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Máxima Acuña 1970

The Peruvian activist who’s struggling against the "Yanacocha"

The environmental activist Máxima Acuña

The environmental activist Máxima Acuña

Máxima Acuña and her family work as subsistence farmers in the district of Sorochuco, in the region of Cajamarca, Northern Peru. They live in Tragadero Grande, a land plot whose property has been disputed with the Yanacocha mining company for many years.

The human right activist and her family, over the years, had to face a number of evictions. In the evening of 8 August 2011, police went to Máxima’s home and ordered her to leave; the following day they came back damaging her home, beating up her and her children and kicking them out forcibly, without delivering them any eviction order. On 30 January 2012, policemen broke again into the Acuña’s home and, beating up the woman and her relatives, they ordered them to quit.

Máxima and her relatives were also repeatedly threatened and harassed by the police. On 30 January 2014, two police officers, one of whom armed, got into activist’s home, ordering her to quit working and leave immediately. Máxima immediately asked for help, but she only managed to put them off for a short while, and in fact the security forces came back on 4 February to threaten her once again.

On 20 January 2015, the police harassed and threatened Máxima again. A few days later, over 15 police officers and security adjoins entered her building to shoot some pictures of her home. Her family immediately asked for explanations, but they received no answer, nor any legal documentation supporting the action. On 3 February 2015, at least 200 policemen broke into the family’s land plot, demolishing part of their house built as a shelter from the rain.

On 2 February 2016, the Yanacocha's security forces destroyed the potato harvest that Máxima and her family were cultivating for their own maintenance. The mining company justified its action by contending that the potatoes had been illegally planted and thus they needed to remove them in compliance with the law. Máxima has reported the events to the bench.

Besides the harassment and the attempts of forced eviction, Máxima Acuña and her family were accused of "unlawful occupation". In 2013, a court overturned the guilty verdict of 2012 and issued a sentence to three years in jail with suspension. On 17 December 2014, the Court of Cajamarca decided that the family was not guilty of the crime reported by the mining company. The latter thus issued an appeal on 9 March 2015, but the Supreme Court has confirmed the previous decision. Currently, the Yanacocha has been separately suing Ms Acuña about the property of the land plot, before the civil court: the property rights on the land is thus still questioned.

In 2016, Máxima Acuña received the Goldman Environmental Price, one of the most prestigious prizes for the defenders of the environment. Máxima has taken up the commitment to defend and promote the rights to nourishment, health and life in a healthy environment, in the face of the possible environmental consequences of the exploitation of mining resources in her region.

On 5 May 2014, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights- IACHR established some cautionary measures for 46 human right defenders belonging to the farmer community of Cajamarca, in the light of the threats, harassment and violence they are subject to while carrying out their mission. Máxima Acuña is one of them.

The Commission has underlined the importance of the work performed by the defenders of human rights and the need to protect them. Based on Article 25 of the Commission Regulation, the same entity ordered Peru to adopt the necessary measures to ensure the life and personal integrity of all mentioned activists.

Background information

The shareholders of Yanacocha include the US company Newmont Mining Corporation, which ordered an independent inquiry to “examine thoroughly the situation arisen from the dispute between the 'Minera Yanacocha’ and the Chaupe family in the Region of Cajamarca in Peru.” Information on the inquiry at available in the Website http://www.resolv.org/site-yiffm/

Factsheet curated by Amnesty International Italia

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