Het verhaal van Máxima Acuña

What preceded…

Between 2011 and 2014 the Acuña-Chaupe family was involved in a complex lawsuit brought by the mining company Yanacocha against the family because of usurpation (unlawful possession) of land near the Laguna Azul. The verdict on December 17, 2014 was a historic victory for the family. The allegations of the Yanacocha mining company were rejected, and Maxima and her family could continue to live on their land, of which the court recognized them as legitimate owner.

In practice, however, this didn't mean peace for the family. In the year that followed, Máxima and her family were antagonized  by the mining company Yanacocha in every possible way. They received death threats, were constantly filmed, their livestock was killed, they got broken into their house and their new kitchen was destroyed. Despite international pressure on the Peruvian government to ensure the safety of Maxima and her family, they continue to look away. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) forced the Peruvian State in May 2014 to take precautions for Máxima, and the regional government took measures in 2015, but they didn't manage to change anything (Amnesty USA, 2016).

International recognition and struggle

In April 2016, Máxima Acuña, the woman in the family and meanwhile emblematic figure in this battle, was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize. This award recognizes grassroots environmental heroes from the six different continents, hoping that they can inspire others to protect the natural world. Amnesty Peru and Front Line Defenders also take the cause of Máxima to heart.

Meanwhile, Yanacocha signed an appeal. The case was referred to the Supreme Court in Lima. In case a procedural error is detected, the case must be reversed from the time of the error. The historical victory and mental rest that the Chaupe's seemed to be given was once again wrecked. Dr. Mirtha Vasquez, lawyer of the family and director of NGO GRUFIDES in Cajamarca, explains that the company's strategy is to use the state to exploit Máxima economically and mentally.

The mine will not beat us!

Máxima, hermana, la mina no nos gana! The saying that human rights defenders, ecological activists and women's movements use to encourage Máxima and her family to express solidarity to the continuing intimidation of Yanacocha seems to be fulfilling. Yesterday, on May 3, 2017, the Supreme Court ruled that the registered appeal was unfounded. After the family and their lawyer Mirtha Vasquez traveled in vain to Lima for the sentence last April, the relief came. Finally justice. This verdict confirms the 2014 verdict and acknowledges the family's land ownership. Hopefully, this will be a precedent for many other human rights defenders.

In a first reaction, the mining company stated that they want to start a dialogue. Máxima's reply was short: "I do not know what dialogue the company wants to see since they have never allowed me to live in peace this entire time." Mirtha Vasquez hopes that the company will no longer disrespect the sentence. The case shows that justice for Peruvian human rights defenders is a struggle of long-lasting breath. But even a mining giant like Yanacocha doesn't seem to be able to overcome their perseverance. 

Advocate Mirtha Vasquez (left) and Máxima Acuña de Chaupe (right) in front of the Supreme Court in Lima, May 3, 2017. Photo: Emilia Salazar Chávez.

Mirtha Vasquez, laywer of Máxima Acuña de Chaupe

"And here we continue to do, resistive, we show to the world that it is worth to resist, that it is worth fighting for justice. ... We know that this is not the end, we know this battle continues, that the road we still have to go is not easy, but we have also come to the conclusion that we are convinced of this important battle we won, that The society, the authority, that this system knows that we act with truth! "

Máxima Acuña de Chaupe

"They are destroying our earth to extract all the minerals, all the gold, all that is in Conga. What I want from the earth is what she produces, what's in our natural water sources, in our beautiful lagoons that we find beautiful. From that water we take and drink, and that's why we take care of this nature that God gave us "(La Plaza, 2017).

Photo: Red Muqui

For more information:

Een stuk van de geschiedenis Yanacocha - Máxima

Campagne Amnesty Peru


Amnesty USA (2016) Help Protect Máxima Acuña and Her Family From Harassment and Attacks (Peru: UA 182/13)

La Plaza (2017) Máxima Acuña: “Hagan justicia, apoyen a la gente campesina”