This paper examines the interconnecting causes that have placed residents of the community of La Oroya, in Peru’s central Andes, in the dilemma of having to sacrifice their human right to health in order to preserve job opportunities at the town’s smelter. Using the lens of a “capability-oriented model of human rights”, the paper shows how a constellation of environmental, social, institutional and personal factors have resulted in structuring a context of systemic unfreedom in La Oroya. This is a context in which human rights abuses reproduce systemically, affecting the overall wellbeing of individuals and communities, and in turn, diminishing their ability to transform their reality of unfreedom. The paper argues that to understand fully why some residents of the La Oroya community acquiesced in forfeiting their own rights, particular attention has to be paid to the pernicious manner in which living under unfreedom has historically trapped individuals of this community in a vicious cycle of disadvantage. Keywords: human rights, extractive industry,capability approach, structural injustice, environment.AcknowledgementsPart of the research for this paper was undertaken at CDS, Bath; this was made possible thanks to the Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplement granted by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). An earlier version of this paper was presented at a seminar hosted at the Centre for Development Studies (CDS), University of Bath, UK, April 2011. I wish to thank Séverine Deneulin and the participants in this seminar for their thoughtful comments and suggestions.
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