Above: Nearly 150 people attend a public forum in Lima on the injustice of the Renco/Doe Run investor-state case.
Last week we traveled to Lima to participate in several events organized to raise awareness about the injustice of Renco’s $800 million investor-state case against Peru. The U.S. company has launched an investor-state attack under the Peru "free trade" agreement (FTA) on behalf of its subsidiary Doe Run, whose metal smelter in Peru has severely polluted the town of La Oroya (declared one of the ten most polluted sites in the world), leaving the inhabitants to suffer from lead poisoning, air pollution, and water contamination. Now, instead of fulfilling its contractual obligation to remediate the damage, Renco/Doe Run is demanding $800 million from Peru – money that would come out of the pockets of the same people who are already suffering from the horrendous pollution.
One of the most powerful events of the week occurred on Thursday when nearly 150 journalists, activists and community members gathered in Lima to attend a public forum to learn more about the implications of the pollution and the investor-state case for the population of La Oroya.
We were livetweeting over at @PCGTW, but in case you missed it, here are some highlights:
+ Our own Melinda St. Louis, Director of International Campaigns, noted that instead of re-thinking the investor-state system based on the situation in La Oroya, Peru is currently negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), another trade agreement which will expand investor rights according to a leaked draft of the text of the investment chapter.
+Jose de Echave, Director of CooperAcción and previous Deputy Minister of Peru’s Environmental Ministry, explained how the corporation has not fulfilled its contractual obligations, and noted that the U.S.-Peru FTA is not simply about trade – it also has far-reaching social and cultural implications.
+ Matthew Porterfield, Senior Fellow and Adjunct Professor of Law at the Harrison Institute for Public Law at Georgetown University, discussed several alternative solutions to the investor-state system that other countries have already taken, including withdrawing from the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) (a la Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela), withdrawing from investment treaties (a la Ecuador, and possibly South Africa in the near future), or refusing to be a party to the investor-state provisions of the TPP (a la Australia).
+Rosa Amaro, local leader and president of the Movement for the Health of La Oroya (MOSAO), gave a moving testimony about the dire situation in her community, including the heartbreaking story of the sick children who are seeking justice, the divisions the situation has caused, and the looming lawsuit which would drain the community of the money it has earned from the company, all as a result of breathing “public” air and seeking dignified work. (Those of you who speak Spanish can find part of Rosa’s testimony here).
The events in Lima may have ended, but Peru and the community of La Oroya continue to find themselves sickened from the pollution and fighting against an unfair $800 million lawsuit. Now it is crucial that the investor-state system not be expanded through the TPP--we have already seen the damage it can do through the eyes of La Oroya.
Below: Panelists from the public forum pose with members of the La Oroya community, which has been contaminated by Renco/Doe Run's metal smelter.