Standing up for justice
Farmers in Peru struggle to defend their rights, despite violence and intimidation.March 3rd, 2010 | by Chris Hufstader
Today we are sharing a new video about Cleofé Neyra, a farmer in Peru’s northern province of Piura. In 2005 she participated in a demonstration against an illegal mining exploration operation in an environmentally sensitive area of her community and was abducted and tortured, and eventually released after three days. She and the 27 others who survived this ordeal (one man died) asked the government to investigate the police and mine security officers allegedly involved and prosecute those responsible for these human rights violations. Instead, prosecutors charged the campesinos who organized the demonstration with terrorism.
There’s nothing like an unjust terrorism accusation to shut someone up, especially in Peru, but the government finally agreed to investigate more thoroughly when someone leaked photos taken of the detainees to Peru’s National Human Rights Coordinator. The images showed farmers bound, gagged, hooded, and in one case dead. The resulting report and publication of these photos brought some attention to this case.
The events in Piura that Neyra describes in this video are horrifying. Unfortunately, there are plenty of other heinous acts committed in conflicts related to oil, gas, and mining projects. The worst actors in the mining industry, many operating in collaboration with governments, have been implicated in terrible human rights violations in Peru and other countries. I have spoken with people who have had their land taken for mining without proper compensation. I’ve met two people in Ghana who were shot (allegedly by accident, they were told) by mine security forces. People have been beaten, set upon by guard dogs, arrested and held in jails on flimsy, trumped-up charges, and threatened with death, rape, or attacks on close family members. Others say they have been poisoned by pollution from mines and oil drilling operations—usually difficult to prove, but no less deadly.
This can be a rather grim business, but the good news is that people are organizing to get some respect for their human rights, their property, and their communities. In many places it is hard to get the government, which is supposed to protect them, to do its duty, but Oxfam’s partners are making progress. They are making their case to government, working with the media to expose injustices, and holding companies and governments accountable.
There are things you can do to help this struggle: please get involved in our Right to Know, Right to Decide campaign. You can help us raise awareness, and push for legislation that will build accountability in the oil, gas, and mining industry.
Courageous people likeCleofé Neyra deserve at least that much.