Saturday, January 17, 2009

Cutumay Camones struggle goes to the courts

A recent article from Upside Down World describes a new lawsuit in the Salvadoran courts on behalf of residents of Cutumay Camones, whose drinking water is threatened by the placement of a new landfill outside Santa Ana:

On November 20, 2008 ten members of the Santa Gertrudis community of Cutumay Camones filed a class action lawsuit against the Minister of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN) for refusing to conduct a fair and impartial assessment of community concerns over the placement of a garbage dump. The government’s proposal is to construct the dump on a hill above a 10-hectare crop plantation and at a 700-meter distance from an aquifer that delivers water to the homes of more than 3,000 families. Construction began in June 2007 without community consultation and an adequate environmental impact statement to the MARN....

Lawyers with the University of Central America’s Human Rights Office will try the Supreme Court case, which could take two or more years to review. The Court has placed a restraining order on Presys; technically no work can proceed on the dump until the case is decided. The Class Action suit is the first in El Salvador’s history and could not only give entitled water and development rights to the community of Santa Gertrudis but also prevent contamination of the Rio Veruente and the Rio Lempa, which provides water to all of Santa Ana and 55% of the population of San Salvador.

I've written previously on the blog about the struggle of the Cutumay Camones community against this landfill. The community has been united in using a variety of different forms of peaceful protest to stop the landfill, and this class action is their latest approach.

The mayor at the center of this controversy is Orlando Mena, who most recently ran on the Christian Democrat (PDC) ticket, but was formerly a member of the FMLN. The outcome of his race for re-election on January 18 will be an indicator of where winds of change may be blowing in the country. In polling last October, the FMLN led the PDC and Mena in the race for mayor of Santa Ana, 23.5% to 17.4%. The same poll found that 57% of the population did not agree with the construction of a landfill at Cutumay Camones.

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