Pandemic Aggravated Violence against Women in Latin America

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Gender Violence

This article is part of IPS coverage of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on Nov. 25.

"Not one woman less, respect our lives” writes a Peruvian woman on the effigy of a woman in a park in front of the courthouse, before a demonstration in Lima over the lack of enforcement of laws against femicides and other forms of violence against women. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

“Not one woman less, respect our lives” writes a Peruvian woman on the effigy of a woman in a park in front of the courthouse, before a demonstration in Lima over the lack of enforcement of laws against femicides and other forms of violence against women. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

LIMA, Nov 24 2022 (IPS) – Violence against women has failed to decline in the Latin American region after the sharp rise recorded during the COVID-19 pandemic, while preventing the causes of such violence remains a major challenge.


This is what representatives of the United Nations, feminist organizations and women’s movements told IPS on the occasion of the commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on Nov. 25.

“We attack the problem but not its causes. I have been talking for 30 years about the importance of preventing violence against women by fostering major cultural changes so that girls and boys are raised in the knowledge that it is unacceptable in any form.” — Moni Pizani

This date, established in 1999 by the United Nations, was adopted in 1981 at the first Latin American and Caribbean feminist meeting held in Colombia to promote the struggle against violence against women in a region where it continues to be exacerbated by high levels of ‘machismo’ or sexism.

The day was chosen to pay tribute to Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa Mirabal, three sisters from the Dominican Republic who were political activists and were killed on Nov. 25, 1960 by the repressive forces of the regime of dictator Rafael Trujillo.

The date launches 16 days of activism against gender violence, culminating on Dec. 10, Human Rights Day, because male violence against women and girls is the most widespread violation of human rights worldwide.

“It is not possible to confirm a decrease in gender violence in the region at this post-pandemic moment,” said Venezuelan lawyer Moni Pizani, one of the region’s leading experts on women’s rights. “I could say, from the information I have gathered and empirically, that the level has remained steady after the significant increase registered in the last two years.”

Pizani, who retired from the United Nations, currently supports the UN Women office in Guatemala after a fruitful career advocating for women’s rights. She was twice representative in Ecuador for UN Women and its predecessor Unifem, then worked for East and Southeast Asia and later opened the UN Women Office for Latin America and the Caribbean in Panama City as regional director.

“Before the pandemic we used to talk about three out of 10 women having suffered violence, today we say four out of 10. The other alarming fact is that the impact is throughout the entire life cycle of women, including the elderly,” she told IPS in a conversation in Tegucigalpa, Honduras during a Central American colloquium on the situation of women.

UN Women last year measured the “shadow pandemic” in 13 countries in all regions, a term used to describe violence against women during lockdowns due to COVID.

Seven out of 10 women were found to have experienced violence at some time during the pandemic, one in four felt unsafe at home due to increased family conflict, and seven out of 10 perceived partner abuse to be more frequent.

The study also revealed that four out of 10 women feel less safe in public spaces.

Pizani said the study showed that this violation of women’s human rights occurs in different age groups: 48 percent of those between 18 and 49 years old are affected, 42 percent of those between 50 and 59, and 34 percent of women aged 60 and over.

Venezuelan lawyer Moni Pizani, one of Latin America's leading experts on gender issues, with a long career at UN Women and its predecessor Unifem, takes part in a Central American colloquium in Tegucigalpa on sustainable recovery with gender equality in the wake of the COVID pandemic. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

Venezuelan lawyer Moni Pizani, one of Latin America’s leading experts on gender issues, with a long career at UN Women and its predecessor Unifem, takes part in a Central American colloquium in Tegucigalpa on sustainable recovery with gender equality in the wake of the COVID pandemic. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

According to the same study, unemployed women are the most vulnerable: 52 percent of them experienced violence during the pandemic.

And with regard to mothers: one out of every two women with children also experienced a violation of their rights.

The expert highlighted the effort made by many countries to adopt measures during the pandemic with the expansion of services, telephone hotlines, use of new means of reporting through mobile applications, among others. But she regretted that the efforts fell short.

This year, the region is home to 662 million inhabitants, or eight percent of the world’s population, slightly more than half of whom are girls and women.

The level of violence against women is so severe that the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) cites it as one of the structural factors of gender inequality, together with gaps in employment, the concentration of care work and inequitable representation in public spaces.

Governments neither prevent nor address violence

Peru is an example of similar situations of gender violence in the region.

It was one of the countries with the strictest lockdowns, paralyzing government action against gender violence, which was gradually resumed in the second half of 2020 and which made it possible, for example, to receive complaints in the country’s provincial public prosecutors’ offices.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office Crime Observatory reported 1,081,851 complaints in 2021 – an average of 117 per hour. The frequency of complaints returned to pre-pandemic levels, which in 2020 stood at around 700,000, because women under lockdown found it harder to report cases due to the confinement and the fact that they were cooped up with the perpetrators.

Cynthia Silva, a Peruvian lawyer and director of the non-governmental feminist group Study for the Defense of Women’s Rights-Demus, told IPS that the government has failed to reactivate the different services and that the specialized national justice system needs to be fully implemented to protect victims and punish perpetrators.

Lawyer Cynthia Silva, director of the Peruvian feminist institution Demus, poses for a picture at the headquarters of the feminist organization in Lima. She stresses the need for government action against gender violence to include not only strategies for attending to the victims, but also for prevention in order to eradicate it. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

Lawyer Cynthia Silva, director of the Peruvian feminist institution Demus, poses for a picture at the headquarters of the feminist organization in Lima. She stresses the need for government action against gender violence to include not only strategies for attending to the victims, but also for prevention in order to eradicate it. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

She stressed the importance of allocating resources both for addressing cases of violence and for prevention. “These are two strategies that should go hand in hand and we see that the State is not doing enough in relation to the latter,” she said.

Silva urged the government to take action in measures aimed at the populace to contribute to rethinking socio-cultural patterns and ‘machista’ habits that discriminate against women.

Based on an experience they are carrying out with girls and adolescents in the district of Carabayllo, in the extreme north of Lima, she said it’s a question of supporting “deconstruction processes” so that egalitarian relations between women and men are fostered from childhood.

