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Entries tagged "Letelier-Moffitt awards"

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We Can Live Without Gold

April 14, 2011 ·

Last night I attended a moving ceremony at the Smithsonian museum where the Goldman Environmental Awards were presented to six brave activists for a better world. 

One of the recipients was farmer-turned-activist Francisco Pineda, who is a leader of a coalition of Salvadoran groups fighting gold mining, which was poisoning their fresh water sources. IPS gave its prestigious Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award to this group in 2009, and we have worked with them in an international coalition to halt the destructive gold mining.  As Francisco put it in his acceptance speech: “We can live without gold, but we cannot live without water.”

Francisco Pineda at the 2011 Goldman Prizes
Francisco Pineda accepts his award at the 2011 Goldman Prizes. Photo via Goldman Prizes FB page.

Francisco and his colleagues have managed to convince their government to stop new mining permits, but two of the big the mining companies have been suing the Salvadoran government under the Central American Free Trade Agreement. As Francisco says of the CAFTA law suit: “It is like saying to a friend: ‘I'm going to steal everything from you. But if you don't let me steal everything, I'm going to sue you.’”

I am traveling to El Salvador next week with my wife, Robin Broad, to write a piece for The Nation on this struggle, from the communities on the front lines to the global legal battles. And IPS is continuing to work with Francisco and his colleagues in a campaign to convince the mining firm, Pacific Rim, to drop its case against El Salvador as part of a larger IPS effort to end corporate protections in trade and investment agreements.

As we left the Smithsonian, Francisco still wore the huge smile he’d had all evening. “I got to meet your president today.  He told me he understood Spanish, but couldn’t speak it. I thanked him for coming to our country and for giving us assistance but I told him we needed him to come out against mining, to come out against the CAFTA lawsuit.”         

We must constantly remind ourselves and our president that global rules are made by people, and we can change them to reflect the interests of people and the environment. Today, an ally from El Salvador made that case.

Tribute to Letelier Case Prosecutor

December 3, 2010 ·

On September 21, 1976, my IPS colleagues Orlando Letelier and Ronni Karpen Moffitt were killed by a car bomb in Washington, DC. The FBI later determined that Chilean secret police agents working with far right wing Cuban exiles had carried out this heinous act of terrorism.

After the Justice Department indicted five Cubans, plus four Chilean top intelligence agents, a trial took place in Washington. Lawrence Barcella, who died recently of cancer, was one of two U.S. prosecutors who won the first case. Three Cubans got convicted, two of conspiracy to assassinate a foreign dignitary; the other for aiding and abetting and perjury before a Grand Jury.

Barcella, Landau and othersAn appeal overturned the verdict and Barcella lost the second case. He was deeply upset. I recall the scene in the courthouse corridor when he shook his head in disbelief that a jury could have acquitted the three Cubans. The scene became especially dramatic for me when one of the Cubans, Guillermo Novo, threatened to get me and I maturely responded by extending a finger upwards at him.

Barcella remained emotionally attached to the case for decades. In the mid and late 1990s he worked with Spanish attorney Juan Garces (a former IPS associate fellow) and me, along with former FBI Special Agent Carter Cornick and John Dinges (who co-authored the book Assassination on Embassy Row with me) and others to get the U.S. government to release massive files on Pinochet and the Chilean government’s involvement in the Letelier-Moffitt assassination and other crimes.

He also wrote op eds and letters to keep the case alive — to get Pinochet indicted and the information about his involvement made public.

Larry Barcella was a good and courageous man. Those of us who knew him will miss him.

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