Target: Máxima Acuña de Chaupe, indigenous Peruvian farmworker
Goal: Praise her courage and determination in resisting a mining corporation’s violent attempts to seize her family’s land
Soldiers and police regularly help corporations forcibly evict farmers from land containing valuable natural resources. These violent evictions are often illegal, yet in the fight between wealthy energy companies and farmers the companies often emerge victorious. Indigenous Peruvian farmworker Maxima Acuña de Chaupe refused to back down, however. For more than three years she resisted attempts to seize her family’s land in order to expand an open pit gold mine. And thanks to an appeals court, her right to farm the land has been upheld.
The mine’s expansion had been widely opposed by indigenous and environmental groups. Such pit mines are terrible polluters and as Acuña de Chaupe told New Internationalist Magazine, “I may be poor. I may be illiterate, but I know that our mountain lakes are our real treasure.” On at least three occasions operators of the Yanacocha mine, majority owned by an American corporation, tried to force Acuña de Chaupe and her family from their lakefront land. Peruvian soldiers and police aided in the intimidation. CommonDreams reports that one violent beating left her and her daughter unconscious, and her son in a local hospital.
When the company’s terrorist tactics failed to move her it attempted to sue and imprison her instead. She was charged with illegally occupying her own land. The appeals court’s decision to strike down the lawsuit has been hailed as a major win in the battle for indigenous land rights.
Praise Acuña de Chaupe’s courage in standing up to the bullying owners of the Yanacocha mine. Her persistence and bravery are truly an inspiration.
Dear Ms. Acuña de Chaupe,
I am heartened to learn of your victory in the struggle to continue farming your family’s land. Yanacocha’s attempts to violently evict you are disgraceful–even more so because of its partnership with the Peruvian military and police. Yet all too often families like yours are pressured to leave their land, which mining companies then proceed to poison and destroy.
Because of your bravery and refusal to give in the indigenous land rights movement has seen a tremendous victory. It is my hope that your case is an inspiration to all farmers and farmworkers facing intimidation at the hands of mining companies. May all farmers struggling against such tactics continue to work their fields and pastures, and may the mining companies cease their violent and illegal attempts to seize these lands.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Wendy Ramos via LaMula