Even if I am called a 'terrorist' because I defend individuals and communities whose rights have been infringed, I am not mistaken in following this stony path to regain our dignity as human beings.

Wilfredo Estanislao Saavedra Marreos

Wilfredo Saavedra is being constantly harassed and watched by the police; his office has been robbed several times. Because of his defence of the environment and people, he is put into permanent personal, professional and family instability.

José L. Castillo Román (Anwalt und Professor an der Universidad Nacional de Cajamarca)
* November 13, 1955 in Hacienda Casa Grande, Casa Grande District, Ascope Province, La Libertad State
Nationality at birth: Peru
Country of struggle for human rights: Peru
Place of the fight for human rights: 1980-2000 Cajamarca Region; since 2000 Cajamarca Region and national commitment in Peru through participation in the Asamblea Nacional de los Pueblos del Perú y Tawantinsuyo (National Assembly of the Peoples of Peru and Tawantinsuyo)
Area Type From To Location

Location:
Reason for entry:
Function / Activity:

Prizes, Awards

“The peasants and the destitute do not award prizes. It has always been enough for me to receive their affection”. – Wilfredo Saavedra 2019

Literature (literature, films, websites etc.)

Wilfredo Saavedra recommends the documents on the mining conflict in Cajamarca (reports, documentaries), which were made accessible to the public on the internet by civil society, human rights and environmental organizations.

Testimony / Witness before / in

Year: 1989, 2014, 2012-2016

Witness of truth

1989 – Supreme Court of Cajamarca, for (alleged) terrorism.

2014 – Supreme Court of Cajamarca, because of public unrest/ disturbance (resistance against the Conga mining project)

2012/16 – Investigations by the public prosecutor’s office for disturbance, damages, appropriation of competences, kidnapping (Conga mining project)

I am the son of a worker and a housewife. Although my father, while he was working at the Hacienda Casa Grande, accepted the working conditions and the salary he received, he still realized that he was being exploited. When, in 1970, the Hacienda Casa Grande was transformed into a cooperative, the level of corruption of those who conducted it prompted my father and other workers to fight against it. This phase shaped my later attitude toward the workers and their exploitation.

My dear mother Idelsa, who died in 1970 when I was only 13 years old, prepared me early for my life as a critical citizen. She taught me to read when I was only three years old. Already in those days, I read the newspapers to my father. The values, I got to know then, helped to shape my character and to defend myself against any kind of injustice.”

Due to his activism in a student organization in favour of discounts on public transportation for students – a right he had fought for – Wilfredo Saavedra became aware of his vocation to serve his fellow men.

I cannot be happy when I observe my fellow men who are unhappy. Their material conditions of existence, which I observe daily on my paths, cause me crisis of conscience. I demand everything from myself that is humanly possible, so that something changes about this. But the fact that I am not able to achieve more frustrates me and makes me angry.

In addition to the rights mentioned here, Wilfredo Saavedra also advocates for respecting the sovereignty of peoples, their right to free self-determination and to environmental rights, the preservation of ecosystems and headwaters, the preservation of the world’s climate and the human right to access to water.

Human dignity
Application of rights to all people in all countries and territories, regardless of their international position
Right to life, freedom and security
Prohibition of slavery or physical property
Prohibition of torture or cruel, inhuman treatment
Entitlement to recognition as a legal person
Equality before the law
Entitlement to legal protection
Prohibition of arbitrary arrest or expulsion
Entitlement to public proceedings before an independent legal process
State guarantees: guaranty of innocence, no punishment without law
Protection of privacy
Right to free movement (national and over-the-counter)
Asylum
Right to nationality
Right to marriages, protection of the family
Right to property
Freedom of religion
Freedom of expression
Freedom of assembly and association
To help shape the public order
Right to social security
Food
Right to paid work, equal pay for work of equal value
Claim for recreation, leisure and paid holidays
The right to adequate living conditions, to safety in case of unemployment, to illness, to disability, to widowhood and to old age, to protection of mothers and children
Right to education and training
Right to participate in cultural life, freedom of science and education
Right to health
Right to truth