On Nov. 26 they will march with various feminist movements and collectives against machista violence so that “the right to a life free of violence against women is guaranteed and so that not a single step backwards is taken with respect to the progress made, particularly in sexual and reproductive rights, which are threatened by conservative groups in Congress.”

Adolescent women and men in Lima, the Peruvian capital, wave a huge banner during the march for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on Nov. 25, 2019, before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic that exacerbated such violence in Latin America. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

Adolescent women and men in Lima, the Peruvian capital, wave a huge banner during the march for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on Nov. 25, 2019, before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic that exacerbated such violence in Latin America. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

An equally serious scenario

Argentina is another example of gender violence – including femicides – in Latin America, the region with the highest levels of aggression against women in the world, the result of extremely sexist societies.

This is in contrast to the fact that it is one of the regions with the best protection against such violence in national and even regional legislation, because since 1994 it has had the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women.

The problem is that these laws are seriously flawed in their implementation, especially in the interior of the countries, agree UN Women, regional organizations and national women’s rights groups.

Rosaura Andiñach, an Argentine university professor and head of community processes at the Ecumenical Regional Center for Counseling and Service (CREAS), said it is worrying that in her country there are still high rates of femicide, despite the progress made in terms of legislation.

Between January and October 2022, there were 212 femicides and 181 attempted gender-based homicides in the country of 46 million people, according to the civil society observatory “Ahora que sí nos ven” (Now that they do see us).

She said the government still owes a debt to women in this post-pandemic context, as it fails to guarantee women’s rights by not adequately addressing their complaints.

“We do not want the same thing to happen as with a recent case: Noelia Sosa, 30 years old, lived in Tucumán and reported her partner in a police station for gender violence. They ignored her and she committed suicide that afternoon because she did not know what else to do. We are very concerned because the outlook is still as serious as ever in terms of violence against women,” Andiñach said.

It was precisely in Argentina that the #NiunaMenos (Not one woman less) campaign emerged in 2015, which spread throughout the region as a movement against femicides and the ineffectiveness of the authorities in the enforcement of laws to prevent and punish gender-related murders, because femicides are surrounded by a very high level of impunity in Latin America.

Moni Pizani, from UN Women, stressed that the prevention of gender violence should no longer fall short in the region.

“We attack the problem but not its causes. I have been talking for 30 years about the importance of preventing violence against women by fostering major cultural changes so that girls and boys are raised in the knowledge that it is unacceptable in any form,” she underlined.

This strategy, she remarked, “involves investing in youth and children to ensure that the new generations are free from violence, harassment and discrimination, with respect for a life of dignity for all.”

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Loss and Damage Fund Saves COP27 from the Abyss

Active Citizens, Civil Society, Climate Action, Climate Change, Climate Change Finance, Conferences, Editors’ Choice, Environment, Global, Global Governance, Headlines, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Latin America & the Caribbean, Regional Categories

Climate Action

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, chair of COP27, reads the nine-page Sharm El Sheikh Implementation Plan, the document that concluded the climate summit on Sunday Nov. 20, to an exhausted audience after tough and lengthy negotiations that finally reached an agreement to create a fund for loss and damage, a demand of the global South. CREDIT: Kiara Worth/UN

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, chair of COP27, reads the nine-page Sharm El Sheikh Implementation Plan, the document that concluded the climate summit on Sunday Nov. 20, to an exhausted audience after tough and lengthy negotiations that finally reached an agreement to create a fund for loss and damage, a demand of the global South. CREDIT: Kiara Worth/UN

SHARM EL SHEIKh , Nov 20 2022 (IPS) – They were on the brink of shipwreck and did not leave happy, but did feel satisfied that they got the best they could. The countries of the global South achieved something decisive at COP27: the creation of a special fund to address the damage and loss caused by climate change in the most vulnerable nations.


The fund, according to the Sharm El Sheikh Implementation Plan, the official document approved at dawn on Sunday Nov. 20 in this Egyptian city, should enable “rehabilitation, recovery and reconstruction” following extreme weather events in these vulnerable countries.

Decisions on who will provide the money, which countries will benefit and how it will be disbursed were left pending for a special committee to define. But the fund was approved despite the fact that the issue was not even on the official agenda of the summit negotiations, although it was at the center of the public debate before the conference itself.

“We are satisfied that the developed countries have accepted the need to create the Fund. Of course, there is much to discuss for implementation, but it was difficult to ask for more at this COP,” Ulises Lovera, Paraguay’s climate change director, told IPS, weary from a longer-than-expected negotiation, early Sunday morning at the Sharm El Sheikh airport.

“This COP has taken an important step towards justice. I welcome the decision to establish a loss and damage fund and to operationalize it in the coming period,” said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres. He also described as an achievement that a “red line” was not crossed, that would take the rise in global temperature above the 1.5-degree limit.

More than 35,000 people from nearly 200 countries participated in the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) on Climate Change in Sharm El Sheikh, an Egyptian seaside resort on the Red Sea, where the critical dimension of global warming in the different regions of the world was on display, sometimes dramatically.

Practically everything that has to do with the future of the modes of production and life of humanity – starting with energy and food – was discussed at a mega-event that far exceeded the official delegations of the countries and the great leaders present, such as U.S. President Joe Biden and the Brazilian president-elect, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Hundreds of social organizations, international agencies and private sector stakeholders came here to showcase their work, seek funding, forge alliances, try to influence negotiations, defend their interests or simply be on a stage that seemed to provide a space for all kinds of initiatives and businesses.

At the gigantic Sharm El Sheikh International Convention Center there was also a global fair with non-stop activities from morning to night in the various pavilions, in stands with auditoriums of between 20 and 200 seats, where there was a flurried program of presentations, lectures and debates, not to mention the more or less crowded demonstrations of activists outside the venue.

In addition, government delegates negotiated on the crux of the summit: how to move forward with the implementation of the Paris Agreement, which at COP21 in 2015 set global climate change mitigation and adaptation targets.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres walks hurriedly through the Sharm El Sheikh Convention Center during the last intense hours of the COP27 negotiations, when there were moments when it seemed that there would be no agreement and the climate summit would end in failure. CREDIT: Daniel Gutman/IPS

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres (3rd-R) walks hurriedly through the Sharm El Sheikh Convention Center during the last intense hours of the COP27 negotiations, when there were moments when it seemed that there would be no agreement and the climate summit would end in failure. CREDIT: Daniel Gutman/IPS

On the brink of failure

Once again, the nine-page Sharm El Sheikh Implementation Plan did not include in any of its pages a reference to the need to abandon fossil fuels, but only coal.

