By Matthew Cullinan Hoffman, Latin America Correspondent

LIMA, June 19, 2009 ( – Peru’s government has decided to end its investigation against former health officials for thousands of forced sterilizations carried out during the late 1990s, under president Alberto Fujimori.

Human rights organizations have thoroughly documented evidence that women were physically coerced, threatened, tricked, and enticed with economic incentives during the implementation of the program, which sterilized a total of approximately 400,000 Peruvian women in just two years, 1997 and 1998, with the help of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

The coercive actions of program officials have been tied to pressure from the Peruvian government to meet pre-set sterilization quotas. The economic incentives offered to desperately poor women have also been criticized as coercive, and violated existing international standards for such programs.

However, the Provincial Prosecutor in charge of human rights cases, Jaime Jose Swartz, reportedly claims that there is insufficient evidence to charge the nation’s health ministers and other program personnel for human rights abuses.

The decision to shelve the case has sparked protests from pro-life organizations, as well as human rights and feminist groups.

“I hope our government changes its decision,” said Carlos Polo, head of the Population Research Institute’s Latin America office in Peru, in an interview with LifeSiteNews.

“I have personally spoken with Victoria Vigo, one of the women sterilized who presented her testimony before the US Congress when the Population Research Institute presented the evidence of all of the abuses committed [during the program],” Polo said.

“Victoria was devastated. With this most recent decision on the part of the government, she will feel defrauded because the crimes that were committed against these poor Peruvian women, almost 400,000, who were sterilized in two years, now remain unpunished.”

News of the decision to cancel the investigation comes just as Colombia’s House of Representatives is passing a bill that will provide economic and other incentives to both men and women who accept sterilization.

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Colombian House of Representatives Approves National Sterilization Program