Peruvian archbishop reports harassment at news conference over smelter

 LIMA, Peru (CNS)

Archbishop Pedro Barreto Jimeno of Huancayo said he and members of the archdiocesan pastoral team were harassed when they attended a news conference announcing a lawsuit on behalf of children affected by pollution from the smelter in nearby La Oroya.

“We reject the aggressive, disrespectful attitude of a group of people who do not represent the genuine interests of the people of La Oroya,” the archbishop said in a mid-November statement. “As church, we reaffirm our commitment to defend life, health and decent work, and our decision to build peace through stewardship of creation.”

 The Nov. 15 news conference was called by lawyers from four U.S. and two Peruvian firms that have joined forces to sue the New York-based Renco Group and its owner, Ira Rennert, on behalf of children affected by the pollution in La Oroya. The smelter is owned by Doe Run Peru, which belongs to Renco. The lawyers filed suit in St. Louis and are awaiting a judge’s ruling on whether the case can be heard in the United States. The smelter has been a flashpoint for tension in La Oroya, which grew up over the past 90 years around the plant in a valley more than 12,000 feet above sea level.

Tests have shown dangerously high lead levels in the blood of children living near the smelter, and critics say cleanup and health care for children and pregnant women, for whom health risks are highest, have been inadequate.

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LIMA, Peru (CNS) — Archbishop Pedro Barreto Jimeno of Huancayo said he and members of the archdiocesan pastoral team were harassed when they attended a news conference announcing a lawsuit on behalf of children affected by pollution from the smelter in nearby La Oroya. “We reject the aggressive, disrespectful attitude of a group of people who do not represent the genuine interests of the people of La Oroya,” the archbishop said in a mid-November statement. “As church, we reaffirm our commitment to defend life, health and decent work, and our decision to build peace through stewardship of creation.”

The Nov. 15 news conference was called by lawyers from four U.S. and two Peruvian firms that have joined forces to sue the New York-based Renco Group and its owner, Ira Rennert, on behalf of children affected by the pollution in La Oroya. The smelter is owned by Doe Run Peru, which belongs to Renco. The lawyers filed suit in St. Louis and are awaiting a judge’s ruling on whether the case can be heard in the United States. The smelter has been a flashpoint for tension in La Oroya, which grew up over the past 90 years around the plant in a valley more than 12,000 feet above sea level.

 Tests have shown dangerously high lead levels in the blood of children living near the smelter, and critics say cleanup and health care for children and pregnant women, for whom health risks are highest, have been inadequate.

 END