Monday, December 31, 2012

Forced Sterilization in Mexico

By Ahni Jul 2, 2008

Authorities in Guerrero, Mexico "have agreed to pay 490,000 pesos (US$48,000) in compensation to 14 indigenous men coerced into having vasectomies," reports Bill Weinberg of the WW4Report.

The men will each be paid 35,000 pesos (US$3,400) and given water storage tanks and cement to build homes, said state health secretary Luis Barrera Rios. The men agreed to the deal, despite initial demands of 200,000 pesos (US$19,000) each.

The men, represented by the Tlachinollan Center for Human Rights, say that state health workers showed up in the village of El Camalote in 1998 and demanded that men with more than four children have vasectomies. The plaintiffs said they were promised a clinic, medicine, clothes, scholarships for their children and new homes for submitting to the procedure—while those who refused were threatened with removal from government aid programs. The claims were investigated by the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH).

The government earlier refused to pay compensation, saying the men signed consent forms and denying that they had been offered any benefits. After an investigation, the CNDH called on the Guerrero government to compensate the men, finding that health officials made no effort to counsel them on the implications of vasectomies or on alternative birth control methods. (AP, June 26)

Last October, a regional court in the Czech Republic made a similar ruling for a Romani woman. Bill Weinberg also reported on this story.

On Oct. 12, the Regional Court in Ostrava, Czech Republic, awarded compensation of CZK500,000 (US$260,000) to a Romani woman, Iveta Cervenakova, 30, for having been sterilized against her will. Ostrava City Hospital is to pay the damages. According to Kumar Vishwanathan of the Vzajemne Souziti (Life Together) civic association, this is the Czech Republic's first case of compensation for coerced sterilization. Holubová was sterilized 10 years ago. "She was not sufficiently informed and did not even learn she had had such surgery until seven years later," Vishwanathan said. The hospital claims it has Cervenakova's written consent on file and is considering appealing. (, Oct. 12)

Both Mexico and the Czech Republic are among a group of more than a dozen states that have actively sterilized men and women without their knowledge or consent. Other states include China, Canada, America, Peru, Australia, Colombia, Bolivia, Norway, India, Panama, Finland, Estonia, Slovakia, Switzerland, Iceland and Sweden. Few if any of these states have apologized or given reparations to the victims or their families.

John Ahniwanika Schertow is an indigenous rights activist of Mohawk (Kanienkehaka) and mixed-European descent. For the past 8 years, he has served as the editor and publisher of Intercontinental Cry. He is also a correspondent for the Public Good Project.

UNFPA Supports Forced Sterilization in Mexico

January 6, 2003
Volume 5/ Number 1

Dear Colleague:
A growing number of governments are questioning the wisdom of supporting the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA). As the UNFPA continues to distort the U.S. State Department’s findings that it supports forced abortion in China, new evidence has surfaced showing that UNFPA supports involuntary sterilization in Mexico.
Steven W. Mosher

UNFPA Supports Forced Sterilization in Mexico

On the heels of reports of massive financial and programmatic mismanagement within the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA),1 an independent investigation has found that UNFPA also supports involuntary sterilization and coercive family planning in Mexico.
An official body of the Mexican government, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), recently denounced coercion in family planning programs throughout Mexico.
According to the NHRC, “Public health servants have imposed methods of family planning on the native population without their consent and without informing them of the risks.”2 The NHRC has also found that family planning officials “threaten men and women who do not accept a method of family planning,” and that family planning officials deprive men and women of other “medical services” in order to force them to prevent births.3
The NHRC report follows an in-depth investigation of coercive population control programs in Mexico which reveals that UNFPA supports covert abortion, coercive family planning, and involuntary sterilization through the National Population Council of Mexico (CONAPO).
Under the guise of principles of voluntarism, articulated in the Program of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), UNFPA works in Mexico with CONAPO to achieve “population and development objectives”4 through programs that target the poor and victimize women.
UNFPA’s “population objectives” in Mexico include reducing births and lowering Mexico’s overall population by 2015. Through CONAPO, located in Mexico City, (which UNFPA supports with financial, strategic, technical and medical support), national quotas for family planning users are established then assigned to regional hospitals to be fulfilled by teams of local family planning workers.5 Should doctors or health workers fail to achieve assigned quotas, threats and punishments such as loss of pay or employment are imposed on them. Over 40 case studies of victims were obtained in Mexico this summer, including testimonies which note the following abuses:

  • Covert abortion, in the name of "normalization of menstruation," forced on women without informed consent; • Clandestine placement of IUDs; • Forced signing of "informed consent" documents in order to sterilize victim;