INTRODUCTION

“In societies such as ours in Latin America, the legal norms that protect citizens’ rights are simple empty phrases that are not fulfilled. My exercise of civil rights and the defence of the rights of Mother Earth are motivated by the conviction that at some point, what is written in the norms that deal with human rights will become reality. I am convinced that this struggle has to take place continuously, with privations and in a collective manner, because individual efforts are not enough to achieve this, – that is what my life experience has taught me.”

Wilfredo Saavedra 2019

THE STORY

Wilfredo Estanislao Saavedra Marreos

 

Childhood and youth

Wilfredo Saavedra was born on November 13, 1955 on the former sugar cane plantation Hacienda Casa Grande, which was then owned by Juan Gildemeister, who came from a wealthy entrepreneurial family with German roots. Casa Grande is located in the district of the same name, in the province of Ascope, in the Peruvian region of La Libertad.

Wilfredo Saavedra is the first of four children of Flavio Saavedra Bacón and Idelsa Marreos Vásquez, who were also born in Casa Grande. Wilfredo Saavedra’s father worked as a labourer on the plantation, which was later transformed into a cooperative. Nowadays, it operates again as a private company.

Between 1960 and 1974, Wilfredo Saavedra completed his primary and secondary education at the Francisco Bolognesi School and the Casa Grande National School.

Study period

Afterwards, he studied law and political science at the National University of Trujillo from 1976 to 1983 and graduated as a lawyer.

“Since I joined the National University of Trujillo (La Libertad region), I have dedicated myself to fight for the right of students to pay reduced fares for public transportation. Together with other students, who were much older than I was, we succeeded in winning our claim. Of course, it was quite exhausting. During these fights, I lost my dear mother’s golden watch (I wore it as the only memento I had left of her). I was detained several times at police stations. I organized the student organization Frente de Estudiantes de Nivel Superior del Valle Chicama. Students from the Casa Grande catchment area joined us. I was the first president of this organization. Later, my brother Benito succeeded me, and he continued to fight for the right to reduced travel costs that we had won. Through this experience, I began to realize my vocation, which is to serve my fellow men.” (Wilfredo Saavedra).

Between 1982 and 1983, he carried out his pre-professional practice as a law student at the Supreme Court of Cajamarca, Cajamarca Region.

Between 1982 and 1986, Wilfredo Saavedra was involved in the international human rights organization Amnesty International and took part in solidarity actions for people from other countries whose rights had been infringed.

1983-1989

During the same period, Wilfredo Saavedra joined the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Cajamarca (CODEH-CAJ), a committee created by the Diocese of Cajamarca and its representative, Mons. José Dammert Bellido, to which many citizens also belonged. Together they fought for the rights of the rural population (campesinos), who were caught in the firing line between the police and the army on one side and the insurgents of the Shining Path group (Sendero Luminoso) on the other. The rural population suffered particularly from political violence, was exposed to attacks by guerrilleros that operated in the Cajamarca region from 1982 onwards, but also by state law enforcement agencies. Many people were innocently imprisoned or died. Because of this situation, Wilfredo Saavedra, together with the priest Miguel Garnet (English citizen and naturalized Peruvian), other priests and nuns, Walter Vela, Jaime Aliaga, the lawyers José Leonidas Castillo Román and Ramón Alvarado Aliaga, stood up for the rights of the affected citizens in the provinces of Cajabamba, San Marcos, Celendín, San Miguel, Bambamarca, Chota, San Miguel, Contumazá and San Pablo between 1983 and 1989. These efforts inspired the creation of other committees for the defence of human rights, – to the immense displeasure of the state forces of law and order, which were already defaming Wilfredo Saavedra and his combatants as “terrorist lawyers“.

