The Water Defenders
How Ordinary People Saved a Country from Corporate Greed
Robin Broad, John Cavanagh
Winner of the 2021 Duke University Juan Mendez Award
Named one of The Progressive’s “Favorite Books of 2021” and one of the “Best of Books 2021” by Foreign Affairs
The David and Goliath story of ordinary people in El Salvador who rallied together with international allies to prevent a global mining corporation from poisoning the country’s main water source
At a time when countless communities are resisting powerful corporations—from Flint, Michigan, to the Standing Rock Reservation, to Didipio in the Philippines, to the Gualcarque River in Honduras—The Water Defenders tells the inspirational story of a community that took on an international mining corporation at seemingly insurmountable odds and won not one but two historic victories.
In the early 2000s, many people in El Salvador were at first excited by the prospect of jobs, progress, and prosperity that the Pacific Rim mining company promised. However, farmer Vidalina Morales, brothers Marcelo and Miguel Rivera, and others soon discovered that the river system supplying water to the majority of Salvadorans was in danger of catastrophic contamination. With a group of unlikely allies, local and global, they committed to stop the corporation and the destruction of their home.
Based on over a decade of research and their own role as international allies of the community groups in El Salvador, Robin Broad and John Cavanagh unspool this untold story—a tale replete with corporate greed, a transnational lawsuit at a secretive World Bank tribunal in Washington, violent threats, murders, and—surprisingly—victory. The husband-and-wife duo immerses the reader in the lives of the Salvadoran villagers, the journeys of the local activists who sought the truth about the effects of gold mining on the environment, and the behind-the-scenes maneuverings of the corporate mining executives and their lawyers. The Water Defenders demands that we examine our assumptions about progress and prosperity, while providing valuable lessons for those fighting against destructive corporations in the United States and across the world.