Press Release

IACHR Concludes Working Visit to Peru on Poverty and Human Rights

December 20, 2016

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) conducted a working visit to Peru on October 13-15, 2016, and was in the capital city, Lima. The first purpose of the visit was to collect information for the preparation of the IACHR’s first thematic report on human rights and poverty in the Americas. This was the seventh in a series of visits the Inter-American Commission has made to countries in the region for this purpose.

The visit was carried out by Commissioner Paulo Vannuchi, in his role as Rapporteur for Peru and head of the IACHR Unit on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ESCR). The Commissioner was accompanied by two human rights specialists from the IACHR Executive Secretariat.

The Inter-American Commission thanks the State of Peru and specifically the various government authorities for their openness and for the full cooperation they provided for the visit. The Commission also thanks the organization Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos [National Coordinator for Human Rights] for its help in facilitating the delegation’s visit to the Shipibo-Konibo community that has settled in Cantagallo, an area of Lima. The Commission expresses its appreciation to all the organizations that participated in and contributed to the meeting the Commission held with representatives of civil society, academia, and social movements. The civil society organizations that participated included, among others, Oxfam Peru; Red Peruana de Afrodescendientes (Ashanti Perú); Ciudadanos al Día (CAD); Asociación Nacional de Centros  de Investigación, Promoción Social y Desarrollo (ANC); Flora Tristán; Derechos de la Mujer (DEMUS); Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos (CNDDHH); Asociación Nacional de Adultos Mayores del Perú (ANAM); Colectivo Ciudadano sobre Salud y Envejecimiento; Perú Equidad; Mesa Discapacidad y Derechos Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos; Centro de Investigación, Documentación y Asesoría Poblacional (CIDAP); Movimiento Sin Techo - Metropolitano; Coordinadora Red Trans Peru; Instituto de Defensa Legal (IDL); Due Process of Law Fountation (DPLF); Centro de Desarrollo de la Mujer Negra Peruana (CEDEMUNEP); CEPRU; Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos (APRODEH); Centro Amazónico de Antropología y Aplicación Práctica (CAAAP); Centro de Estudios y Formación Afroperuanos Lundu; Coordinadora Nacional de Pueblos Unidos del Perú (CONAPUP); and Coordinadora de Mujeres Trans Trabajadoras Sexuales de Perú. The Commission also thanks the Office of the OAS General Secretariat in Peru for its valuable support in coordinating the activities involved in this visit.

In Lima, the delegation met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ricardo V. Luna Mendoza, who expressed his willingness to work together with the Inter-American Commission and particularly to work in collaboration with the Rapporteur for Peru, Commissioner Vannuchi.

The delegation also met with the Minister of Social Development and Inclusion, Lucía Cayetana Aljovín Gazzani, and the Deputy Minister of Social Policy and Evaluation, María Eugenia Mujica San Martín, and her team. The IACHR received information from the State about a series of programs designed for people, groups, and communities living in poverty and extreme poverty in Peru, and about the implementation of a series of public policy initiatives to reduce poverty in the country, with an emphasis on urban poverty. The authorities also referred to the State’s priority concern to reduce the rates of anemia and chronic malnutrition among children in the country. They also stressed the importance of advancing the implementation of the 2030 Agenda (Sustainable Development Goals) and reinforcing productive social programs for families, in order to develop the capacities of people living in poverty and extreme poverty and not just provide welfare-type programs. The authorities indicated that the main challenges are to ensure coordination of efforts between the federal and local governments and to make progress in the Amazon region, especially because of the severe lack of access to water.

The delegation also held a meeting with the Deputy Minister for Human Rights and Access to Justice, Gisella Rosa Vignolo Huamani, and her team. The Commission was informed in that meeting that this Ministry was working to evaluate the 2006-2011 National Human Rights Plan, both its pluses and challenges, and that coordination efforts were underway to put together and approve the 2016-2021 National Human Rights Plan. With regard to the latter, the authorities indicated that they considered it important to include rights-related indicators, protections for human rights defenders, and the issue of human rights in business, and to establish opportunities for social participation and mechanisms of accountability.

The IACHR also met with Federico Arnillas Lafert, the President of a national roundtable on combatting poverty, called the Mesa de Concertación. Created in 2001, it has a decentralized structure that operates at the national, regional, and local (district and provincial) level. It has a National Executive Committee—the body responsible for directing and coordinating implementation of the objectives of this process at the national level—which is made up of representatives of State institutions, the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office, and civil society. The National Executive Committee for the 2016-2021 period was installed on September 9, 2016.

In the meeting with the IACHR delegation, the President of the Mesa de Concertación underscored some of the milestones the roundtable process had achieved, including its contribution to the decentralization process, the consensus reached on development plans, its involvement in participatory budgets, and the promotion of transparency in public administration, among other initiatives to reduce gaps and improve access to the rights to health, education, and other rights. He also reiterated that the Mesa de Concertación is committed to making it possible to reach the goals of the Governance Agreement for the Comprehensive Development of Peru 2016-2021. He explained that this agreement resulted from a consensus-building process that included the participation of representatives of many organizations from diverse segments of civil society and public officials at the national, regional, and municipal level.