At the same time, between 1984 and 1987, Wilfredo Saavedra worked as a lawyer in the city of San Marcos in the Cajamarca region, where he established his first law office.

Between 1985 and 1987, Wilfredo Saavedra was president of the Front for the Defence of the Interests of San Marcos (FEDIP-SM) in the province of the same name. With his personal and professional commitment, he contributed to the founding of the Provincial Federation of Small Peasant Communities (Rondas Campesinas) in the province of San Marcos; this commitment lasted until 1989. He worked to defend civil rights and publicly denounced the acts of corruption committed by the presiding judge of that province back then.

Between 1987 and 1989, Wilfredo Saavedra was appointed as public defender (for indigent defendants) and assigned to the Second Correctional Court of the Cajamarca Supreme Court. At the same time, he provided free legal assistance to almost all trade union and civil organizations that existed at the time: the unions of Sedacaj and Pronaa, the provincial associations of the Rondas Campesinas (four organizations), the representatives of market, retail and wholesale workers, and the association of street vendors.

In September 1989, he was appointed as President of the Regional Committee for the Defence of Human Rights in Cajamarca. At the end of the same month, after taking over the defence of some prisoners accused of terrorism – among them students of the University of Cajamarca – Wilfredo Saavedra was summoned by the head of the Peruvian Investigation Police (PIP) in Cajamarca to advise the detainees in his capacity as public defender. However, this summons turned out to be a “trap”: when Wilfredo Saavedra entered the police station, he was isolated in the room where he was supposed to meet with the detainees from 10 a.m. until about midnight, without knowing the reason for his arrest. Then he was tortured.

1989-1999

At the time of his detention, Wilfredo Saavedra was already married to his wife Irma Esther Chuquisapon Cerna, with whom he had two children – Tania and Luis – who were only one year and eight months as well as two months old, respectively, when he was arrested.

During the period of isolation, Wilfredo Saavedra was subjected to various forms of torture. The provincial prosecutor in charge of the case was aware of the events, but denied Mr. Saavedra any legal protection because, in the context of political violence, there were no legal means available to counter the instructions of the national police. The acts of torture, which continued for 11 days, were committed with the aim of forcing Wilfredo Saavedra to accuse himself of being a (alleged) member of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (Movimiento Revolucionario Túpac Amaru-MRTA). However, in his case the torture did not lead to the desired “success”.

After 15 days of isolation, Wilfredo Saavedra was transferred from the police headquarters to the detention centre with a doubly fractured left forearm as one of the visible results of the torture. He filed a suit against his torturers, all of whom he could identify by their voices, since he had previously consorted with them regularly during his work as a public defender. Back then, the Third Instructional Court opened an investigation against three police officers for bodily harm and abuse of authority in the case of Wilfredo Saavedra. This investigation resulted in a final report and the filing of a public indictment with a request for custodial sentences against the accused, as they were proven to have treated Wilfredo Saavedra in an inhuman and degrading way during his solitary confinement. However, the case against the three police officers was referred to military jurisdiction, where the file “disappeared”.

From the first day of his arrest at the police headquarters and throughout the entire trial, Wilfredo Saavedra asserted his innocence without being heard by those who imprisoned him and judged him. Only one of the judges – Dr. Luis Ruiz Vigo, a member of the First Criminal Court of the Supreme Court of Cajamarca, pleaded for his acquittal. However, he was in a minority to the three other members of the court who found him guilty.

The incriminating evidence against him was based on the testimony of the other prisoners who were also tortured at the police headquarters. They accused Wilfredo Saavedra of being a “collaborator, member or collaborator of the MRTA” and of having participated in an attack on the court in 1988 in the province of San Marcos, Cajamarca. The investigating judge at the time, Simón Damacén Mori, also testified against him. This same judge had previously been publicly denounced by lawyer Saavedra for several criminal acts, – and thus he was anything but impartial.

