Ombudsman taken to task
01 October 2017
Wálter Gutiérrez, the Defensor del Pueblo (Ombudsman), has been widely taken to task for a speech he delivered to the annual congress of mining companies, Perumin. In this, he said that “without investment there can be no growth and without growth human rights are not a reality for all”.
While his remarks may have been the sort of thing that goes down well in the business community, they were not so welcome among human rights advocates and within left-wing parliamentary circles. Horacio Zeballos from Nuevo Perú called Gutiérrez “ignorant and shameless”. He went on to say that “human rights are not a marketable commodity [...] human rights have to be respected whether or not there is mining, and he [the ombudsman] is there to make sure they are respected”. See more in La Republica.
Writing on the Cooperacción website, Paul Maquet questioned this supposed linkage between growth and respect for human rights, citing a number of instances of countries with high growth rates (often tied to the extraction of raw materials) but appalling records in human rights observance.
Quoting Amartya Sen, the economics laureate, Maquet says that while GDP growth may help observance of human rights, what matters are the policy priorities pursued by governments that determine whether people’s basic rights are fulfilled. In Peru, he says, the areas of greatest mining growth are precisely those where such human development is most obviously lacking.