On the second day, the delegation went to the Cantagallo area of Lima to visit the Shipibo-Konibo urban indigenous community, which makes its living primarily through the creation and sale of handicrafts. The IACHR was given a joyful, high-energy, and warm welcome by the community. The IACHR was informed that Shipibo-Konibo families from Ucayali have settled since 2000 in the Cantagallo area, where over the years the population has increased and three representative associations have been formed: AVSHIL, AKUSHIKOKM, and ASHIREL.

The Shipibo-Konibo indigenous community, which has more than 300 families, lives in overcrowded conditions on top of a landfill site; as a result, sanitary, health, and housing conditions are precarious, especially for the approximately 600 children in the community, as well as for older people. The Commission was informed that the residents lack basic public services such as electricity, water, a sewage system, and decent housing. The ESCR Unit was able to observe the makeshift housing and verify the lack of access to such public services as electricity, sanitation, and water. The IACHR delegation also visited the community’s Intercultural Bilingual School, and could attest that it too lacks basic services and that its infrastructure needs maintenance and control.

The IACHR was told that there had been some incidents because of the precarious conditions of the shantytown, including a fire in August 2016 that reportedly destroyed some of the community’s makeshift houses. Representatives of the residents indicated that they had asked for electricity to be installed, but that the Metropolitan Municipality of Lima had told them that electric service could not be authorized because this area was in the “public domain.” They also informed the Commission that they had a dispute with the Metropolitan Municipality of Lima, which reportedly had used a fund earmarked for the relocation of the Cantagallo community to instead build a central avenue that would not benefit the community. In view of that information, the representatives indicated that the main goal of the Shipibo-Konibo now was to be recognized as formal owners of the property in Cantagallo and to gain access to the basic services of water, electricity, and sewerage.

Regrettably, the IACHR was informed that after its visit, in the early morning hours of November 4, 2016, a major fire devastated the Shipibo community’s makeshift houses, leaving more than 2,000 people desolate, without housing, possessions, work materials, or handicrafts to sell. The fire was said to have spread rapidly due to the presence of flammable material. Some sources indicate that the fire was caused by burning candles, which people were using because they did not have electricity. The IACHR hopes to receive information concerning any measures the State has taken and plans to take to address the situation of the affected families.

In addition, the IACHR delegation visited a center that is part of the “Cuna Más” (“Cradle Plus”) National Program, located in the Nevería community in the Lima district of San Juan de Lurigancho. This social program is run by the Ministry of Social Development and Inclusion, and aims to strengthen early childhood development for children under 3 years of age in poor and extremely poor areas, to close the gaps in their cognitive, social, physical, and emotional development. At the Nevería center, the delegation interviewed staff members to learn about how the program operates, saw the spaces set up for children of different ages, and learned about protocols for storing and providing food as well as vitamins to treat anemic children who need them. The ESCR Unit believes it is important to continue making efforts to expand the program, with special attention to individuals and groups that have historically faced discrimination.

In the meeting with representatives of civil society and social movements, held on October 15, 2016, the delegation took note of participants’ observations about structural problems that hinder efforts to reduce poverty and extreme poverty in Peru and that affect the conditions needed to ensure a life of dignity for those living in poverty in the country. Participants stressed the importance of adopting policies that will foster the necessary conditions to ensure real equality, access to public information, social participation, and accountability.

Civil society organizations cautioned that measuring poverty based solely on a monetary instead of a multidimensional basis could have the effect of masking problems, citing as an example the situation in Madre de Dios. They also called attention to the social gaps between rural and urban areas. They stressed the need to address the impacts that environmental conflicts generated by extractive companies have on the rights of people who live in poverty and extreme poverty, as well as the criminalization of social protest.

The organizations also presented information regarding people, groups, and communities that have faced a history of discrimination. They said that people with disabilities and older people were basically invisible, especially when it comes to their social demands. They also indicated that poverty has a different impact on women, children, and adolescents, especially in the country’s rural areas. They indicated that Peru ranks second in the rate of femicides, and that 6 out of every 10 women are victims of violence. Another concern they raised was the issue of female domestic workers in Peru, noting a lack of public regulation and oversight. They said this situation affects about half a million women and girls, who sometimes begin doing this type of domestic work by age 7, in a context of employer mistreatment, abuse and discrimination, severe physical punishment, inadequate nutrition, unhealthy living conditions, and few hopes for acquiring an education or having access to cultural and recreational activities. The organizations also alerted the Commission about the inadequate working conditions of women who work in the country’s fishing industry and in farming activities in the departments of Ica, Piura, and Trujillo, among others.

