Sunday, April 11, 2021

Peru’s former president forced illegal sterilizations to reduce poverty

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Paolo Aguilar / EPA

Former President of Peru, Alberto Fujimori

Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori and his health ministers Eduard Yong, Marino Costa and Alejandro Aguinaga were accused this Monday in court of having used and forced the sterilization of Andean women to “reduce poverty” in Peru.

According to the prosecution, during the irregular sterilization program promoted by the ex-president during his second term (1995-2000), 18 women ended up dying, five of them as a result of serious injuries caused by the surgical intervention itself, which also left physical sequelae in about 1,300 others.

Prosecutor Pablo Espinoza, representative of the First Supraprovincial Criminal Prosecutor’s Office, presented the arguments of the complaints against the former president (1990-2000), three former ministers and three other former Ministry of Health officials at the beginning of a videoconference hearing , led by magistrate Rafael Martinez.

It’s about one of the most emblematic cases of alleged violation of human rights that has been waiting for more than 20 years to be tried in the country, after another complaint was underestimated by the prosecution some years ago.

The former President, who is already serving a 25-year sentence for human rights abuses, was represented by his lawyer, César Nakazaki, since he decided not to be present at the hearing, arguing that he cannot be charged in the case because it was not included in the agreement that allowed his extradition from Chile.

Fujimori, Yong, Costa, Aguinaga and the former director-general of Health Ulisses Aguilar are accused as presumed authors of crimes against the body, life and health, charges aggravated with serious injuries and the deaths of five women, as well as serious injuries for the other 1,300.

Mortal victims, poor peasants and ethnic Quechua, died as a result of complications in the fallopian tube operations to which they were submitted in conditions without medical rigor, without prior preparation and without post-surgery medical-sanitary follow-up.

The prosecution said that during his second term, Fujimori had a majority in Congress and changed the laws to legalize sterilization, including it as a method of family planning.

Pablo Espinoza added that the objective of sterilizing the most vulnerable population was “Reduce poverty” and that, for that, the then Executive developed “a whole legal device to avoid being responsible” for any complications in Voluntary Surgical Contraception (AQV), as it was officially called.

“The state expressed the intention to sterilize all the poor, because there are no victims from other social strata, ”said Espinosa, arguing that he did not protect the rights of Andean women. “They are from the poorest and most vulnerable sections of the population, where families are large and women can be beaten by their partners when they adopt an anti-contraceptive method.”

According to a document signed by ex-minister Marino Costa, presented by the prosecution, the Peruvian Ministry of Health planned to carry out 150 thousand operations in 1997. In August of that year, he continued, 43% of the interventions had already been carried out.

Espinosa also denounced that Peruvian health professionals were coerced into meeting or exceeding sterilization targets and that, in return, received incentives, while the victims were threatened – children would no longer receive medical care if women refused or would receive free basic food baskets if they accepted.

Before the hearing began, Humberto Abanto, Marino Costa’s lawyer, asked that the hearing be suspended because the former minister traveled to Chile to undergo surgery.

However, Judge Rafael Martinez rejected the request because the defendant was “fully aware” of the date of the hearing and did not seek the necessary means to equip himself with the technical capacity to access the trial via the Internet.

The hearing, which began Monday in Lima, was attended by an interpreter of the Quechua dialect, who translated the presentation of the accusations in the session, which was suspended after five hours of work, and this Tuesday was resumed with the defense response of those targeted.

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