MAC: Mines and Communities

Yolanda's Courage

Published by MAC on 2005-02-15

Yolanda's Courage

by Lima, Peru

15th February 2005

Dear friends,

A courageous woman from La Oroya's Catholic parish made a hard decision last Friday afternoon. A national television station called late in the day to say they wanted to interview someone who was against the strike being organized to pressure the Peruvian Government to permit the Doe Run Company to postpone its compliance with Peruvian air standards for four more years. We asked Yolanda if she would be willing.

Yolanda is no fool. She knows that she lives in a company town. She knows that the same people who were organizing the strike have called her a "traitor" and threatened "drastic measures" against "all who oppose the Doe Run compliance extension". Yolanda expressed fear for her family and herself. She had every reason in the world not to speak out. For years, folks in La Oroya have just bowed their heads and choked back their protest. And the smelter has continued to churn out more than 1000 tons of toxic emissions every day.

Perhaps silence was the more prudent course for Yolanda.

But Yolanda chose to speak out. She described before a national television audience the fear and the threats, the lack of basic freedom of expression, her concern for a town-full of lead-poisoned children. When the interview was over, she was shaking, but we paused to thank God for the mustard seed of faith and the large dose of faith God had provided her in the critical moment.

And this morning, the newspapers and TV and radio news were buzzing with the news: the strike organizers cancelled the strike. Four local community leaders,inspired by Yolanda's decision, got on a bus and traveled the four hours down to Lima to meet with the press

Thus there will be no violence in La Oroya tomorrow. And if people continue to speak out and all of us continue to pray and advocate, Dios mediante (God willing), there will be no violence in La Oroya in the coming weeks.

Thank you for your prayer and your advocacy.

Hunter Farrell
Movement for Health of La Oroya and its Technical Roundtable

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