With respect to LGBTI persons (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex), civil society representatives referred to the high rate of suicides of trans adolescents and to the context of violence and stigma toward lesbian women and trans men. In terms of trans women, they said that most of them live in poverty or extreme poverty, are victims of street crime and human trafficking, and have no work opportunities other than prostitution, and therefore have no access to the conditions necessary for a life of dignity. They said that one of every two trans women is HIV-positive, that the State allocates only 3 percent of public health spending to these communities, and that there are no policies in place for prevention and/or timely access to treatment. The civil society representatives also indicated that trans identity is not recognized in general, and therefore they believe it is necessary to move forward with a gender identity law.

Meanwhile, civil society organizations referred to the lack of awareness and public policies regarding Afro-Peruvian communities, particularly the lack of disaggregated indicators or data on their social situation. The organizations referred specifically to the importance of strengthening education policies, as the information that is available indicates that only 3 in 10 people of African descent in Peru have access to higher education and of those who start, only one completes his or her studies. They also referred to the inappropriate use in advertising of negative adjectives to describe Peruvians of African descent. They indicated that social programs such as “Cuna Más” or “Pensión 65” should include a special component for Afro-Peruvian communities. They also stressed the need for the State of Peru to ratify the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance.

With regard to the situation of indigenous peoples, the Commission was informed that according to statistics from the National Institute of Statistics and Information Technology (INEI), 46 percent of people in rural areas were living in monetary poverty, while 14.6 percent in rural areas lived in extreme poverty. The civil society representatives also indicated that according to the INEI (2013), there were 162 hospitals in the nation’s capital, Lima, while Huancavelica and Huánuco (where many indigenous communities are located) had 3 and 4 hospitals, respectively, and Madre de Dios (with a large presence of indigenous communities) had only 5. They thought it was also important to point out some of the progress that had been made on a structural level. They said that 24 processes of prior consultation had been completed through the dialogue stage: 11 involving hydrocarbon projects, 4 related to mining, and 3 related to protected natural areas and intercultural health policies, among other projects.

The organizations also expressed grave concern over the impacts of constant oil spills on the country’s rivers, noting that there had been at least seven spills in 2016, causing the water and therefore crops to become contaminated. They indicated that this primarily affects indigenous and peasant communities, with a different impact on women, children, and older people. The representatives maintained that there must be follow-up, control, and oversight over the Norperuano pipeline and that the State should adopt prevention and protection measures such as providing water and food. They said that with regard to one of the spills, the Environmental Assessment and Oversight Agency (OEFA) issued an official resolution (No. 012-2016-OEFA/DS) indicating that the spill had occurred because the pipeline in question had deteriorated due to high levels of corrosion.

On another issue, civil society organizations discussed the situation of extreme poverty of Peru’s Amazonian populations; there are wide gaps in their access to public services—especially access to water—and a very weak State presence. They also referred to the situation of the peasant communities in La Oroya, indicating that these extremely poor communities are victims of environmental contamination from lead and zinc and have no medical center that could provide adequate diagnostic and treatment services, due to a shortage of personnel and the necessary equipment and supplies for testing.

The representatives indicated that there are no plans or environmental impact studies to address the problems that mining causes to small-scale farming activities given that the farmers use the natural resources that are available, including the water and the soil. The organizations said that this translates into social conflicts, environmental degradation, and negative impacts on people’s living conditions.

The IACHR was also alerted about alleged abuses committed by private security personnel at extractive companies. The Commission was informed that 55 deaths had reportedly occurred due to abuse of force, in a context of criminalization of social protest. The organizations said that since Peru’s return to democracy, there had been only one judgment handed down against a police official, and moreover that the country ranks fourth in the world in the number of environmental defenders killed.

Civil society representatives mentioned that tolls have been established in certain parts of the country, especially on the Northern Pan-American Highway, and that these have had a disproportionate impact on people living in poverty and extreme poverty in the area. They also referred to the situation concerning a series of shantytowns in Lima (including one called Virgen de Fátima and another, Jerusalén), which they said lacked water, sewerage, and transportation services. They said that an estimated one million people in Lima lack water and that the promise to provide water had yet to be fulfilled.

The organizations indicated in particular that Lima has serious deficits with respect to the right to housing, as government programs do not provide complete coverage and do not reach people who live in urban shantytowns and on the mountainsides. Those who spoke to the IACHR also said that many people live in unsafe housing and that the city has grown in a disorderly manner and is divided into areas of wealth and poverty, with blatant inequality. They said this situation is best illustrated by what has been called the “wall of shame” (a wall several kilometers long that has been built in Lima and divides the upscale residential neighborhood of Las Casuarinas from the area’s shantytowns), located in the district of San Juan de Miraflores. The IACHR delegation went to the place and saw the wall and the buildings on both sides, taking note of the poor conditions in the shantytown.

The IACHR appreciates the input provided by representatives of the State and civil society, and reiterates its willingness to help establish opportunities for constructive dialogue among all actors in order to continue to make progress toward fully ensuring economic, social, and cultural rights in Peru. The Inter-American Commission expresses its willingness to work with the State as it responds to the human rights issues discussed during this visit, and again appreciates the State’s openness and goodwill. Finally, the IACHR expresses its special appreciation to the European Union, whose financial support made this visit possible.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 194/16