Last week, I joined other civil society representatives to deliver an important letter to the Peruvian embassy, which is a short walk from the Earthworks office in Washington, DC.
The letter expressed solidarity with residents of Cajamarca, Peru, who were protesting an expansion of Newmont's Conga mine. On March 18, a group of some 200 farmers, known as “Guardians of the Lakes,” were attacked by police officers and private security forces backed by Newmont. Protesting near the lakes of the region, which are threatened by the expansion, police and security forces allegedly surrounded protesters at some lakes, while throwing bombs at or evicting others.
The use of force, both by police officers and private security, is an ongoing human rights problem for mining projects around the world. In response to these human rights violations, over 80 civil society organizations around the world condemn the use of force against peaceful protesters, and call for the Peruvian government to bring justice to the Guardians.
Joining friends from Amazon Watch, Center for International Environmental Law and two faith-based groups, Sisters of Mercy and Maryknoll, we visited the embassy to call on Ambassador Forsyth push for justice for the protesters.
Though we tried for several weeks to schedule an appointment with Ambassador Forsyth, his office did not respond to our requests. So we had no choice but to go unannounced!
The Guardians also filed an appeal to the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, requesting a hearing about the evictions, but the hearing was unfortunately denied. We hope that both Newmont and the Peruvian government respond to international concern about the events by bringing justice for the protesters and taking steps to ensure such human rights violations do not take place again.