In this completely unlawful trial, Wilfredo Saavedra was sentenced to ten years in prison. The competent judges were under enormous pressure on the part of the police and military. He spent the period of his imprisonment (1989-1999) in various prisons throughout the country: Cajamarca; El Milagro – Trujillo; Castro Castro – Lima and finally Huacariz – Cajamarca. After about six months of imprisonment, he had fully recovered and began to practice various artisan activities that were offered in prison. For example, he distinguished himself as an outstanding saddler, which enabled him to contribute to his family’s maintenance from prison.

The prison regime, at least in the first two years, was characterized by few restrictions, as Wilfredo Saavedra was able to receive daily or every other day visits from his wife and daughter, as well as other relatives, friends, representatives and social organizations that he had supported as a lawyer. Lawyer Saavedra was elected by the fellow prisoners as one of their representatives. He provided legal advice and participated in literacy measures. He also helped to build a library in the prison. Thanks to the commitment of individuals and the population of Cajamarca, inmates also received medical assistance and food donations for two years (1990 – 1992).

After Alberto Kenya Fujimori’s rise to President of Peru and his self-coup on April 5, 1992, Wilfredo Saavedra was transferred to El Milagro prison in Trujillo, in the region of La Libertad, where he was incarcerated for one year. There, together with other prisoners, he was subjected to inhumane living conditions: 23.5 hours of cell detention per day; half an hour in the yard; a single meal that was far from adequately prepared; water stored without sanitary control; a single visit per month; constant and permanent psychosocial harassment and humiliating treatment by the police, who guarded the wards.

At the end of 1993, he was forcibly transferred to the high-security prison Castro Castro, Lima, to “replace the inmates in their cells” who had previously been murdered there by the police. The conditions were very bad. He could neither read nor write. There was no communication with the outside world; he was allowed a 30-minute visit once a month, but without physical contact and separated by a wire net; there was one meal a day; with fifteen or thirty minutes of yard time; no possibility to work; any statement about a legal claim was answered with threats of punishment such as physical abuse and unlimited cell isolation; the cell, 2.80 meters long and 1.80 meters wide, was equipped with two cement beds and was occupied by three inmates.

In 1994, Wilfredo Saavedra was transferred to the high-security prison of Huacariz in the city of Cajamarca, where he stayed until September 29, 1999, – the end of his period of detention. In this prison, the confinement in cells was ordered only for certain periods of time. Therefore, lawyer Saavedra could work from 6 a.m. in the morning until 6 p.m. in the evening. During the last years of his imprisonment, he received the support of the prison administration to organize legal advice in favour of the inmates. In agreement with the National University of Cajamarca, a legal office was set up in the prison, which was staffed daily by law students in their final year of studies and where, under the direction of Wilfredo Saavedra, they advised prison inmates. Workshops were also set up in the areas of shoemaking, tailoring, saddlery and toy manufacturing and prisoners were given the opportunity to complete an apprenticeship. The Ministry of Education formally recognized the training courses in prison.

From his conviction to his release – a period of ten years – Wilfredo Saavedra did not even see his son Luis once. Due to economic hardship, his wife could only raise their daughter, while their son remained in the care of his grandfather, Flavio Saavedra.

2000-2009

After his release, Wilfredo Saavedra decided not to turn his back on the region where he had suffered so much damage. On the contrary, he consciously wanted to reintegrate himself into the local society and to fight against the prejudice of the “terrorist lawyer”. For this reason, he set up his lawyer’s office in the city of Cajamarca, for which he received much encouragement, gratitude and human warmth from all the – mostly destitute – people he had advised and represented before his imprisonment, and who had not forgotten him. He was also employed as professor at the Faculty of Law and Political Sciences of the National University of Cajamarca, where he worked from 2000 to 2004. At the same time, he assumed the position of Vice-Dean of the Bar Association of Cajamarca, which during this period was headed by prestigious lawyers such as Ramon Alvarado Aliaga (who has since passed away), Carlos Alarcon Galvez, Jaime La Torre Arana, Absalon Alvarez Alvarado and Numan Roger Urteaga Miranda. Together with the two last-mentioned, Wilfredo Saavedra participated from 2002 to 2004 as a representative of the Cajamarca Bar Association in one of the largest popular movements in defense of Mount Quilish. The springs of Mount Quilish supply the population of Cajamarca with water were meant to become part of the great Yanacocha mining project, operated in the Cajamarca region by the international mining company Newmont.

