Former president of Peru Alberto Fujimori has been exonerated of charges that he and his cabinet were responsible for the forced sterilization of hundreds of thousands of poor women of indigenous descent in the 1990s.
According to El Comercio, state prosecutor Marco Guzman has closed the inquiry into the actions of Fujimori and his former Minister of Health Alejandro Aguinaga and top-ranking officials Marino Costa Bauer and Eduardo Yong Motta. The four were accused of ordering the involuntary sterilization of 300,000 women.
Guzman says that there is not sufficient evidence that women were coerced or forced into undergoing operations. “The women would come to the clinic, agree to the procedure, and undergo sterilization. That was the regular, the normal process,” Guzman said. The investigator also said that proving criminal responsibility on the part of Fujimori and his ministers was difficult in part because “no one can force a doctor to do something against their will.”
However, Guzman conceded that the sterilization program was not without its flaws: “In some cases [the sterilizations] affected the physical integrity of the women, and there was pressure on women who already had many children to be persuaded to undergo sterilization, but no case was found that evidenced [sterilization by] force,” said the investigator.
Victims’ advocates are frustrated with the inquiry’s conclusions. “Fujimori might be in prison but blanket immunity continues for the perpetrators of one of the most atrocious human rights violations in Peru,” said Rossy Salazar of the NGO Demus. The ex-president is currently serving a 25-year sentence for crimes against humanity.
El Comercio reports that the prosecution will move forward with investigations against one group involved in the sterilizations: a team of doctors whose patient Mamerita Mestanza died as a result of a tube-tying operation.