  • In one alarming case, a woman testified that, while undergoing a caesarian delivery, her fallopian tubes were ligated (tied) without her foreknowledge or consent.6
    UNFPA conceals its support of coercion behind a variety of masks, including ICPD "voluntarism." According to UNFPA, UNFPA and CONAPO provide "intervention models" aimed at "vulnerable groups" of Mexico's population. In practice, however, such "intervention" may include using the pangs of childbirth to extort signatures from "vulnerable" women on sterilization consent forms.7
    The UNFPA/CONAPO program is based on the wrongheaded notion that reducing the fertility of the poor will somehow jumpstart economic development, a theory with no empirical support.  But it is in pursuit of this chimera that the UNFPA/CONAPO program works vigorously to develop what it calls "innovative" models for expanding "reproductive health services to urban and rural populations living in poverty."8
    Consistent with these findings, the NHRC notes such innovative techniques of coercion as bribing poor men and women with "material goods" and "economic resources" to get them to use contraception.9 Such methods violate established norms of informed consent.
    In its recommendations to the Mexican Ministry of Health (MOH), the NHRC demands that human rights and freedoms be restored to the people of Mexico, and that coercive family planning be ended. To date, however, the MOH has not responded to this recommendation.
    UNFPA also refuses to denounce or even acknowledge the existence of coercive family planning in Mexico. Instead, UNFPA plans to continue funding coercive family planning. UNFPA has funded Mexico’s family planning program since 1972. In 1997, UNFPA provided $15.5 million to the Government of Mexico and CONAPO. Currently in its fourth cycle of assistance with CONAPO, UNFPA is scheduled to provide $12 million for population control over the next five years.10
    As for the U.S. contribution to coercive population control in Mexico, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has provided over $5 million dollars to “family planning” programs organized by Mexico’s Ministry of Health since 1997. Recently, however, USAID officials report that population funding for Mexico has ended. Instead, USAID is providing funds to the Mexican MOH for basic health and HIV/AIDS programs.
    PRI calls on the Fox administration to end coercive population control programs aimed at Mexico’s most vulnerable citizens.

    1. Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), Friday Fax, “Internal UN documents show financial mismanagement at UNFPA, January 3, 2002.
    2. ACI, “Birth Control Imposed on Native Mexicans,” 29 December, 2002.
    3. Ibid.
    4. UNFPA, “UNFPA Proposed Projects and Programs: Recommendation by the Executive Director; Assistance to the Government of Mexico,” 28 January-8 February, 2002, New York.
    5. PRI, “How Mexico Treats Its Poor Women,” PRI Review, September-October 2002, p. 3.
    6. Ibid.
    7. Ibid.
    8. UNFPA.
    9. ACI.
    10. UNFPA.

    Posted by Jim on Marzo 28, 2000
    This very interesting article appeared the other day in the Toronto Star
    Mexico's Indians target of sterilization `sweep'
    Villagers recall threats, gifts by No. 3 Brigade
    By Linda Diebel
    Toronto Star Latin America Bureau