His participation as a lawyer in this civic movement was strengthened by the representation of other professional associations. In 2002, the Association of Professional Associations of the Cajamarca Region (ACOPROCA) was organized together with professional groups of doctors, engineers, journalists, nurses, obstetricians, accountants, sociologists, veterinarians and dentists to support the demands of the smallholder peasants who lived in the areas affected by mining and who feared the dangers to their lives, animals and crops, but also to the ecosystem of the Andean mountain region. There was no doubt that the operation of a mine in this mountain would have had devastating consequences for the entire population of the region, and, effectively, the very vehement mobilizations were crowned with success: mining has not been authorized on Mount Quilish to this day.

Between 2004 and 2010,Wilfredo Saavedra continued his work as a lawyer, advocating especially for the people who had formed rondas campesinas in rural areas, but also for groups in urban areas of Cajamarca and at the provincial level. He conducted trainings and took over the legal representation of communities and individuals affected by the increasing mining activities in the region. It is also worth mentioning that he committed himself to the enforcement of civil rights, together with the District Committee of urban groups (rondas urbanas) of Cajamarca. At that time, Mr. Ernesto Terrones Saucedo represented the committee as its President. Lawyer Saavedra contributed to the strengthening of the Neighbourhood Committees of Cajamarca (24 organizations), which were under the direction of Mr. Gabriel Gonzales Delgado until 2017.

At the same time, Wilfredo Saavedra was involved in solidarity actions with the Cuban people. In the provinces of San Marcos, Celendín, Chota, Cajabamba, Bambamarca, Cajamarca and Contumazá, “Peruvian-Cuban Houses of Friendship” were organized to raise awareness of the consequences of the financial, economic and trade embargo for the Cuban people. These actions were taken in order to defend the rights of five Cuban citizens who were imprisoned in the United States of America (and later gained their freedom) and to discuss the principle of self-determination of peoples, which is enshrined in international law. Mr. Saavedra took part in these solidarity actions between 2004 and 2010, which culminated in the organization of the VII National Meeting of the Peruvian-Cuban Friendship Houses in Cajamarca (2007) with about 850 delegates representing 150 different houses from all over Peru.

2009-2019

The escalating social conflicts in the Cajamarca region due to the expansion of mining prompted Wilfredo Saavedra and others to address the challenge of mining more intensely and, in particular, to deal with the US mining company Newmont as the majority shareholder of the Yanacocha mine. At the end of 2009, Wilfredo Saavedra was elected President of the Environmental Defence Front of Cajamarca (FDAC-CAJ) and continued the work of his predecessors, which consisted in promoting the defence of the rights of the civilian population and the environment and monitoring mining developments critically in Cajamarca. At that time, the FDAC-CAJ included representatives of student organizations, teachers, city dwellers, skilled workers, traders, market workers, street vendors, civil servants, housewives, various churches and rural residents.

Until 2009, 18 deaths due to mining conflicts had already been registered in the different provinces of Cajamarca. The work of the FDAC-CAJ was hindered by a targeted media campaign and through various political and social channels by the Yanacocha Mining Company, which tried to brand the environmental activists as “fighters against progress and development”, “perpetrators of violence”, “terrorists” and other disrespectful terms and to discredit or isolate them from the population of Cajamarca. However, the activities of the FDAC-CAJ were (and still are) recognized by the rural and urban sectors of Cajamarca. This is, for example, reflected in the fact that all organizations belonging to the Environmental Defence Front regularly reaffirmed their trust in Wilfredo Saavedra.

