When Human Values Are Forgotten…

Columban Father Maurice Foley
July 17, 2014

The world was shocked after World War II when the news of the sterilization of Jews and Gypsies by Nazi Germany was reported. Horrible indeed as was that inhuman episode, it didn’t seem to have made a difference in Peru in 1995 to the population planners who set about sterilizing all the Indian and rural women of the Peruvian highlands. A fi gure of 400,000 women sterilized is probably exaggerated, but the number is in excess of a quarter of a million.

When the human person is taken for just another commodity, human values are forgotten, power takes over and the law is compromised. This in terms of a civilized society is hard to understand, yet the intimate details of how a modern human being is subjected to a betrayal of her human dignity can only be explained in terms of what happened. Michaela Flores received three calls from the local health center in Curabamba, Anta, Cusco. On the third call she answered with her husband and went to what they were led to believe was a health campaign. On arrival there were about 50 women waiting in the arrival area. They were obliged to board an ambulance which brought them to a medical center. She was then obliged to lie down on a stretcher and was promptly tied hands and feet. While pleading to be let go, someone applied an injection which put her to sleep. Later, she woke up with a distinct sensation of being drugged and a burning pain in her lower abdomen. As she looked around she discovered she was not alone. There were several women groaning and calling for their husbands. In the midst of this suffering, the voice of a doctor told the women “You have to thank President Fujimori now because you will never more have any children.” From that time Michaela confesses that she had a tumor, pains in her legs and is in continual pain. She cannot work in the fi elds anymore and neither can her friends and neighbors who have been through the same ordeal. For some of her friends and neighbors, the result has been a break-up of their families.

The intimate details of their operations caused shame, so they remained silent for years, but now that the full story of what happened is out, they are glad to speak out and demand justice. In 1995 in Beijing, China, at an international women’s meeting, poverty was set forth as the greatest threat to humanity. A deputy of the Peruvian Parliament, Hilaria Supa, was the only Peruvian Deputy from the Andes region and in a plenary meeting with Fujimori, then President of Peru, he wanted ideas. Hilaria protested that this could only be done with a survey to find out what the people thought and would consent to. Later she was to discover that there was a project already elaborated to prevent the birth of babies to women in the poorer areas. This was called “the green plan.” Page nine of this green plan had as its object to stop as soon as possible the demographic growth among those who were culturally backward, and the area of Apurimac and other areas were targeted in a process known as AQV= Anticoncepcion Quirurguica Voluntaria in Spanish. In English, the plan would translate to Voluntary Contraceptive Surgery. For this AQV program, quotas were established for the respective health centers, and prizes were also accorded to professionals who exceeded their quotas. A review of the records kept in those days give us the following figures for AQV— 1993=19,261; 1994=28,251; 1995=32,283 and on. In the year 1997 the minister for health reported to Fujimori that for the first seven months of that year 64,831 AQV had been accomplished which was 43% of the quota of 150,000 for the year.

This all happened in the years of Fujimori ably assisted by Vladimiro Montesinos. There were three ministers for health involved in this inhuman and anti-cultural, national insult. Mothers engaged in the daily combat with poverty were not in a position to challenge the government ministry for health.

Organizing the other victims of a similar experience took time, but their insistence has finally paid off with the formation of the group A Woman’s Association of All Those Affected by Forced Sterilizations. Their first initiative was to present before the court a recourse of annulment of a case presented by the court official, the Fiscal, to exonerate those who were involved in the forced sterilization campaign of President Fujimori. In Peruvian law the Fiscal approves or rejects cases that are presented to the court. In the case of the Green Plan Sterilization, the Fiscal Marco Guzman, rejected the case made against those implementing the Green Plan. However, for the death of Mamerta Chavez who died in the sterilization campaign, two doctors were accused, Segundo Cerna and Carlos Rueda, and as well indicated some blame in the case of Enrique Marroquin and Edina Zavaleta. With respect to the rejection of the case presented by the Women’s Association another approach to the courts has been recommended by Christian Salas, a lawyer for the anti-corruption courts. This approach has been backed up by the Ministry for Women.

Dr. Luis Figari, minister for health in the government of Dr. Toledo, ordered an investigation to the whole program carried out by Fujimori which also adds substance to the evidence brought by the Women’s Association to overturn Fiscal Marco Guzman’s decision not to admit the case brought against the sterilizations in the Green Plan of Fujimori and proceed with the prosecution of all those who were involved in the implementation of the forced sterilizations under the Green Plan. The Women’s Association has only recently introduced their case and will have to fight a legal battle to vindicate the monstrous ordeal to which they have been subjected. They are simple poor campesinas and are taking on the smartest legal experts in the country. However, their success goes far beyond the confines of medical practice. When power goes unchecked in the modern state, the savage instinct in man is unleashed, and civilization is reduced to a dominant social fashion. In such a situation there are no guarantees for anybody.