- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 25, 2002

CARACAS, Venezuela Peru's Health Ministry issued a public apology yesterday after the publication of a report that revealed that the ministry oversaw the forced sterilization of at least 200,000 Indians during the presidency of Alberto Fujimori.
The revelations have led to calls for genocide charges to be filed against Mr. Fujimori, who fled to Japan in 2000 and is wanted by Peruvian authorities on charges of treason and illegal enrichment.
Health Minister Fernando Carbone said at least 200,000 Peruvians were sterilized without their consent or were persuaded to have the operation after officials bribed or threatened them.
The majority of the sterilizations took place between 1996 and 2000 in rural areas, particularly in the country's Andean region. The majority of victims were poor and illiterate women from the Quechua and Aymara ethnic groups.
Several women are believed to have died after the operations, which often took place in unhygienic conditions. About 45 percent of operations during the program were carried out under anesthesia, and the health authorities provided no aftercare.
One witness, Julia, told the investigating commission that a group of doctors visited her Andean village promising its residents a new era of well-being and improved health.
"Later, they threatened us and practically forced us to [accept sterilization]," she said. "They shut me up in a room and forced me to get undressed. Everything that happened was because they used force. I didn't want to go through with it."
Julia also said that because the operation was botched, she has a large scar across her stomach and is still in considerable pain.
Mr. Carbone announced legal proceedings Tuesday against those officials who designed and implemented the "attack on the physical and psychological integrity of these compatriots."
The minister said he hoped they would be brought to justice swiftly and would face severe punishment.
The report on the sterilization program suggests that about 10 percent of the 215,227 female sterilizations and 16,547 vasectomies carried out between 1996 and 2000 were voluntary.
The investigating commission said the remainder of recipients were either bullied into giving permission for the operations by the Fujimori-era health authorities or were sterilized without their permission.
The number of sterilizations was almost three times higher than in the period before the introduction of the program in 1996. The figures rose every year of the program as officials sought to meet Fujimori-imposed family-planning targets.
The program's focus on impoverished Andean villagers has created severe demographic problems in the region, and there is concern that a shortage of young people could threaten the future of traditional village life.
As well as interviewing victims of the program, the commission had access to 56 official documents, which they say prove the sterilization program was sanctioned by the regime.
Mr. Carbone said there was no doubt that Mr. Fujimori knew about and approved the program.
"In the majority of cases, we can see the clear influence of the presidential office as well as the involvement of senior state officials, including ministers, and regional and general authorities," he said.


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