Wilfredo Saavedra and his companions based their activism on the assumption that the expansion of the Yanacocha mine into the Conga Copper Mining Project would seriously endanger the most important ecosystem of Jalca, located in the zone of influence of the project (between 3,400 and 4,300 meters above sea level), causing direct and irreversible damage in the provinces of Celendín, Bambamarca and Cajamarca. Therefore, the representatives of the Environmental Defence Fronts from these three provinces joined and received support from the associations of the neighbouring provinces of San Marcos, San Pablo, Chota and from the Ronda Campesina associations of the provinces of Cajabamba, San Miguel, Santa Cruz, San Ignacio, Cutervo, Contumazá and Jaén. Bearing in mind that with this expansion of the mining industry, not only the lives of the people but of all living beings that made up the biodiversity of the Jalca system were seriously endangered, it was decided to represent the interests of the affected population to the national government. A series of actions were carried out with the participation of the government representatives, including public hearings with representatives of the Presidential Office (Department of Conflict Prevention) and the Peruvian Congress (Commission of the Andean and Amazonian Peoples and Environment) in September and October 2011, in the auditorium of the Provincial Municipality of Cajamarca. Finally, in November 2011, a meeting was held with the Ministers of Environment, Agriculture and Energy and Mining, with whom an inspection of the lagoons that would be turned into spoil heaps for the Conga project was carried out.

After the ministers expressed their support for the feasibility of the mining project (with the exception of environment minister Ricardo Giesecke), the Front leaders, in defence of the environment and the population they represent, organized civil resistance against the launch of the Conga project. They organized the movement by using the principle of “lead by obeying” which was traditionally practiced in the collective self-governing structures of the rural population. According to this principle, decisions adopted and approved in the popular assemblies had to be implemented one-to-one by the leaders of this process in order to avoid the independence or corruption of individual elected representatives of the movement and its deformation.

In the course of the resistance process, the Environmental Defence Fronts organized the First National Water March (February 2-10, 2012), which ended with a meeting of activists from different Peruvian regions in the city of Lima. The march attracted the attention of the international media because of the number of activists and the proposals regarding respect for Mother Earth, defence of life, civil rights and the claim to make this world a world that makes human life possible. The movement called for the passing of four new bills: a law recognizing the human right to water; two laws prohibiting the use of cyanide and mercury in the extraction of raw materials, respectively; and a law to protect spring areas. (These demands were reiterated with the Second National Water March in the context of the G20 World Summit on Climate Change in Lima in 2015).

As a result of the First National Water March, 18 representatives of Environmental Defence Fronts and like-minded environmental organizations from the regions of Tacna, Moquegua, Arequipa, Cusco, Puno, Huancavelica, Ayacucho, Junin, Lambayeque, La Libertad, Huaraz, Iquitos, San Martin, Amazonas, Piura, Lima, as well as the provinces of Lima and Ica, met in the city of Cajamarca on March 29 and 30, 2012 and founded the National Assembly of the Peoples of Peru and Tawantinsuyu (ANPPT). This organization was born out of the need to create a platform that would bring together the various efforts to enforce environmental and human rights from different areas of Peru. The organization does not pursue any party political goals. According to its charter, the National Assembly’s purpose is to develop actions of coordination, surveillance, defence and resistance against the exploitation of natural resources. In Cajamarca, Wilfredo Saavedra was elected as the national representative of this organization, a function he still holds today (2020).

