Six days after heavily armed men took the life of a respected anti-mining activist in Cabañas, El Salvador, another prominent community leader has been assassinated. On December 26 at 3:30 pm Dora "Alicia" Sorto Rodriguez, 32, was killed as she returned from doing laundry at the river near her home in Cantón Trinidad, in the municipality of Sensuntepeque, Cabañas. "Alicia," as she was known to friends, was eight months pregnant and carried her 3-year-old son in her arms as she was shot dead. The child was shot in the foot and is receiving medical care.
Since 2005, many Cabañas residents like Sorto Rodriguez have been involved in a fierce battle over whether the US/Canadian Pacific Rim Mining Company can re-open the shuttered El Dorado gold mine. Late last year, outgoing President Tony Saca responded to local pressure and negated Pacific Rim's permit applications for gold extraction. Activists are concerned that re-starting the mine will threaten local water supplies and ruin their ability to grow crops. Supporters—mostly Pacific Rim employees and their families—see the revival of the mine as a source of job creation and economic development.
Alicia Sorto Rodriguez together with her husband, José Santos Rodriguez, were active members of the Cabañas Environment Committee. Santos Rodriguez holds a position on the CEC Board and was attacked with a machete for his anti-mining views in May 2008. According to Hector Berríos of MUFRAS-32, the now-deceased Alicia recently told fellow CEC activists that armed men showed up at the couple's home looking for her husband. She said that he had not been present at the time.
Sorto Rodriguez's murder has further shaken Cabañas, a region which was already reeling from the Dec. 20 killing of the Vice President of the Cabañas Environmental Committee (CEC), Ramiro Rivera. Rivera had been the target of a previous attacks and was under police protection at the time of his murder. The police presence, however, did not deter the hitmen, who rode up to the side of the Rivera's pick-up as he drove and shot him repeatedly in the head and chest. A passenger in Rivera's pick-up was killed and a teen girl was injured. According to elfaro.net, a fourth passenger escaped by running into the woods.
Information for this article was taken from a report by Hector Berríos, MUFRAS-32, previous Upside Down World reports, and recent coverage in the Salvadoran press.