Peru: Protecting right of communities to protest peacefully against mining

Following a month of peaceful protests, community members faced a violent confrontation with police and armed forces.

Following a month of peaceful protests, community members faced a violent confrontation with police and armed forces.

Across Peru, mining activities have created widespread social and environmental damage for many years. These activities impact the health and livelihoods of many farming communities and the situation is being exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown.

During the recent lockdown in Peru, many mines did not suspend operations and the mining company in Espinar refused to pay solidarity grants to support the community.

On 22 July, following a month of peaceful protests, community members faced a violent confrontation with the national police and armed forces, resulting in three community members being injured by bullets, and a further 34 being wounded.

Along with other partners, CAFOD is calling for formal recognition of the incident and an investigation into the abuses suffered and the human rights violations. Lucy Jardine, CAFOD's Peru Programme Officer, said: "I've seen first-hand the impacts that the mines have on these communities: it is not only the environmental and health impacts, but it is the intimidation and abuses that community members face for standing up for their rights.

"That is why it is so important that we stand alongside these human rights defenders, who are fighting not only for their rights but also for our common home. We will continue to support these communities to speak up to ensure these violations are investigated by the state, so communities can receive the justice they deserve."

How coronavirus has impacted the community

In Peru, over 20 per cent of the population live in poverty and a large percentage of the population are informal workers.

When a strict lockdown was enforced many people had to choose between facing the threat of the virus or working to feed their families.

The breakdown of the informal sector has disproportionately affected women, with some reports suggesting that 80 per cent of Peru's female workforce are employed informally.

Additionally, many families in Peru don't have access to effective food storage or cooling facilities, so are forced to go shopping regularly. Without adequate health measures, this meant that many local markets became big sources of infection.

Although previously praised for its strict and early lockdown, the country is now facing economic catastrophe and the health system has collapsed.

To date, it has registered 28,788 deaths relating to coronavirus and has the highest proportion of excess deaths during this lockdown period in the world.

CAFOD has worked in Peru since 1968, working with communities and advocacy groups to help them to address environmental concerns and human rights abuses related to mining.

Lucy Jardine says: "We also work with partners to lobby for greater accountability for communities by the government and private sector. In relation to this most recent human rights infringement, we are joining with our partners calling for an investigation into the violent confrontation.

"We are also calling for a further investigation into the ongoing criminalisation of human rights defenders and that measures be taken to address the health issues suffered by local communities and their livestock relating to the presence of toxic metals in their drinking water and, consequently, in their blood."


CAFOD in Peru:

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Tags: Peru, Covid-19, Mining, CAFOD, Lucy Jardine

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