Maxima Acuña de Chaupe in Bern
Maxima lives in a remote town in the Northern Highlands of Peru, Tragadero Grande in the district of Sorochuco, three hours from the main town of Celendin, Cajamarca. She bought this land with her husband Jaime, in 1994; the transaction was officialised with paperwork proving their ownership. The Chaupe family have lived on this land for twenty-four years in which Maxima would weave and sew garments with her skilled knowledge of the local vegetation for the dying of fabric. She would also sell these products at the market as well as crops from their land.
However in 2011, Yanacocha mining firm undertook its expansion for the Conga project, an open-pit gold and copper with a total surface area of 2,000 hectares. Maxima refused to give her land away to this project. Since then, the Chaupe family became the target of forced eviction attempts, threats and intimidations from the Special Operations Division of the Peruvian National Police (DINOES).
One of these attempts took place on the 9th August 2012 when DINOES members intruded into the Chaupe’s land and violently assaulted the family, unmoved that women were victims of their abuse.
“They threatened my child with their machine guns, they threatened my husband from behind the Fuster, they beat my daughter in law, they took my daughter who knelt before the machinery to the road and beat her. When I saw my daughter passed out on the road, I went to see her and three policemen grabbed me by each arm and more police came ahead. I lost consciousness and they hit me with their sticks; my son took pictures with his phone and they beat him with a stick and he dropped the phone from which he was taking the photos”. Maxima Acuña Chaupe
Máxima’s legal battle to obtain Justice
Maxima Acuña de Chaupe: the defender of the water – from Mama Tierra on Vimeo.
Following these several incidences Maxima filed a complaint at the local Police Commissioner, denouncing the physical aggression from Yanacocha staff and DINOES, the impact these have made on her safety and wellbeing.2 Yanacocha representatives retaliated against the Chaupe family accusing them of usurpation. On the 29th October 2012, Maxima and her family were found guilty of ‘illegal occupation’ and were sentenced to three years suspended prison sentence. In addition they were ordered to pay 200 soles (72 USD) in compensation to Yanacocha.
In August 2013, a court annulled the 2012 ruling that accused Maxima and her family of usurpation. The judge found that the first ruling presented a series of irregularities, including the failure to consider evidence presented by Maxima Acuña’s family, such as their land purchase documentation. The judge ordered a new trial.
Although this is seemingly a positive step towards justice for the Chaupe family, the hearings are systematically postponed denying Maxima the right to Justice and freedom from these aggressions. Meanwhile, the violence against Maxima and her family, the virulent attempts at forcefully evicting her from her property and the infringements to her personal safety have continued.
Until now, neither Yanacocha nor any DINOES personnel have been charged for assaulting Maxima. She is frustrated at seeing that her denunciations are not taken seriously and feels that the Peruvian government and judicial system has failed its own citizens in siding with the mining company.
“The municipalities are just as guilty as the mine because they had not informed us that the mine will come to our community. […] They had not looked for dialogue at all. It is such a great pain all that we have been through with the mine.” – Maxima Acuña Chaupe.
Advocates are calling on the authorities to “thoroughly investigate all acts of human rights violations, intimidation, threats and harassment to Maxima Acuña Chaupe and her family, committed by the Yanacocha mining company, its private security forces and the National Police of Peru.” They are also requesting investigations on a series of alleged illegal evictions and acquisition of property.
Maxima and lawyer Mirtha Vasquez after sentencing was declared void. Source: Red Ulam, 2013
Insecurity and urgent need for protection
Maxima alleges she still fears for her life, that she is scared to leave her house and to be followed by Yanacocha personnel or DINOES. ‘I fear for my life, for the life of my husband, for the lives of my children and for the lives of the people in my community who defend us and our water’, says Maxima Chaupe.
As a measure of protection, Máxima has allowed local Ronderos to 4 camp on her land since October 2013. Sadly this has not protected her. Maxima reports that DINOES and workers of the mine frequently record her as she goes about her daily activities. This constant surveillance and restriction of movement has made Maxima concerned for her and family’s safety. She is extremely isolated and scared to leave her land for fear that DINOES and mine workers will destroy her home and crops – everything she has.
Maxima’s concerns are real, on various occasions she has suffered targeted attacks although the trial is still underway; for example, at 10:30am on the 30th January 2014, Maxima received a phone call from a private number telling her “leave your property or you will be killed” (Salga de su propiedad, si no, vas a morir).
One hour later, she was farming with her daughter when two DINOES entered her land and told her to stop working the land as it is not theirs. Two further DINOES were standing on the side of her land and a further four remained in pick-up trucks parked in front of her home. At 12pm on the same day, one armed DINOES and one police officer entered Máxima’s home and told everyone to leave immediately and to stop cultivating the land. When Maxima rang the local radio station to denounce their actions, the officers left.
Facing these threats, Máxima has yet to be offered protection by the Peruvian government. However, with the help of her family and other residents of Cajamarca, opposed to the Conga project, Máxima is keeping on the fight to defend her land and its resources.
In view of the above Maxima, LAMMP.org and MAMA TIERRA demand:
– Guarantee her physical safety and that of each member of her family and all human rights defenders that oppose the mining project. Ronderos are Campesinos/Campesinas en Peru who traditionally provide protection in rural areas
– Guarantee that police and DINOES officers stop entering her home and land without her consent as well as halting all acts of intimidation including the recording and monitoring of her activities.
-Give an explanation as to why Peruvian National services are intimidating and harassing a citizen who has not broken the law.
-Carry out an in-depth investigation into all violations of human rights, intimidations, threats and harassment that she and her family have been subject to, committed by the mining company Minas Yanacocha, their private security forces, and the National Police of Peru. Maxima and her family, Source: El Cajamarquino, 2013
What you can do to support Maxima?
– Send a letter to Valcambi,the Swiss raffinery which buys 70% of the gold of the Yanachocha gold, asking them to force their suppliers to follow sustainable policies which respect human rights. Valcambi via Passeggiata 3, 6828 Balerna.
– Send a letter to Peruvian Ambassador in your country of residence and/or Ollanta:
Humala, President of the Republic of Peru, Ollanta Humala, Presidente de la Republica de Peru, Casa Presidencial, Jirón de La Unión s/n, Lima, Peru
Stating your dismay at the mistreatment of Maxima and her family and urging them to put a halt on forced eviction for the expansion of mining industries.
– Send a letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders and/or the InterAmerican Commission Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders informing them of Máxima’s battle to protect her livelihood and her land.
Mrs. Margaret Sekaggya, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, c/o Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Palais Wilson, United Nations Office CH 1211Geneva 10, Switzerland
– Send a letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders and/or the InterAmerican Commission Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders
Sr. Jose Jesus Orozco Henriquez, Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Inter-American, Commission on Human Rights, 1889 F St., N.W. , Washington, D.C., 20006, US
– Send a letter to Yanacocha (see contact below) urging them to cease their intimidation Campaign against Máxima and to recognise their responsibility in these attacks.
Minera Yanacocha S.R.L, Av. La Paz 1049, Edificio Miracorp, Piso 5, Miraflores, Lima,San Isidro
– Support Red Ulam, a network of Women Human Rights Defenders to which Maxima belongs to and subscribe for updates on the Campaign. http://redulam.org/