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People harmed by environmental contamination in La Oroya have been waiting for seven years for the State to guarantee their rights
In 2007, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) asked the Peruvian State to provide medical care and institute environmental controls. These measures have yet to be implemented fully and the health of the affected people continues to deteriorate. The IACHR has yet to reach a final decision in the case.
La Oroya, Peru. Seven years have passed since the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) asked the Peruvian State to adopt precautionary measures in favor of the individuals affected by toxic contamination in the city of La Oroya. Those affected, including boys and girls, still have not received the medical attention they require and their health continues to deteriorate.
On August 31, 2007, the IACHR granted precautionary measures in favor of 65 inhabitants of La Oroya who were poisoned by air, water, and soil contaminated by lead, arsenic, cadmium, and sulfur dioxide coming from the metallurgical complex of the Doe Run Perú Corporation. In light of the gravity and urgency of the situation, the Commission asked the Peruvian State to take actions necessary to diagnose and provide specialized medical treatment to affected persons whose personal integrity or lives were at risk of irreparable harm.
Although some medical attention was provided, the required comprehensive, specialized care has not. Now there are dire risks of setbacks. To date, the Health Strategy for Attending to Persons Affected by Contamination with Heavy Metals and Other Chemical Substances, which is operating in the La Oroya Health Center, does not have an assured budget starting in September and for the remainder of the year. The Strategy is essential for complying with the precautionary measures, given that the diagnosis and specialized medical treatment for the beneficiaries depend on it. Without a budget, the continuity of the medical personnel attending not only to the beneficiaries but also to the entire population of La Oroya will become unviable.
"The precautionary measures continue to be in force; after seven years, there has not been full compliance with them. Nonetheless, the State insists on requesting that they be lifted, despite the fact that the health of the population is deteriorating and constant risk [exists]," declared María José Veramendi Villa, attorney for the Inter-American Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA).
On a related note, the IACHR continues to study the suit filed in 2006 for violations of the human rights of the same group of affected persons. The case is based on the failure of the Peuvian State to adequately control the activities of the metallurgical complex and protect the health and other rights of the affected persons. Regrettably, these individuals’ situation is worsening, and five years after accepting the suit, the IACHR has yet to reach a final decision.
"Delay affects us more and more all the time. Our maladies are worsening. During this time, we have lost many of our fellows and seen our children fall ill," declared one of the affected individuals whose name is being withheld for reasons of security.
Currently the metallurgical complex is undergoing a process of liquidation, but its operations will continue during the process of being sold. However, in May the complex had to suspend its operations because its suppliers stopped providing it with concentrates due to the company’s financial problems.
"Although operations have been suspended, the violations of the individuals’ human rights have already occurred. Therefore, the Peruvian State must comply with its human rights obligations and guarantee that the company and its new owners comply with their obligations to protect the environment and human health," stated Jorge Abrego, attorney for the Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos [Association in Favor of Human Rights] (APRODEH).