In contrast to other environmental movements in Peru, activists engaged in the region of Cajamarca demanded the appropriate, sustainable use of the potential of natural resources. Wilfredo Saavedra commented on this in the following manner: “With the daily acts of resistance and protests, we did not only articulate our opposition to open-cast mining, which relies on the use of mercury and cyanide, but also the need to respect international environmental standards and the rights of the affected communities. In addition, we made clear that we have to move away from extractive economic systems and instead strengthen the potential in smallholder agriculture and livestock farming in the region, invest in local value-added processes and use the landscape for the development of sustainable tourism.” However, the responsible politicians ignored these ideas. The national police and the army suppressed the mobilizations using force; two states of emergency were declared in disregard of fundamental human rights. Five people died (July 3 and 4, 2012, four demonstrators in the city of Celendín, one in Bambamarca) and about 200 people were injured.

In the course of the resistance process between the end of November 2011 and October 2012, more than 300 citizens, including Wilfredo Saavedra, were confronted with preliminary proceedings and later with charges before the criminal courts in Cajamarca and in the provinces of Bambamarca, Celendín and Lambayeque. Most of these charges are to be understood as acts to criminalize citizens effective use of their right to freedom of expression and peaceful social protest, with the intention to prevent citizens from further participation in protests in favour of environmental protection and resistance to mining projects. Alone against Wilfredo Saavedra the Public Prosecutor’s Office has been investigating in 68 cases (e.g., for allegedly hindering civil servants in the performance of their duties). The vast majority of the investigations were closed; in one case, he was sentenced to four years’ suspended imprisonment for obstructing public transportation (this sentence was compensated in September 2017) and to pay compensation of 10,000.00 Peruvian soles. Another investigation, still pending, relates to the alleged kidnapping of an employee of the Newmont mining company, as well as for unlawful appropriation of functions, property damage, injury and theft. This case will be heard in the jurisdiction of Bambamarca. The offence of kidnapping is punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

Because of ongoing civil protests and initiatives by the Environmental Defence Fronts, the Conga Project was suspended in 2016 and has not been resumed since then. Explorations are not taking place. Since then, the company has only been guarding and maintaining the access roads. The local peasants are vigilant and continue to monitor the situation.

At the beginning of 2019, Wilfredo Saavedra, together with four other colleagues, formed a lawyers collective in Cajamarca. Each of whom has committed himself to contribute with his knowledge and professional services to provide legal advice and representation to individuals and social organizations in urban and rural areas of the Cajamarca region in cases of violations of human and environmental rights, as well as training on citizens’ rights and responsibilities and on environmental protection.

Legal advice and defense of citizens, communities and civil organizations

According to his records, since 2000, lawyer Wilfredo Saavedra has provided free legal advice and defence to over 2,300 smallholder farmers and environmental activists in the Cajamarca region who had been mistreated, attacked or accused by mining companies and/or state institutions, including:

– 130 smallholder farmers and students arrested for the protests to protect the Quilish Mountain in Cajamarca (2004).

– 204 smallholder farmers who were members of the San Martin and Tupac Amaru Water Utilization Committee and who lived in the area between Quilish Mountain and the city of Cajamarca, due to the contamination of their waters by the Yanacocha Mine. These peasants were later “persuaded” to drop their lawsuit for corresponding amounts of money (2005).

– Representing four smallholder farmers and teachers from the Province of San Marcos who were accused by the Misky Mayo Company of civil resistance against the explorations – and thus destruction – of the Mogol Mountain (2008).

– The rural community of Cumbico (500 inhabitants), Magdalena District, Cajamarca Province, who rose up against the plan that approximately 75 hectares of their common land should be cut off and given to an individual who in turn intended to sell the land to the mining company Yanacocha (from 2003 to 2015).

– The rural community of San Andrés de Negritos (1,200 smallholder farmers, La Encañada District, Cajamarca Province), located in the Alto Perú Region, which with its 284 lakes has been classified as extremely endangered, is in the process of being placed under permanent protection. In a process lasting twelve years (2006-2018), it was proven that individuals who did not belong to the community wanted to annex an area of 1,030 hectares with false land titles.

