I recently wrote an article on Peru for an American publishing company. In my research I learned details of Peru’s human rights record. While America has come under fire for things like denying due process to Guantanamo detainees, waterboarding, and rendition, this is child’s play compared to what’s happened here. My friend Lucia wanted to know specifically what bothered me. Where to start?
Torture is is widespread among police and military personnel, who’ve been accused of beatings and other forms of torture. Accused persons are usually beaten when they are detained. Abuse of recruits is common in the military (one famous case of a recruit being sodomized with a broken light bulb brought the issue to the forefront).
Authorities responsible for such torture and abuse are rarely held accountable. Some witnesses to human rights abuse claim to have been intimidated or threatened by police and military forces. Conditions in Peruvian prisons are particularly dire, as guards are notorious for abusing inmates. Overcrowding, lack of sanitation and health care, abuse from guards and fellow inmates, and poor nutrition are the norm. A 2000 survey reported that 34% of Peruvian women had been battered by their husbands and 19% were battered on a regular basis. Prosecuting abusers and rapists has proven ineffective.
I told Lucia about one story that particularly bothered me more than the rest. The government of former president Alberto Fujimori led a late nineties campaign of sterilizing poor, rural women. Government doctors performed 215,227 sterilizing operations on women and 16,547 male vasectomies between 1996 – 2000.
The propoganda campaign promised “happiness and well-being.” Most women claimed they were deceived about the nature of the operation. Others said they were offered financial incentives like food and medicine. Still others claimed to have been threatened with fines if they didn’t undergo the operation.
After telling Lucia this story, she said those women were poor and ignorant. She hates to see these cholo women with so many kids that they can’t feed, or when they have the kids working with them in the cities. She said the story didn’t bother her at all, and even added that it was a good idea.
I guess you get the government you deserve.
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