Por Soraya Rodríguez Ramos

HomeProjectsEnvironmental Defenders from Espinar in the European Parliament

Environmental Defenders from Espinar in the European Parliament

Soraya Rodríguez talks with Esmeralda Larota and Karem Luque, environmental defenders in Espinar, Peru, to discuss about the future Due Diligence Law.

The European Parliament has started to work on one of the most important laws of this legislature, the Due Diligence Directive. On 23 February 2022, the European Commission published its communication, a first draft of the law and a long-awaited text from civil society due to its implications for the protection of human rights in regions such as Latin America. Soraya Rodríguez is responsible for the opinion of the Development Committee on the text in the Renew Europe group. 

With this Directive, the EU positions itself as a pioneering and key actor in mandatory due diligence legislation. In these efforts, it is necessary to listen to the voices of those who for years have been calling for a law both inside and outside the EU to live up to the commitments of a regulatory actor such as the EU, that clearly defends human rights. 

On the occasion of the event organised in the European Parliament by MEP Soraya Rodríguez, she met with Esmeralda Larota and Karem Luque, two women at the forefront of the fight for the environment in Espinar, Peru. Both denounce the situation they live in and the serious environmental impacts that result mainly from mining activity. And most importantly: how these affect both people’s lives and health, as well as their human rights. 

Since the 1980s, copper mining has been carried out in Espinar, Peru, for export to Europe and other markets. These activities have been widely questioned by local communities due to the strong environmental impacts, which have affected the livelihoods of the inhabitants. Different analyses have shown high concentrations of heavy metals in the water for human consumption and in the blood of the local population, causing an increase of diseases among them. The effects of mining on the environment and health unevenly affect men and women, the latter being the most harmed.

In addressing this situation, civil society has faced repression and violence. The authorities have implemented measures that criminalise social protest and limit human rights. In the case of Espinar, more severe penalties have been imposed for crimes such as riots and attacks on common security, used to prosecute social leaders and demonstrators. The State of Emergency, which suspends human rights, has also been abused and agreements have been established between the National Police and private companies to provide security for extractive projects.

The right to water, healthy environment and prior, free and informed consultation has not been guaranteed in Espinar. The future Due Diligence Directive should establish a framework that ensures compliance and accountability of European companies and financial institutions in relation to these fundamental rights. Our goal is for the Due Diligence Directive to become a strong law that respects both the environment and human rights and recognises the active role of local communities in their defence and establishes avenues of access to justice for victims.

Esmeralda Larota Umasi 

An indigenous environmental defender from Huancané Bajo, a community in the province of Espinar (Peru). She is a member of the Association of Women Defenders of the K’ana Territory and Culture – AMDETEK. She is also a community member whose health was affected by toxic metals in the area of the Ccamacmayo tailings dam and the mining operations run by BHP Billington, Xstrata and finally Glencore Antapaccay.

“We are not anti-development. We are not anti-miners. We want companies to be responsible, because we are human beings too. We have a right to life.” 

Esmeralda Larota

Karem Lisseth Luque Ticona

She has been the coordinator of the Collective Rights and Environment’s division in the NGO Human Rights Without Borders for 6 years. As a specialist in environmental and human health, she has supported and accompanied environmental monitoring actions and registration of those affected by toxic metals. She participates and advises in dialogue spaces in the province of Espinar and trains communities and grassroots social organisations on collective and environmental rights. She has collaborated in the creation of a national platform of people affected by metals, metalloids and other toxic chemicals in Espinar.

Mujeres al Frente

Mujeres al frente es un espacio de reflexión dirigido por la política y abogada española Soraya Rodríguez Ramos. Desde 2019, es diputada del Parlamento Europeo en la delegación del partido Ciudadanos. Desde su escaño de eurodiputada, desarrolla un intenso trabajo como Portavoz de Derechos Humanos del grupo Renew Europe, así como por la defensa de la igualdad y derechos de las mujeres como titular de la Comisión de Igualdad, y miembro de la Comisión de Medio Ambiente, por su compromiso con el cuidado del planeta y la justicia climática.