Lots of U.S. activists I know are targeted by ridiculous federal legislation like the Animal Enterprise Terror Act, are watched and infiltrated by Joint Terror Task Forces or watched by corporate private security keeping “tabs” on anti-corporate campaigns. And while this targeting can have serious repercussions, it’s rare in recent U.S. history that you see activists targeted for assassination by anti-activist forces (although I do fear escalating violence in Appalachia around mountaintop removal.) In the past few months, anti-mining activists in El Salvador and Chiapas have been threatened, attacked and assassinated by reactionary groups in their communities.
Dora Alicia Recinos Sorto, a Salvadoran anti-mining activist, was the third victim of such violence the Cabañas Region of El Salvador where communities are campaigning against Canadian mining company Pacific Rim. She was eight months pregnant and the shooting also wounded her two year old son.
Dora’ murder comes six days after the fatal shooting of Ramiro Rivera Gomez, Vice President of the Cabañas Environmental Committee, who had survived being shot eight times in August this year. In June, another environmental campaigner, Gustavo Marcelo Rivera Moreno, had been tortured and killed. Many other members of the community have received death threats, including youth workers and journalists for the local community radio station Radio Victoria, and the local priest Father Luis Quintanilla narrowly escaped an attempted kidnapping.
In Chiapas, Mariano Abarca led a campaign to kick Canadian mining companies out of Mexico until he was gunned down in front of his home in Chicomuselo, Chiapas in November 2009.
In the U.S. and Canada, our ability to campaign and do direct action is a privilege which we take for granted. We often worry about an arrest going on our permanent record, or paying too big a fine, or spending more than a night in jail. But in Latin America, communities standing up to injustice and environmental destruction are literally risking their lives to protect their communities, the planet and the people living on it.
Most of the companies that communities in the global South are campaigning against are based in the global North, don’t you think it’s time we pushed the envelope with our privilege?