"I will never kneel before Yanacocha," says Máxima Acuña, respected land defender and winner of the 2016 Goldman Prize as respected environmental activist.
She is engaged in an ongoing legal battle with the US and Peruvian owners of the Yanacocha mine, one of the one of the largest gold and copper mines in the world. Máxima and her family, small farmers in northern Peru, are taking on the mining giant over ownership of the land in Tragedero Grande where she lives. She has braved violent attacks for refusing to leave and believes that campaign of intimidation and harassment, perpetrated by both local police and Yanacocha security personnel, is an organized attempt to drive her from her home so the mining company can use her land.
But she will not give in.
Police and security guards working for Yanacocha have attacked Máxima and her family numerous times. An attack in September 2016 was so bad that Máxima had to be rushed to hospital. In other attacks, police even beat her children. They damaged her house and took away vital belongings, including crops, food, cooking pots and beds.
Yanacocha claims to have carried out this most recent destruction of crops in exercise of their "possessory right to defence". This despite a court ruling in December 2014 that found the family to be not guilty of illegally occupying the land, as claimed by the company. The mining company challenged the decision and in March 2015 the Supreme court upheld the acquittal ruling.
The campaign of violence and intimidation against Máxima is emblematic of a disturbing trend. Women and men around the world who stand up to corporate power to defend their land rights face grave danger. Many are forced to pay with their lives. Máxima’s community have united to try to protect her. We must join them.
It is time to say #MaximaNoEstaSola #MaximaIsNotAlone. It is time to speak out for action to ensure Máxima is able to defend her rights without fear of harm.
Dear Minister/Sr. Ministro
I am deeply concerned about the violent mistreatment of Máxima Acuña and her family at the hands of police and private security guards working for the Yanacocha mining company. It has coincided with Máxima's ongoing legal dispute with Yanacocha over land that a court has now ruled she has the legal right to live on.
Despite this ruling, the mining company has persisted with an organized campaign of harassment and intimidation intended to push Máxima and her family off their land. The family has suffered the destruction of crops, damage to their home, and physical assaults on both Máxima and her children. I fear for their safety.
Máxima Acuña is being targeted solely for her work as a land defender. I respectfully call on you to:
- Protect Máxima Acuña and her family from threats or attacks;;
- Initiate a thorough and impartial investigation into the compaints reported by Máxima about abuses committed by police and Yanacocha personnel so as to bring the perpertrators to justice.
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