The document was the result of a negotiation that should have ended on Friday Nov. 18, but dragged on till Sunday, as usually happens at COPs. What was different on this occasion was a very tough discussion and threats of a walkout by some negotiators, including those of the European Union.

But in the end, the goal of limiting the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius, established in the Paris Agreement, was maintained, although several countries tried to make it more flexible up to 2.0 degrees, which would have been a setback with dramatic effects for the planet and humanity, according to experts and climate activists.

“Rapid, deep and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions (are) required – lowering global net greenhouse gas emissions by 43 percent by 2030 relative to the 2019 level – to limit global warming to 1.5°C target,” reads the text, although no mention is made of oil and gas, the fossil fuels most responsible for those emissions, in one of the usual COP compromises, since agreements are reached by consensus.

The Bolivian delegation in Sharm El Sheikh, which included officials as well as leaders of indigenous communities from the South American country, take part in a meeting with journalists at COP27 to demand more ambitious action. CREDIT: Daniel Gutman/IPS

The Bolivian delegation in Sharm El Sheikh, which included officials as well as leaders of indigenous communities from the South American country, take part in a meeting with journalists at COP27 to demand more ambitious action. CREDIT: Daniel Gutman/IPS

The priorities of the South

Developing countries, however, focused throughout the COP on the Loss and Damage Fund and other financing mechanisms to address the impacts of rising temperatures and mitigation actions.

“We need financing because we cannot deal with the environmental crisis alone. That is why we are asking that, in order to solve the problem they have caused, the rich nations take responsibility,” Diego Pacheco, head of the Bolivian delegation to Sharm El Sheikh, told IPS.

Environmental organizations, which showed their power in Egypt with the presence of thousands of activists, also lobbied throughout COP27 for greater commitments, including mitigation actions.

“This conference cannot be considered an implementation conference because there is no implementation without phasing out all fossil fuels,” the main cause of the climate crisis, said Zeina Khalil Hajj of the international environmental organization 350.org.

“Together for implementation” was precisely the slogan of COP27, calling for a shift from commitments to action.

“A text that does not stop fossil fuel expansion, that does not provide progress from the already weak Glasgow Pact (from COP26) makes a mockery of the millions of people living with the impacts of climate change,” said Khalil Hajj, head of global campaigning at 350.org.

One of the demonstrations by climate activists at COP27 held in Egypt Nov. 6-20, demanding more ambitious climate action by governments, as well as greater justice and equity in tackling the climate crisis. CREDIT: Busani Bafana/IPS

One of the demonstrations by climate activists at COP27 held in Egypt Nov. 6-20, demanding more ambitious climate action by governments, as well as greater justice and equity in tackling the climate crisis. CREDIT: Busani Bafana/IPS

The crises that came together

Humanity – as recognized by the States Parties in the final document – is living through a dramatic time.

It faces a number of overlapping crises: food, energy, geopolitical, financial and economic, combined with more frequent natural disasters due to climate change. And developing nations are hit especially hard.

The demand for financing voiced by countries of the global South thus takes on greater relevance.

Cecilia Nicolini, Argentina’s climate change secretary, told IPS that it is the industrialized countries, because of their greater responsibility for climate change, that should finance developing countries, and lamented that “the problem is that the rules are made by the powerful.”

However, 80 percent of the money now being spent worldwide on climate change action is invested in the developed world, according to the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the world’s largest funder of climate action, which has contributed 121 billion dollars to 163 countries over the past 30 years, according to its own figures.

In this context, the issue of Loss and Damage goes one step further than adaptation to climate change, because it involves reparations for the specific impacts of climate change that have already occurred, such as destruction caused by droughts, floods or forest fires.

“Those who are bearing the burden of climate change are the most vulnerable households and communities. That is why the Loss and Damage Fund must be established without delay, with new funds coming from developed countries,” said Javier Canal Albán, Colombia’s vice minister of environmental land planning.

“It is a moral and climate justice imperative,” added Canal Albán, who spoke at a press conference on behalf of AILAC, a negotiating bloc that brings together several Latin American and Caribbean countries.

But the text of the outcome document itself acknowledges that there is a widening gap between what developing countries need and what they actually receive.

The financing needs of these countries for climate action until 2030 were estimated at 5.6 trillion dollars, but developed countries – as the document recognized – have not even fulfilled their commitment to provide 100 billion dollars per year, committed since 2009, at COP15 in Copenhagen, and ratified in 2015, at COP21 which adopted the Paris Agreement.

It was the absence of any reference to the need to accelerate the move away from oil and natural gas that frustrated several of the leaders at the COP. “We believe that if we don’t phase out fossil fuels there will be no Fund that can pay for the loss and damage caused by climate change,” Susana Muhamad, Colombia’s environment minister, who was at the two-week conference in Sharm El Sheikh held Nov. 6-20, told IPS.

“We have to put the victims first in order to make an orderly and just transition,” she said, expressing the sentiments of the governments and societies of the South at COP27.

 

Peruvian Women Still Denied Their Right to Abortion

Active Citizens, Civil Society, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Featured, Gender, Headlines, Health, Human Rights, Latin America & the Caribbean, Regional Categories, TerraViva United Nations, Women’s Health

Women’s Health

Yomira Cuadros faced motherhood at an early age, as well as the obstacles of a sexist society like Peru’s, regarding her reproductive decisions. In the apartment where she lives with her family in Lima, she expresses faith in the future, now that she has finally started attending university, after having two children as a result of unplanned pregnancies. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

Yomira Cuadros faced motherhood at an early age, as well as the obstacles of a sexist society like Peru’s, regarding her reproductive decisions. In the apartment where she lives with her family in Lima, she expresses faith in the future, now that she has finally started attending university, after having two children as a result of unplanned pregnancies. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

LIMA, Nov 18 2022 (IPS) – No woman in Peru should have to die, have her physical or mental health affected, be treated as a criminal or have an unwanted pregnancy because she does not have access to abortion, said Dr. Rocío Gutiérrez, an obstetrician who is the deputy director of the Manuela Ramos Movement, a non-governmental feminist center that works for gender rights in this South American country.