– Five smallholder farmers from the Santa Rosa area near the Marañon River, from the Provinces of San Marcos and Cajabamba, who offered civil resistance to the Rio Grande I and Rio Grande II dam projects conducted by the Odebrecht Company.

– Counselling of four former workers of the Yanacocha mining company who suffered severe poisoning from heavy metal during their work.

– Counselling of the rural communities in the La Shacsha area, Baños del Inca District, where an expansion of the Yanacocha company’s Carachugo mining project has been carried out, resulting in the destruction of over 30 springs or water collection points for the local population; at the same time, defending the legality of Decree No. 051-2006-MDBI, issued by the Baños del Inca District Authority, which declared the inviolability of this area (years 2012-2014).

– Advising the inhabitants of the Province of São Paulo and its Environmental Defence Front in their resistance against the Yanacocha project to exploit the Pozo Seco area for mining purposes (years 2012 to 2013).

– Defence of 14 citizens from the Province of Celendín and the District of Cortegana, accused by the Odebrecht Company and the Ministry of the Interior for their protests against the Chadin II dam project on the Marañon River (years 2017 to 2018).

– Defence of the members of the water committee in the outskirts of the city of Cajamarca (350 smallholder farmers) for the drying up of their water sources because of the exploitation of the Maqui-Maqui mine (from 2004 until today).

– Advising the leaders of the Environmental Defence Front of Cañete and the Mala community, Cañete Province, Lima, on the impact of a mining project on their common lands (year 2015).

– In his function as representative of the National Assembly of the Peoples of Peru and Tawantinsuyu (ANPPT), Wilfredo Saavedra offered legal advice to the leaders of the Environmental Defence Fronts in Puno, Tacna, Moquegua, Arequipa, Ayacucho, Huancavelica, Cusco, La Libertad, Lambayeque, the Province of Lima and the greater Lima area, in relation to the mining projects and the protection of ecosystems and watersheds in their respective areas (from 2012 until today).

– Legal representation of the Chairman of the Neighbourhood Initiative of La Florida in the city of Cajamarca, José Rojas Carrera, who was charged with legal offenses because of his resistance against the Conga Project (from 2014 to 2018).

– Advising the elected representatives of the Environmental Defence Front of Cajabamba Province in the defence of the land and the rights of the communities against the Shulliden Shauindo mining project (2018 until today). The persons accused before the Supreme Court of Cajamarca were acquitted. Currently, Wilfredo Saavedra supports the creation of the new Environmental Defence Front to protect the Cajamarcquino river basin, composed of the Cajabamba, San Marcos and Cajamarca catchment areas and their respective associations.

– Advising leaders and members of the Rondas Campesinas in the district of José Sabogal, Province of San Marcos, Cajamarca, on their right to exercise their traditional legal norms and prectices, guaranteed by the ILO Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples.

– Advising the executive committee of the Peruvian Teachers’ Union SUTEP and its members in the Provinces of Cajamarca and San Marcos on the role that teachers could play in their work areas in the face of the influence of mining companies, as well as on the protection of municipal areas.

– Advising representatives of the Environmental Defence Front and other rights activists from the Province of Cajamarca in the area of environmental rights.

In order to fully understand the perseverance and the risks that Wilfredo Saavedra takes every day, it is necessary to consider that Cajamarca, in spite of about twenty years of mining activity in the region, is still one of the poorest regions in the country. Employment opportunities are very limited, and the reduction of the farmland, deforestation, water pollution and the scarcity of clean drinking water, are a daily reality for the people of this region, that is home to the second largest and most profitable gold mine in the world, the Yanacocha Mine. Because of his resistance and commitment, Wilfredo Saavedra is constantly confronted with death threats.

 

Authors: Dr. Anna Barrera Vivero (GLS Future Foundation for Development, Bochum), in close cooperation and explicit consent of the lawyer Wilfredo Saavedra (Cajamarca, Peru).

Contact: info@fritz-bauer-library.de
Header-photo: Flavius Torcea

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