Monday, August 25, 2008

Wall Street Journal editorializes on Pacific Rim situation

I've been asked to comment on an editorial which appeared today in the Wall Street Journal titled The Politics of Latin American Poverty written by Mary Anastasia O'Grady. She writes:

Americans may wonder why taxpayer funds should be poured into a bucket as leaky as Latin America if the goal is curing underdevelopment. The region needs secure contract and property rights. If local leaders won't defend those rights, programs like Mr. Obama's $2 billion "global education fund" won't amount to a hill of frijoles.

A lesson in this reality is now playing out in El Salvador, where a $77 million investment by Pacific Rim Mining Corp., in one of the poorest parts of the country, has been stalled by the government of President Tony Saca.

This is the second editorial by-lined by O'Grady in recent months to focus on the issue. The first editorial, which appeared in June, also criticized El Salvador for its treatment of Pacific Rim.

In neither of the articles is there any hint of independent assessment of the facts. The only source of information in the editorials is Pacific Rim itself and the company's polling company. (Contrary to the assertion in the editorial, public opinion in El Salvador does not support the gold mines, as an independent poll by the University of Central America illustrated).

I have dealt with Pacific Rim's complaints about the permitting process and the many related issues in 23 posts on the topic so far. I have tried to provide a fair amount of space to Pacific Rim's arguments as well as the arguments of its opponents. You'll find much more information here than in the Wall Street Journal's parroting of the Pacific Rim lobbyists.

4 comments:

El-Visitador said...

«In neither of the articles is there any hint of independent assessment of the facts»

Tim, for goodness sake, Mary Anastasia O'Grady is a well known and respected journalist who travelled to desperately poor El Dorado, Cabañas, to personally see and ask!

O'Grady is giving a voice to people like Ángel Castro of Las Minas, Chalatenango, who complains that without industry, people are compelled to emigrate.

She is on the side of Jaremías Laínez of San Francisco El Dorado, who says that no-one from his town has anything to complain about the mines.

She helps Omar Morán, another neighbor of the old mines, tell the world that exploration means jobs that did not exist before (and that have just been killed again).

She spoke with José Ignacio Bautista, the mayor of San Isidro, Cabañas, whose dad worked the mines decades ago, and who says that mining is good for the local economies.

Yet I guess in certain lefty circles it is OK to dismiss the voices of those who have nothing, and to listen to Oxfam and other heartless, pro-poverty transnational groups from the rich world who want to preserve the status quo.

The U.S. is #2 worldwide in gold mining, and the UK became rich because of intensive coal mining. That's OK with Oxfam and its gringo and euro supporters.

What is not OK is that El Salvador should ever compete with them. Nice.

Anonymous said...

1. No matter how good a journalist you are, taking a short tourist trip to another country does not give you the ability to understand the complexities there.

2. El Salvador would not be "competing" with the UK and US by mining because, like other mines all over Latin America, the gold is shipped to other countries. I believe, in this case, Pacific Rim is a Canadian company. They may provide some dangerous and underpaid jobs while poisoning the local environment and shipping the gold they paid nothing for back to the first world.

3. Tim's coverage of this issue has been very objective and he has tried to gauge public opinion in El Salvador based on independent scientific polls, rather than the anecdotal "voices" in O'Grady's piece.

humble_pie said...

This article is yet another in a recent spate of pro-Pacific Rim media pieces. All are the result of an expensive public relations campaign engineered by the company. A year ago, Pacific Rim was reporting it had spent roughly $50 million in El Salvador. Now the figure has ballooned to $77 million. Most of that recent $27 million expenditure has been for lawyers, lobbyists, advertising, public relations, travel junkets and similar extravaganzas in the long calvary towards obtaining a mining permit. Little of this extra $27 million was spent in El Salvador; most of this money was spent in the US. Yet the company calls all of it "investing in el Salvador."

Twenty-seven million dollars has bought a bunch of one-sided articles, like this O'Grady piece, that are as alike as peas in a pod. All convey only Pacific Rim's views. None have bothered to interview any authority who questions mining in El Salvador.

What's extra-special about the O'Grady piece is that it tries to pack a double wallop. It stabs Obama, claiming he's going to waste taxpayers' $$ on undeserving third world countries like el Salvador. It supports McCain, which is what we'd expect from the Wall. The newspaper's connections to the US right wing and the Republican party, with respect to el Salvador, go back decades, as do the connections of some Pacific Rim executives.

In all these recent articles, Pacific Rim portrays itself as the wronged victim. It claims that it has a binding agreement with the government of El Salvador that will permit the mine at el Dorado. It claims it will be able to sue under the CAFTA on that agreement. On July 4th, the chairperson of Pacific Rim told the National Post, one of Canada's leading dailies, that her company may try to force a financial penalty from el Salvador. The newspaper quotes Catherine McLeod-Seltzer as saying "... they are obligated to give us the permit, and if they don't they could face a very sizeable CAFTA settlement."

It's worth noting that right now countless resource companies, in oil, gas, base & precious metal mining, are politically stalled in numerous countries all over the world. The only company howling with public rage and threatening to sue is Pacific Rim. Other companies have kept their snits confined to the boardroom. In public they politick forward very, very carefully. They walk on eggs. They do not insult and attack their host countries through bribed media.

If Pacific Rim hopes to have a future in El Salvador, surely this public relations policy is counter-productive. Each of these self-pitying articles in which the company alternately berates and threatens the country has the potential to be a future landmine.

Lisa Mac. said...

Wow Humble Pie! You sure do have the facts down. I wish I had cut/pasted your blistering critique to O'Grady rather than my own sarcasm. I forgot about the world as it is and who funds newspapers. Thanks.