In this Andean nation of 33 million people, abortion is illegal even in cases of rape or fetal malformation. It is only legal for two therapeutic reasons: to save the life of the pregnant woman or to prevent a serious and permanent health problem.

Peru thus goes against the current of the advances achieved by the “green wave”. Green is the color that symbolizes the changes that the women’s rights movement has achieved in the legislation of neighboring countries such as Uruguay, Colombia, Argentina and some states in Mexico, where early abortion has been decriminalized. These countries have joined the ranks of Cuba, where it has been legal for decades.

“I didn’t tell my parents because they are very Catholic and would have forced me to go through with the pregnancy, they always instilled in me that abortion was a bad thing. But I started to think about how pregnancy would change my life and I didn’t feel capable of raising a child at that moment.” — Fatima Guevara

But Latin America remains one of the most punitive regions in terms of abortion, with several countries that do not recognize women’s right to make decisions about their pregnancies under any circumstances. In El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and Haiti it is illegal under all circumstances, and in some cases draconian penalties are handed down.

In the case of Costa Rica, Guatemala, Peru and Venezuela, meanwhile, abortion is allowed under very few conditions, while there are more circumstances under which it is legal in Bolivia, Brazil, Chile and Ecuador.

“In Peru an estimated 50,000 women a year are treated for abortion-related complications in public health facilities,” Dr. Gutiérrez told IPS. “This is not the total number of abortions in the country, but rather the number of women who reach public health services due to emergencies or complications.”

The obstetrician spoke to IPS from Buenos Aires, where she participated in the XV Regional Conference on Women, held Nov. 7-11 in the Argentine capital.

Gutiérrez explained that the cases attended are just the tip of the iceberg, because for every abortion complicated by hemorrhage or infection treated at a health center, at least seven have been performed that did not present difficulties.

Multiplying by seven the 50,000 cases treated due to complications provides the shocking figure of 350,000 unsafe clandestine abortions performed annually in Peru.

The doctor regretted the lack of official statistics about a phenomenon that affects the lives and rights of women “irreversibly, with damage to health, and death.”

Gutiérrez said that another of the major impacts is the criminalization of women who undergo abortions, due to mistreatment by health personnel who not only judge and blame them, but also report them to the police.

Obstetrician Rocío Gutiérrez (C), deputy director of the feminist Manuela Ramos Movement, stands with two fellow activists holding green scarves – representing the struggle for reproductive rights - during the XV Regional Conference on Women held this month in the city of Buenos Aires. CREDIT: Courtesy of Rocío Gutiérrez

Obstetrician Rocío Gutiérrez (C), deputy director of the feminist Manuela Ramos Movement, stands with two fellow activists holding green scarves – representing the struggle for reproductive rights – during the XV Regional Conference on Women held this month in the city of Buenos Aires. CREDIT: Courtesy of Rocío Gutiérrez

Under article 30 of Peru’s General Health Law, No. 26842, a physician who attends a case of presumed illegal abortion is required to file a police report.

Gutiérrez also referred to the fact that unwanted pregnancies have numerous consequences for the lives of women, especially girls and adolescents, in a sexist country like Peru, where women often do not have the right to make decisions on their sexuality and reproductive health.

Healing the wounds of unwanted motherhood

By the age of 19, Yomira Cuadros was already the mother of two children. She did not plan either of the pregnancies and only went ahead with them because of pressure from her partner.

In 2020, according to official data, 8.3 percent of adolescents between the ages of 15 and 19 were already mothers or had become pregnant in Peru.

Cuadros, whose parents are both physicians and who lives in a middle-class family, said she never imagined that her life would turn out so differently than what she had planned.

“The first time was because I didn’t know about contraceptives, I was 17 years old. The second time the birth control method failed and I thought about getting an abortion, but I couldn’t do it,” Cuadros told IPS.

At the time, she was in a relationship with an older boyfriend on whom she felt very emotionally dependent. “I had made a decision (to terminate the pregnancy), but he didn’t want to, he told me not to, the pressure was like blackmail and out of fear I went ahead with the pregnancy,” she said.

Making that decision under coercion hurt her mental health. Today, at the age of 26, she reflects on the importance of women being guaranteed the conditions to freely decide whether they want to be mothers or not.

Peruvian activists go topless to demand the right to legal abortion, during a demonstration in the streets of the capital on Mar. 8, 2018. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

Peruvian activists go topless to demand the right to legal abortion, during a demonstration in the streets of the capital on Mar. 8, 2018. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

In her case, although she had the support of her mother to get a safe abortion, the power of her then-partner over her was stronger.

“Becoming a mother when you haven’t planned to is a shock, you feel so alone, it is very difficult. I didn’t feel that motherhood was something beautiful and I didn’t want to experience the same thing with my second pregnancy, so I considered terminating it,” she said.

Finding herself in that unwanted situation, she fell into a deep depression and was on medication, and is still in therapy today.

“I went from being a teenager to an adult with responsibilities that I never imagined. It’s as if I have never really gone through the proper mourning process because of everything I had to take on, and I know that it will continue to affect me because I will never stop being a mother,” she said.

She clarified that “it’s not that I don’t want to be a mother or that I hate my children,” and added that “as I continue to learn to cope, I will get better, it’s just that it wasn’t the right time.”

She and her two children, ages nine and seven, live with her parents and brother in an apartment in the municipality of Pueblo Libre, in the Peruvian capital. She has enrolled at university to study psychology and accepts the fact that she will only see her dreams come true little by little.

“Things are not how I thought they would be, but it’s okay,” she remarked with a newfound confidence that she is proud of.

Gutiérrez said more than 60 percent of women in Peru have an unplanned pregnancy at some point in their lives, and argued that the government’s family planning policies fall far short.

The National Institute of Statistics and Informatics reported that the total fertility rate in Peru in 2021 would have been 1.3 children on average if all unwanted births had been prevented, compared to the actual rate of 2.0 children – almost 54 percent higher than the desired fertility rate.

