With the help of USAID and UNFPA, former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori conducted a no-holds-barred sterilization campaign aimed at minority women during the late nineties. So concluded a congressional commission in its lengthy report on the so-called Voluntary Surgical Contraception campaign, which peaked during the years 1995-2000. (1)
This document is called the Anticoncepcion Quirurgica Voluntaria Report, or simply the AQV Report. The AQV Commission was formally established by the Peruvian Congress on October 25, 2001. The AQV Report is an official report of the Peruvian government.
The report charges that from 1995-2000, national quotas for sterilization were imposed and campaigns were organized to sterilize women by force. The report charges that Fujimori’s National Family Planning Program selectively targeted social minority groups with the aim of reducing births. The report charges that Fujimori and several of his health ministers are guilty of genocide.
Notably, the AQV Report charges that the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) supported the sterilization campaign. According to the Report, “The population policy followed by the Peruvian government was induced and financed by international organizations, namely USAID and UNFPA. These restrictive policies from outside the country carried with them not only financing but demographic objectives which translated into targeted reductions in the fertility of Peruvian women, emphasizing those in poor areas.” (2)
In 1998 and 1999, PRI investigators interviewed Peruvian minorities living in impoverished regions who had been sterilized, and sometimes aborted, by force in USAID-funded programs in Peru. Women were routinely called “beasts,” “pigs,” “dogs,” and “cats” while being pressured to undergo sterilization. Documented cases include deaths from infection following coercive sterilization. Over 300,000 women were sterilized in this coercive campaign between 1995-2000.
The AQV Report specifically implicates USAID for urging the reduction of births of women living in impoverished settings, almost all of whom were ethnic minorities: “In 1996, then-Director of USAID Peru, George Wachtenheim, clearly stated in the name of his institution that in 1995, USAID had in Peru a project to reduce the fertility of Peruvian women.” He said, “regarding family planning, we will work in the most depressed areas. Fifteen million dollars, half of which goes to the government and the other half to Manuela Ramos (a non-governmental organization, or NGO, involved in forced sterilization), with who we are working in ‘punctual’ areas, such as Puno, Ayucucho and Apurimac.” (3)
The Report maintains that USAID not only supported Fujimori’s national population program, but urged policies that can be fairly described as genocidal: “This same ex-director [Wachtenheim] pronounced in almost triumphal terms, ‘the birth rates have been brought down from three to two percent. but it is necessary to fight on, focusing on these rural areas. [Wachtenheim’s] use of the word ‘punctual’ refers to areas where traditional family structure is culturally and economically important.” (4)
The AQV Report states that USAID and UNFPA served as counterparts in helping Fujimori to organize and implement his genocidal campaign: “Intervention and participation of international organizations cited concerning the national Population Program extended to the organization and structure of the Peruvian family through NGOs publicly and notoriously funded by USAID and UNFPA.. In an unprecedented case in national legislation, the technical department of that program was given to [UNFPA].. [T]he United Nations Population Fund, known for its support of population control in developing countries, took charge. For that end, the United Nations Population Fund act[ed] as Technical Secretary, working in coordination with the National Population Council.” (5)
In response to these charges, Anne Peterson, the Assistant Administrator of USAID’s Bureau of Global Health, has claimed in writing that the AQV Report has been “officially discredited.” In an apparent attempt to distance USAID from its support of coercion, Peterson makes a series of outlandish claims about the AQV Report, and describes it is having been “publicly repudiated,” “formally rejected,” as well as claiming that it “cannot be substantiated” and calling into question its “veracity.” (6)
Far from being rejected, however, the AQV Report has been accepted by the Human Rights Commission of the Peruvian Congress. On June 10, 2003, the Human Rights Commission voted unanimously to support and adopt the AQV Report.
“We are going to adopt it,” said the President of Peru’s Human Rights Commission, Congresswoman Dora Nunez, “and we are going to send it [to the full Congress and to the Attorney General]… So, Congressmen who are in favor of this proposal, please raise your hands. Approved by majority….” (7)
USAID must stop denying its role in Fujimori’s sterilization campaign. It must apologize to the Peruvian people, especially the tens of thousand of women who were sterilized under duress. And it must take steps to ensure that such abuses never happen again in U.S.-supported and funded programs.
(1) Final Report Concerning Voluntary Surgical Contraception During the Years 1990-2000, Subcommittee Investigation of Persons and Institutions Involved in Voluntary Surgical Contraception, [Anticoncepcion Quirurgica Voluntaria or AQV Report], June 2002; PRI Review, Vol. 12; No. 4, July/August, 2002.
(6) Anne Peterson, USAID Bureau for Global Health, letter dated Jan 7, 2003
(7) “Acta de la Vigesimo Tercera Sesion de la Comision de Derechos Humanos,” Peruvian Congress, June 10, 2003.
Steve Mosher is the president of Population Research Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to debunking the myth that the world is overpopulated.