*Translated and edited from the original in Spanish published March 30th here: 3er municipio declarado libre de mineria.
by Alfredo Carias
Nueva Trinidad in Chalatenango, located approximately 105 Km north of San Salvador, was declared by its population a municipality where mining is prohibited, becoming the third territory free of mining.
This declaration was made after the completion of a referendum on Sunday March 29th, where 61.85% of the population turned out to cast ballots, according to the electoral roll.
Official results from the seven polling stations in the communities of Carasque, Huizucar, Los Pozos, El Bajio, Manaquil, Zacamil, and the town centre gave a total of 809 voters, of which 803 voted no to mining, while four voted yes with two invalid votes recorded.
99.25% of voters opted against mining exploration and extraction in their town thus declaring Nueva Trinidad the third municipality free of metallic mining in El Salvador, assured Marcos Gálvez, representative of the National Roundtable Against Mining.
This popular decision will result in the adoption of a municipal bylaw prohibiting mining in the territory by Nueva Trinidad’s Municipal Council, which is envisioned in the coming months, Mayor Matias Ábrego confirmed.
During the popular consultation, Nueva Trinidad’s Municipal Council along with community and civil society organizations organized a press conference, which was interrupted by the unexpected appearance of certain central government authorities among which were representatives from the Presidency’s Secretariat of Citizen Participation, the Ministry of the Interior and Territorial Planning, and the Chalatenango Governor’s Office.
This sudden surprise changed the press conference protocol when the journalists present then asked for feedback from the Salvadoran government on the consultation, which the officials provided.
"I was speaking yesterday with the President of the Republic. He commented on the consultation as an example of citizen participation. These are concrete actions from civil society with the government’s blessing to deepen democracy by way of recognizing that the people set the mandate. Here what will be done is what the people decide," declared Marcos Rodríguez, the Presidency’s Secretary of Citizen Participation.
The referendum was also witnessed by a delegation of 24 international observers from Canada, the United States, Honduras, Guatemala, England, and Nicaragua, a delegation of 9 representatives of the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsperson (PDDH), and national observers representing the municipality of San José Las Flores in Chalatenango and Sensuntepeque in Cabañas. In total there were approximately 50 national and international observers.
"The PDDH is a part of this consultation process and congratulates those involved in issues that can affect them. Mining as we know is one of the industries with the greatest impact globally, but it is a serious problem for El Salvador given that it has no law that prohibits it,” pointed out Yanira Cortez, Ombudsperson for Environmental Rights in the PDDH.