“There are a set of factors that lead to unwanted pregnancies, such as the lack of comprehensive sex education in schools, and the lack of birth control methods and timely family planning for women in all their diversity, which worsened during the pandemic. And of course, the correlate is access to legal and safe abortion,” said Gutiérrez.

She lamented that little or no progress has been made in Peru in relation to the exercise of sexual and reproductive rights, including access to safe and free legal abortion, despite the struggle of feminist organizations and movements in the country that have been demanding decriminalization in cases of rape, artificial insemination without consent, non-consensual egg transfer, or malformations incompatible with life.

University student Fátima Guevara decided to terminate an unwanted pregnancy when she was 19 years old. Four years later, she is sure that it was the right decision, in terms of her plans for her life. The young woman told her story at a friend's home, where she was able to talk about it openly, in Lima, Peru. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

University student Fátima Guevara decided to terminate an unwanted pregnancy when she was 19 years old. Four years later, she is sure that it was the right decision, in terms of her plans for her life. The young woman told her story at a friend’s home, where she was able to talk about it openly, in Lima, Peru. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

The obscurity of illegal abortion

The obscurity surrounding abortion led Fátima Guevara, when she faced an unwanted pregnancy at the age of 19, to decide to use Misoprostol, a safe medication that is included in the methods accepted by the World Health Organization for the termination of pregnancies.

“I didn’t tell my parents because they are very Catholic and would have forced me to go through with the pregnancy, they always instilled in me that abortion was a bad thing. But I started to think about how pregnancy would change my life and I didn’t feel capable of raising a child at that moment,” she told IPS in a meeting at a friend’s home in Lima.

She said that she and her partner lacked adequate information and obtained the medication through a third party, but that she used it incorrectly. She turned to her brother who took her to have an ultrasound first. “Hearing the fetal heartbeat shook me, it made me feel guilty, but I followed through with my decision,” she added.

After receiving proper instructions, she was able to complete the abortion. And today, at the age of 23, about to finish her psychology degree, she has no doubt that it was the right thing to do.

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Journalists, Under Threat, Need Safe Refuge Through Special Emergency Visas

Active Citizens, Civil Society, Democracy, Featured, Global, Headlines, Human Rights, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Press Freedom, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

A video journalist covers a news event. Credit Unsplash/Jovaughn Stephens
 
Journalists and media workers are facing “increasing politicization” of their work and threats to their freedom to simply do their jobs, that are “growing by the day”, said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, marking World Press Freedom Day, May 2022

NEW YORK, Oct 4 2022 (IPS) – “This woman sitting next to me, Maria Ressa, is a Nobel laureate and a convicted criminal,” said barrister Amal Clooney, who co-leads the international legal team representing Ressa. The founder of news website Rappler, Ressa has been targeted with a barrage of legal charges intended to stop her journalism in the Philippines.


During a conversation hosted by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly high-level week, which concluded September 26, Clooney revealed that Ressa faces the possibility of imminent imprisonment in the Philippines.

“The only thing standing between her and a prison cell is one decision from the Philippines Supreme Court that could come as soon as in 21 days’ time,” said Clooney to an audience of news leaders, diplomats, and advocates.

She then appealed for prosecutors to drop the baseless charges and for newly elected President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to issue a pardon. In May, CPJ wrote to Marcos requesting that he urgently take concrete steps to undo former President Rodrigo Duterte’s long campaign of intimidation and harassment of the press.

The conversation, led by CPJ President Jodie Ginsberg, also explored the broader misuse of laws increasingly deployed to silence the press across the world. Clooney and Ressa are both past recipients of CPJ’s Gwen Ifill Press Freedom award for their extraordinary and sustained achievement in the cause of press freedom.

UNGA week also served to gather legal experts, diplomats, and activists to discuss the plight of journalists forced to flee their homes and the responsibility of governments to provide safe refuge through special emergency visas.

During a high-level side-event hosted by the Czech Republic, CPJ’s Ginsberg joined Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky and deputy chairs of the High Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom to make the case for these visas.

CPJ has advocated for such visas in the past in line with recommendations by members of the Media Freedom Coalition, a group of 52 governments that support press freedom.

Ginsberg’s message: Governments must create special emergency visas for journalists to allow them to quickly evacuate and relocate to safety. The visas should be granted to individuals who are at risk due to their work keeping the public informed.

As Ginsberg noted, across the world, from Afghanistan to Nicaragua and Belarus to Myanmar, CPJ has worked on hundreds of cases of such journalists seeking safe refuge. There is no time to waste.

Journalists forced to flee often try to continue reporting in exile. Panelist Roman Anin, an exiled investigative journalist who runs news website iStories, shared his story of moving his newsroom out of Russia.

“When the war started, we had a choice between three options, either stay in Russia and stop our work, stay in Russia, continue our work and end up in jail, or relocate the newsroom,” he said. Anin said that in spite of the hardship of the relocation, his newsroom has been able to reach Russian audiences with stories on alleged war crimes committed in Ukraine.

Anin’s experience, and CPJ’s own work helping many other displaced journalists, demonstrate how critical it is for governments to prioritize emergency visas for swift relocation and safety. Refusing to do so not only impacts the lives of individual journalists, it is a blow to free expression and access to information globally.

In solidarity,

Gypsy Guillén Kaiser is CPJ Advocacy and Communications Director.

IPS UN Bureau

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U.S.-Latin America Immigration Agreement Raises more Questions than Answers

Active Citizens, Civil Society, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Featured, Headlines, Human Rights, Latin America & the Caribbean, Migration & Refugees, Population, Poverty & SDGs, Regional Categories

Migration & Refugees

A hundred Central American migrants were rescued from an overcrowded trailer truck in the Mexican state of Tabasco. It has been impossible to stop people from making the hazardous journey of thousands of kilometers to the United States due to the lack of opportunities in their countries of origin. CREDIT: Mesoamerican Migrant Movement

A hundred Central American migrants were rescued from an overcrowded trailer truck in the Mexican state of Tabasco. It has been impossible to stop people from making the hazardous journey of thousands of kilometers to the United States due to the lack of opportunities in their countries of origin. CREDIT: Mesoamerican Migrant Movement

SAN SALVADOR, Jul 19 2022 (IPS) – The immigration agreement reached in Los Angeles, California at the end of the Summit of the Americas, hosted by U.S. President Joe Biden, raises more questions than answers and the likelihood that once again there will be more noise than actual benefits for migrants, especially Central Americans.


