, which allows corporations to sue states through free trade agreements if future profits are perceived to be infringed upon.

“Such projects put states and governments like ours against the wall, giving priority to the interests of international companies,” said Montes.

After years of legal wrangling, the World Bank court awarded El Salvador's government US$8 million to cover its legal fees and costs. For Pedro Cabezas, also a member of the roundtable and the Association for the Development of El Salvador, CRIPDES, the struggle now continues in the courts.

“We believe it is a claim that should have never proceeded, the only reason it did is because it was done under investment treaties,” Cabezas told teleSUR.

“These demands are against the rights of the people because companies may sue states, but states and people affected can’t sue the companies,” said Cabezas.

According to Cabezas, they have been fighting for over seven years to achieve justice for those communities and organizations affected by the pollution and corporate greed of OceanaGold.

“It is our right to determine our own development, companies cannot come and extort our governments,” said Cabezas.

El Salvador, the most water-stressed country in Central America, has witnessed a long uphill struggle as social movements and progressive politicians face powerful corporate interests over whether water resources are a public or private good.
International Business Times
State Department Blocks Release Of Hillary Clinton-Era TPP Emails Until After The Election
written by David Sirota
June 6, 2016

Update, 4:35pm ET, June 6: Following IBT's story, Donald Trump's campaign demanded that the State Department release Clinton's TPP-related emails. The Trump campaign referred to Clinton as "the outsourcing candidate" and said she was intent on "ramming TPP down the throats of the American people." Read IBT's story about Trump's statement here.

Original story: Trade is a hot issue in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. But correspondence from Hillary Clinton and her top State Department aides about a controversial 12-nation trade deal will not be available for public review — at least not until after the election. The Obama administration abruptly blocked the release of Clinton’s State Department correspondence about the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), after first saying it expected to produce the emails this spring.

The decision came in response to International Business Times' open records request for correspondence between Clinton’s State Department office and the United States Trade Representative. The request, which was submitted in July 2015, specifically asked for all such correspondence that made reference to the TPP.

The State Department originally said it estimated the request would be completed by April 2016. Last week the agency said it had completed the search process for the correspondence but also said it was delaying the completion of the request until late November 2016 — weeks after the presidential election. The delay was issued in the same week the Obama administration filed a court motion to try to kill a lawsuit aimed at forcing the federal government to more quickly comply with open records requests for Clinton-era State Department documents.

Clinton’s shifting positions on the TPP have been a source of controversy during the campaign: She repeatedly promoted the deal as secretary of state but then in 2015 said, "I did not work on TPP," even though some leaked State Department cables show that her agency was involved in diplomatic discussions about the pact. Under pressure from her Democratic primary opponent, Bernie Sanders, Clinton announced in October that she now opposes the deal — and has disputed that she ever fully backed it in the first place.

While some TPP-related emails have been released by the State Department as part of other open records requests, IBT’s request was designed to provide a comprehensive view of how involved Clinton and her top aides were in shaping the trade agreement, and whether her agency had a hand in crafting any particular provisions in the pact. Unions, environmental organizations and consumer groups say the agreement will help corporations undermine domestic labor, conservation and other public interest laws.

If IBT's open records request is fulfilled on the last day of November, as the State Department now estimates, it will have taken 489 days for the request to be fulfilled. According to Justice Department statistics, the average wait time for a State Department request is 111 days on a simple request — the longest of any federal agency the department's report analyzed. Requests classified as complex by the State Department can take years.

Earlier this year, the State Department’s inspector general issued a report slamming the agency’s handling of open records requests for documents from the Office of the Secretary. Searches of emails “do not consistently meet statutory and regulatory requirements for completeness and rarely meet requirements for timeliness,” the inspector general concluded.
The Nation
written by Robin Broad and John Cavanagh
Wednesday October 19, 2016

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

This large citizen mobilization against mining, supported by international allies, has convinced three successive Salvadoran presidents not to issue mining permits. This, despite hundreds of thousands of dollars spent by an OceanaGold “social responsibility” foundation providing handouts (folklore and sewing classes, Christmas dinners, and the like) to win hearts and minds in favor of the mine.

As we discovered in San Salvador in July, OceanaGold’s representatives are pushing hard for the government to let it in, arguing that the financially strapped government has no other easy way to meet urgent government expenses. Undoubtedly some are tempted, but President Salvador Sánchez Cerén met with La Mesa representatives in late August to assure them that, whatever the ICSID verdict, his administration would stand behind its environmentally based mining policy and not issue new mining licenses.

Also good news: El Salvador is not alone in this important policy stance. The Costa Rican government has stopped all new open-pit mining. Panama has ceased mining in the major indigenous area in the south. Colombia has stopped mining in its Andean uplands. And Argentina has halted mining that could damage glaciers, a key source of water.

But, as in El Salvador, global mining companies have launched lawsuits against Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia over what should be seen as laudable actions.

As groups in the United States, Canada, Australia, and the Philippines (where OceanaGold has a controversial big mine) stepped up opposition to the lawsuit against El Salvador after 2009, people around the globe were shocked to learn that environmental and social issues around mining have no standing in the World Bank Group’s tribunal. In these cases, a panel of just three highly paid arbitrators, picked from a pool that is laden with corporate lawyers, have the power to make these decisions without any effective appeal option.

If this feels far from the US reality, consider this: Earlier this year, the TransCanada Corp. behind Canada’s Keystone pipeline used NAFTA’s rules to sue the United States for $15 billion for its ruling to stop extension of its pipeline in the United States. Yes, for stopping the pipeline. It was the right decision on Obama’s part, but one that likely ends with a TransCanada win at ICSID, given that Obama announced his decision was being made on larger “climate change” grounds (an ICSID no-no).

ICSID was created 50 years ago, and these biased investment rules have been part of trade agreements since NAFTA. They are also at the center of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, now being pushed in the US Congress against a broad progressive coalition. Since September, Bernie Sanders’s Our Revolution, the Citizen’s Trade Campaign, and a wide range of other groups have generated tens of thousands of phone calls to Congress opposing the TPP. Senator Elizabeth Warren, Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz, hundreds of academics, and many others have likewise raised their voices in opposition.

A TPP defeat would give momentum for more countries to follow Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia in leaving ICSID; and for countries to follow Indonesia, India, and South Africa in taking steps to protect themselves from biased investment rules.

But no one should be complacent about defeating the TPP. Despite Hillary Clinton’s professed opposition to the agreement, she is not picking up the phone to convince members of Congress to vote no. On the other hand, Barack Obama—contradicting his pipeline stance—is waging a full-court press on Democrats to vote for this unpopular deal after the November elections. With the US Chamber of Commerce joining Obama, it will take every effort of the labor, environmental, family farm, religious, and other forces to defeat the TPP.

El Salvador just gave us one more reason to defeat the TPP, and we should do so in part to honor the brave Salvadorans who have chosen water over gold.

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