LIMA – The second round of the Peruvian presidential elections are fast approaching, but more attention has been turned to Peru’s history of forced sterilisation. On the 10th of April, 2016 Keiko Fujimori received 39.74% of the votes cast in the first round of the presidential elections. This carries her forth into the second round, set for June 5th, as the strong favourite.  Fujimori’s opposition, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, only received 21.04%.

However the elections have been put on the back burner while Peru’s history of forced sterilisation has come back into the limelight. On April 5th, at least 30,000 protested against the sterilisation that had taken place during Alberto Fujimori’s, Keiko Fujimori’s father, second term as President of Peru. April 5th, was a special dated as it marked the 24 year anniversary on Alberto Fujimori’s Auto-coup, when he dissolved the congress and assumed full legislative and judicial power.

Between 1996 and 2000, anywhere from 260,000 to 350,000 people were sterilised in Peru. The majority of them were poor, female and spoke only Quechua, a local indigenous language. The outcome was a total of 2,074 women coming forward stating that these sterilisations were carried out against their will. In May of last year, the authorities reopened a case against Alberto Fujimori for his involvement in these events, even though he is already serving a 25 year sentence for corruption and other crimes against humanity, including the use of death squads. 

Victoria Vigo, who took part in the recent protests, is also one of the women that was sterilised against her will. She had been taken to a hospital in 1996, after experiencing pain during her third pregnancy, an emergency C-section was performed, the child did not survive more than a few hours. However that was not the end of Vigo’s misery as she overheard the doctors say how she was now being sterilised.

Vigo later found out that her name was on a list sent from the hospital to the government to prove they had met their quota of sterilisations. Vigo sued the hospital and won several years later.

In a recent speech at Harvard, Keiko Fujimori said she lamented what had befallen the victims, and blamed the sterilisations on medical staff. However, La Republica, a Peruvian newspaper, says that the orders containing the sterilisation quotas came directly from the Ministry of Public Health.

Sandra de la Cruz, a communications officer at the organisation ‘Somos 2074 y muchas mas’ (We are 2074 and many more) said, “The idea then was: to eliminate poverty, we simply eliminate the poor.” The 30,000 that marched on April 5th, chanted “We are the children of the villagers who you couldn’t sterilise.”

Victoria Vigo, who now says she does not want any arrests for the sterilisations just an apology and for someone to claim responsibility for the events, also said, “They are watching her [Fujimori] with every step she takes. So, even if she wanted to, a programme like the sterilisations would be impossible to set up. Times have changed for the better.”

– Paul Carlsen, Correspondent (South America)