And immigration was once again the main issue discussed at the Jul. 12 bilateral meeting between Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Biden at the White House.

At the meeting, López Obrador asked Biden to facilitate the entry of “more skilled” Mexican and Central American workers into the U.S. “to support” the economy and help curb irregular migration.

Central American analysts told IPS that it is generally positive that immigration was addressed at the June summit and that concrete commitments were reached. But they also agreed that much remains to be done to tackle the question of undocumented migration.

That is especially true considering that the leaders of the three Central American nations generating a massive flow of poor people who risk their lives to reach the United States, largely without papers, were absent from the meeting.

Just as the Ninth Summit of the Americas was getting underway on Jun. 6 in Los Angeles, an undocumented 15-year-old Salvadoran migrant began her journey alone to the United States, with New York as her final destination.

She left her native San Juan Opico, in the department of La Libertad in central El Salvador.

“We communicate every day, she tells me that she is in Tamaulipas, Mexico, and that everything is going well according to plan. They give them food and they are not mistreating her, but they don’t let her leave the safe houses,” Omar Martinez, the Salvadoran uncle of the migrant girl, whose name he preferred not to mention, told IPS.

She was able to make the journey because her mother, who is waiting for her in New York, managed to save the 15,000-dollar cost of the trip, led as always by a guide or “coyote”, as they are known in Central America, who in turn form part of networks in Guatemala and Mexico that smuggle people across the border between Mexico and the United States.

The meeting of presidents in Los Angeles “was marked by the issue of temporary jobs, and the presidents of key Central American countries were absent, so there was a vacuum in that regard,” researcher Silvia Raquec Cum, of Guatemala’s Pop No’j Association, told IPS.

In fact, neither the presidents of Honduras, Xiomara Castro, of Guatemala, Alejandro Giammattei, or El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, attended the conclave due to political friction with the United States, in a political snub that would have been hard to imagine just a few years ago.

Other Latin American presidents boycotted the Summit of the Americas as an act of protest, such as Mexico’s López Obrador, precisely because Washington did not invite the leaders of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, which it considers dictatorships.

 From rural communities like this one, the village of Huisisilapa in the municipality of San Pablo Tacachico in central El Salvador, where there are few possibilities of finding work, many people set out for the United States, often without documents, in search of the "American dream". CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

From rural communities like this one, the village of Huisisilapa in the municipality of San Pablo Tacachico in central El Salvador, where there are few possibilities of finding work, many people set out for the United States, often without documents, in search of the “American dream”. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

More temporary jobs

Promoting more temporary jobs is one of the commitments of the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection adopted at the Summit of the Americas and signed by some twenty heads of state on Jun. 10 in that U.S. city.

“Temporary jobs are an important issue, but let’s remember that economic questions are not the only way to address migration. Not all migration is driven by economic reasons, there are also situations of insecurity and other causes,” Raquec Cum emphasized.

Moreover, these temporary jobs do not allow the beneficiaries to stay and settle in the country; they have to return to their places of origin, where their lives could be at risk.

“It is good that they (the temporary jobs) are being created and are expanding, but we must be aware that the beneficiaries are only workers, they are not allowed to settle down, and there are people who for various reasons no longer want to return to their countries,” researcher Danilo Rivera, of the Central American Institute of Social and Development Studies, told IPS from the Guatemalan capital.

The Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection states that it “seeks to mobilize the entire region around bold actions that will transform our approach to managing migration in the Americas.”

The Declaration is based on four pillars: stability and assistance for communities; expansion of legal pathways; humane migration management; and coordinated emergency response.

The focus on expanding legal pathways includes Canada, which plans to receive more than 50,000 agricultural workers from Mexico, Guatemala and the Caribbean in 2022.

While Mexico will expand the Border Worker Card program to include 10,000 to 20,000 more beneficiaries, it is also offering another plan to create job opportunities in Mexico for 15,000 to 20,000 workers from Guatemala each year.

The United States, for its part, is committed to a 65 million dollar pilot program to help U.S. farmers hire temporary agricultural workers, who receive H-2A visas.

“It is necessary to rethink governments’ capacity to promote regular migration based on temporary work programs when it is clear that there is not enough labor power to cover the great needs in terms of employment demands,” said Rivera from Guatemala.

He added that despite the effort put forth by the presidents at the summit, there is no mention at all of the comprehensive reform that has been offered for several years to legalize some 11 million immigrants who arrived in the United States without documents.

A reform bill to that effect is currently stalled in the U.S. Congress.

Many of the 11 million undocumented migrants in the United States come from Central America, especially Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, as well as Mexico.

While the idea of immigration reform is not moving forward in Congress, more than 60 percent of the undocumented migrants have lived in the country for over a decade and have more than four million U.S.-born children, the New York Times reported in January 2021.

This population group represents five percent of the workforce in the agriculture, construction and hospitality sectors, the report added.

 Despite the risks involved in undertaking the irregular, undocumented journey to the United States, many Salvadorans continue to make the trip, and many are deported, such as the people seen in this photo taken at a registration center after they were sent back to San Salvador. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Despite the risks involved in undertaking the irregular, undocumented journey to the United States, many Salvadorans continue to make the trip, and many are deported, such as the people seen in this photo taken at a registration center after they were sent back to San Salvador. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

More political asylum

The Declaration also includes another important component of the migration agreement: a commitment to strengthen political asylum programs.

For example, among other agreements in this area, Canada will increase the resettlement of refugees from the Americas and aims to receive up to 4,000 people by 2028, the Declaration states.

For its part, the United States will commit to resettle 20,000 refugees from the Americas during fiscal years 2023 and 2024.

“What I took away from the summit is the question of creating a pathway to address the issue of refugees in the countries of origin,” Karen Valladares, of the National Forum for Migration in Honduras, told IPS from Tegucigalpa.

She added: “In the case of Honduras, we are having a lot of extra-regional and extra-continental population traffic.”

Valladares said that while it is important “to enable refugee processes for people passing through our country, we must remember that Honduras is not seen as a destination, but as a transit country.”

Raquec Cum, of the Pop No’j Association in Guatemala, said “They were also talking about the extension of visas for refugees, but the bottom line is how they are going to carry out this process; there are specific points that were signed and to which they committed themselves, but the how is what needs to be developed.”

Meanwhile, the Salvadoran teenager en route to New York has told her uncle that she expects to get there in about a month.

“She left because she wants to better herself, to improve her situation, because in El Salvador it is expensive to live,” said Omar, the girl’s uncle.

“I have even thought about leaving the country, but I suffer from respiratory problems and could not run a lot or swim, for example, and sometimes you have to run away from the migra (border patrol),” he said.

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Smelter Finally Closes Due to Extreme Pollution in Chilean Bay

Active Citizens, Civil Society, Editors’ Choice, Environment, Featured, Headlines, Latin America & the Caribbean, Regional Categories, TerraViva United Nations

Environment

The municipality of Puchuncaví in central Chile turns greens after days of rain, but next to it are the smokestacks of the industries located in this development pole that turned this town and the neighboring town of Quintero into "sacrifice zones", with the emission of pollutants that damaged the environment and the health of local residents, which will finally begin to be dismantled. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS - The smelter is an outdated facility that has suffered repeated episodes of industrial pollution, one of the chemicals causing the deteriorating health of the inhabitants of Quintero and Puchuncaví

The municipality of Puchuncaví in central Chile turns greens after days of rain, but next to it are the smokestacks of the industries located in this development pole that turned this town and the neighboring town of Quintero into “sacrifice zones”, with the emission of pollutants that damaged the environment and the health of local residents, which will finally begin to be dismantled. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

QUINTERO, Chile, Jul 4 2022 (IPS) – A health crisis that in 20 days left 500 children poisoned in the adjacent municipalities of Quintero and Puchuncaví triggered the decision to close the Ventanas Smelter, in a first concrete step towards putting an end to a so-called “sacrifice zone” in Chile.


The measure was supported by President Gabriel Boric who reiterated his determination to move towards a green government.

The decision by the state-owned National Copper Corporation (Codelco), the world’s leading copper producer, was announced on Jun. 17, following a temporary stoppage of the plant eight days earlier, and was opposed only by the powerful Federation of Copper Workers.

The union reacted by calling a strike, which ended after two days, when the leaders agreed to discuss an organized closure of the smelter, which will take place within a maximum of five years. The smelting and refining facility will be replaced by another modern plant at a site yet to be determined.

The smelter is an outdated facility that has suffered repeated episodes of sulfur dioxide pollution, one of the chemicals causing the deteriorating health of the inhabitants of Quintero, a city of 26,000, and Puchuncaví, population 19,000.

In the last three years Codelco invested 152 million dollars to modernize the smelter but without success, admitted Codelco’s president, Máximo Pacheco.

Pacheco argued that the closure was due to “the climate of uncertainty that has existed for decades, which is very bad for the workers, their families and the community.”

Sara Larraín, executive director of the non-governmental organization Sustainable Chile, said the definitive closure of the plant does justice.

“It is the first step for Quintero and Puchuncaví to get out of the category of damage that is called a ‘sacrifice zone’ where for decades the emission standards have been exceeded,” she told IPS.

“Sacrifice zones” are areas that have suffered excessive environmental damage due to industrial pollution. Residents of poor communities in these areas bear a disproportionate burden of pollution, toxic waste and heavy industry.

The back of the Ventanas Smelter reveals the poor operating conditions of the copper processing facility in Chile, which will be replaced by a new one within a maximum of five years at an as yet undefined site. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

The back of the Ventanas Smelter reveals the poor operating conditions of the copper processing facility in Chile, which will be replaced by a new one within a maximum of five years at an as yet undefined site. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

The two adjacent municipalities, 156 kilometers west of Santiago, qualify as a sacrifice zone, as do Mejillones, Huasco and Tocopilla, in the north, and Coronel in southern Chile, because the right to live in a pollution-free environment is violated in these areas.

In Quintero and Puchuncaví the main source of sulfur dioxide is the Ventanas Smelter, responsible for 61.8 percent of emissions of this element, causing widespread health problems.

Fisherman-diver forced to move away returns to Quintero

Carlos Vega, a fishermen’s union leader in Quintero, is the third generation of divers in his family.

“My grandfather, a fisherman, taught me how to make fishing nets. He had a restaurant on the coast,” he told IPS, visibly moved, adding that his two brothers are also fishermen and divers, who catch shellfish among the rocks along the coast.

“Fishing was profitable here. We were doing well and making money,” he said.

He added that people are well-organized in the area. “At one time we were the largest producer” of seafood and fish for central Chile, “because we had management and harvesting areas. But they had to close because of the pollution,” he said, describing the poverty that befell the local fishers in the late 1980s.

Then the health authorities found copper, cadmium and arsenic in the local seafood and banned its harvest. As a result, the small fishermen’s bay where they keep their boats and sell part of their catch lost their customers.

The crisis forced him to move to the south where he worked for 15 years as a professional diver in a salmon company.

Carlos Vega, a fisherman, diver and trade union leader, and Kata Alonso, spokeswoman for Women of Sacrifice Zones in Resistance, pose for a photo in the bay of Quintero, during the celebrations in that town and in neighboring Puchuncaví for the announcement of the definitive closure of the Ventanas Smelter of the state-owned Codelco copper company, whose polluting emissions have damaged the local environment and made local residents sick for decades. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

Carlos Vega, a fisherman, diver and trade union leader, and Kata Alonso, spokeswoman for Women of Sacrifice Zones in Resistance, pose for a photo in the bay of Quintero, during the celebrations in that town and in neighboring Puchuncaví for the announcement of the definitive closure of the Ventanas Smelter of the state-owned Codelco copper company, whose polluting emissions have damaged the local environment and made local residents sick for decades. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

Today, back in Quintero, with two sons who are engineers and a daughter who is a teacher, he continues to dive, albeit sporadically. He participates along with 27 fishermen in the management area granted to the north of the sacrifice zone, where they extract shellfish quotas two or three times a year.

“The social fabric was broken down here, that is the hardest thing that has happened to us,” said Vega.

Codelco is not the only polluter

Codelco is the main exporter in Chile, a long narrow country of 19.1 million people sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountains where the big mines are located. In 2021 it produced 1.7 million tons of copper and its pre-tax income totaled nearly 7.4 billion dollars.

“Chile is the leading global copper producer and the world is going to become more electric every day,” said Pacheco. “And copper is the conductor par excellence, there is no substitute. We have to be ready for copper to be increasingly in demand in this energy transition.”

The president of Codelco emphasized that the wealth does not lie in exporting concentrate, which has 26 percent copper, but anodes with 99 percent purity, “and for that we need a smelter and a refinery.”

Young residents of Quintero and Puchuncaví came out in a drum line to celebrate the closure of the Ventanas Smelter and participate in a Festival for Life which lasted eight hours and was joined by a hundred local and national artists. Thousands of people gathered in the square which is on the edge of Quintero on Saturday, Jun. 25. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

Young residents of Quintero and Puchuncaví came out in a drum line to celebrate the closure of the Ventanas Smelter and participate in a Festival for Life which lasted eight hours and was joined by a hundred local and national artists. Thousands of people gathered in the square which is on the edge of Quintero on Saturday, Jun. 25. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

But the smelter, he explained, must be modern and not like Ventanas, which only captures 95 percent of the gases released. In the last three years, Codelco has lost 50 million dollars in the Ventanas smelter, which has a production scale of 420,000 tons. A modern Flash furnace produces 1.5 million tons and captures 99.8 percent of the gases.

The Ventanas Smelter employs 348 people and another 400 in associated companies. Half of them do not live in the area but in Viña del Mar, Villa Alemana or Quilpué, towns that are also in the region of Valparaíso, but are located far from the pollution.

The smelter is part of an industrial cluster that includes 16 companies.

After the latest health crisis, the authorities decreed contingency plans in plants and maritime terminals of six companies for emitting volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and applied an Atmospheric Prevention and Decontamination Plan.

Four coal-fired thermoelectric plants also pollute the area, one of which was definitively closed in December 2020 and another that was to be closed last May, although the measure was postponed.

According to environmentalist Larraín, when the smelter and the four thermoelectric plants are closed “better standards can be achieved, at least with respect to sulfur dioxide and heavy metals,” in Quintero and Puchuncaví.

View from the road of the Ventanas Smelter, in central Chile, which has been temporarily shut down since Jun. 9 and whose antiquated facilities will be permanently closed in a maximum of five years. They are adjacent to populated areas that have been turned into so-called "sacrifice zones" where local residents periodically suffer environmental and health emergencies due to sulfur dioxide fumes. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

View from the road of the Ventanas Smelter, in central Chile, which has been temporarily shut down since Jun. 9 and whose antiquated facilities will be permanently closed in a maximum of five years. They are adjacent to populated areas that have been turned into so-called “sacrifice zones” where local residents periodically suffer environmental and health emergencies due to sulfur dioxide fumes. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

The plan to continue decontaminating

Other pollutants are VOCs linked to the refineries of the state-owned oil company Empresa Nacional de Petróleo (Enap) and the private company Gasmar.

Kata Alonso, spokeswoman for the Mujeres en Zona de Sacrificio en Resistencia (Women in Sacrifice Zone in Resistance) collective, told IPS that “the prevention plan is good so that people don’t continue to be poisoned, so that they can breathe better, and so that the companies that pollute can close their doors, instead of the schools.

“There are companies that were built before the environmental law was passed that have not taken health measures. So what we are asking is for each company to be evaluated, and those that do not comply with the regulations must leave,” she said.

The repeated crises occur despite the fact that Chile’s environmental standards are below those of the World Health Organization (WHO).

For level 10 particulate matter, the mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets in the air, the ceiling in Chile is 150 milligrams per cubic meter (m3) and the WHO ceiling is 50.

For particulate matter 2.5 (fine inhalable particles), in Chile the limit is 50 milligrams per m3, while the WHO guideline is 25. And the Chilean ceiling for sulfur dioxide is 250 milligrams per m3 compared to the WHO’s limit of 20.

Three years ago, the Chilean Pediatric Society and the Chilean Medical Association requested that Chile raise its emission standards to WHO levels.

Part of the audience at the Festival for Life, which celebrated the closure of a copper smelter, that along with 15 other industrial plants turned the municipalities of Quintero and Puchuncaví into "sacrifice zones" in central Chile. Performances by musicians and other artists from around the country were interspersed with messages calling for a life free of pollution in the area. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

Part of the audience at the Festival for Life, which celebrated the closure of a copper smelter, that along with 15 other industrial plants turned the municipalities of Quintero and Puchuncaví into “sacrifice zones” in central Chile. Performances by musicians and other artists from around the country were interspersed with messages calling for a life free of pollution in the area. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

Alonso the activist said that “my two neighbors died of cancer, whoever you ask in Puchuncaví has relatives who died of cancer. Today people are dying younger, breast and uterine cancer have increased in young women, and there are so many miscarriages.

“The statistic we have is that one in four children in Puchuncaví are born with severe neurological problems, down syndrome, autism. Here in Quintero there are two special education schools and many children with learning disabilities,” she said.

Larraín called for “government support for those who have been affected by irreversible diseases, asthma, lung cancer and others that have been proven to be caused by coal combustion and heavy metals.”

The Catholic University conducted a study using data on hospitalizations and mortality in Tocopilla, Mejillones, Huasco, Quintero and Puchuncaví.

“The rates for cardiovascular disease associated with industrial processes are clear. In some cases they are 900 percent higher. Calling them sacrifice zones is real, it refers to impacts that are occurring today,” said Larraín.

The environmentalist said it would be difficult to revive Quintero Bay “because it has a gigantic layer of coal at the bottom, dead phyto and zooplankton because water is used for cooling in industrial processes and is dumped back out with antialgaecides that kill marine life.”

She believes, however, that “over the years, the capacity for regeneration is possible, even in agriculture that has been lost due to sulfur dioxide emissions. There may also be a recovery in fishing and tourism.”

But Larraín demanded “a just transition that restores healthy levels and regenerates ecosystems so that local communities can sustain their economy in a healthy and ecologically balanced environment.”

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