    (Jump to Forum Comments)
    AYUTLA DE LOS LIBRES, Mexico - Jose Toribio, a Mixtec Indian from the Sierra Madre mountains, says he can't walk properly because of pain in his groin and left leg.
    He can't work to support his family.
    He attributes the pain to a vasectomy he had two years ago after visits to his remote village by No. 3 Brigade, a state medical team working in the western Mexican state of Guerrero in 1997 and 1998.
    Toribio now says he had the operation because of threats made to him by No. 3 Brigade.
    His claims are supported by the official Guerrero Human Rights Commission, which carried out a seven-month investigation into allegations of ``forced sterilization'' of 17 Mixtec men and concluded they were improperly sterilized.
    These cases from Guerrero come amid increasing allegations of a pattern of abuse across Mexico. Human rights groups cite evidence that unilingual Indians are being targeted by government sterilization brigades in several states.
    Recent reports include women given tubal ligations without their knowledge following Caesarean sections; women being paid with a kilo of beans or tomatoes for sterilization procedures they don't understand; and a woman who couldn't conceive because an IUD (intrauterine device) had been implanted in her womb without her knowledge and was embedded in her flesh.
    Certainly there is a push to sterilize people in Guerrero, where one-seventh of the state's 3,000,000 people is pure Indian.
    In the past five years, the state sterilized 35,079 people, 95.8 per cent by tubal ligation and 4.8 per cent by vasectomy, according to a government health report released in January.
    The state human rights commission believes the Mixtec men were tricked into the procedure, contravening the most basic principles of global human rights, as well as the laws of the republic of Mexico.
    In a tough report, its legal team describes ``artifice and deceitful measures'' taken by members of No. 3 Brigade to coerce the Indians. It accuses them of preying on people's ``precarious poverty'' by threatening to stop government food, health, and agricultural payments.
    ``Moral pressure was brought to bear, making them fear the loss of those economic means necessary for them to survive,'' it says.
    The report recommends, among other points, an immediate investigation into No. 3 Brigade, with a view to taking legal action ``in accordance with the gravity of the acts committed.''
    It was tabled with the state health ministry in December. Since then, a wall of denial has gone up from both state and federal officials.
    ``In the beginning, I did not want to accept the operation,'' Toribio tells The Star through an interpreter. ``But they told me I had to have it. They said if I didn't, my wife would die the next time she became pregnant.
    ``They warned me they would cut off (government) programs if I didn't agree. They said if I had the operation, they would pay me $1,500 pesos ($250) every two months and give us food, clothing and shoes.''
    `In the beginning, I did not want to accept the operation. But they told me I had to have it. They said if I didn't, my wife would die the next time she became pregnant.' - Jose Toribio
    And so, Toribio, 31, who lives in extreme poverty with his wife and six children, agreed to the procedure. He joined 16 men from three villages who were trucked by state health authorities to the regional hospital here in Ayutla de los Libres to undergo vasectomies.
    The issue is whether they were forced. The Indians believe they were and say the government ``wants to annihilate'' them.
    There has been no concerted federal investigation into these reports of abuse. And even though the state of Guerrero has not completed its investigation of the human rights report, its attitude is clear.
    ``There has been no violation of human rights,'' Daniel Pano Cruz, chief spokesman for Guerrero Governor Rene Juarez Cisneros, told The Star.
    ``There is no evidence the decision-making (abilities) of the sterilized people were in any way abused. These accusations have a political basis. . . . No one can prove this has happened here.''
    On a recent March morning, some 40 Mixtec Indians arrive at a small community centre in Ayutla de los Libres, a three-hour drive into the Sierra Madre mountains from Acapulco. They have come in flatbed trucks and rickety buses, leaving their villages at dawn.
    This meeting with The Star was arranged over two months, through indigenous leaders in Ayutla and surrounding villages who have only sporadic access to phones. One by one, they file in and pull up plastic chairs, waiting for interpreters to translate from Mixtec to Spanish.
    They don't speak Spanish. Most sign with a thumbprint.
    The men wear dusty work pants, open shirts - often with a crucifix around their necks - and shabby sandals. They carry intricately woven bags.
    The women, none over five feet tall, wear brightly coloured skirts and long braids. Their feet are bare. They sit quietly, eyes cast down, hands clasped, and speak only when spoken to.
    These people are from nearby La Fatima and Ocotlan, which were investigated by state human rights officials, along with Ojo de Agua.
    ``I was afraid I wouldn't be able to support my family if they cut off the programs,'' says Toribio, from La Fatima. ``I have never felt well since and I can't support my family.''
    He says No. 3 Brigade specifically threatened to cut off Progresa and Procampo federal aid programs administered by the state. Progresa covers health and family planning. The men say there was no follow-up treatment.
    Martin Garcia, 34, is also from La Fatima.
    ``They said it was an order of the government and that we would lose our programs,'' he says. ``I believed them. But now I think the government is doing this because it wants to annihilate Indians. They are tired of the problems of us poor people.''
    Juan Garcia, 40, was village health president when No. 3 Brigade came to La Fatima.
    ``When the nurses arrived, they already had the names of five people. We don't know how they got the names or why they wanted the information,'' he says. He adds the medical team told people ``they already had enough children.''
    The men talk about how they were told they had a ``sickness'' and how they would be ``cured'' by the procedure.
    The report says it has ``fully proven'' the complainants were not duly informed about sterilization because proper release forms would never use words such as ``sickness'' to refer to a vasectomy. It adds: ``We conclude their decision could not be responsible because it lacked free choice and truly adequate and effective information.''
    Some men say they received a kilo of beans and a kilo of cornmeal for their vasectomies.
    They say the government never kept any promises to pay them money.
    Agapito Cornelio, 57, is an elder from Ocotlan.
    ``This happened because of ignorance, because people can't read and they don't understand Spanish. So the villagers believe what the doctors say,'' he explains. ``It is very bad what has happened.''
    The Star couldn't locate No. 3 brigade members Dr. Ernesto Guzman, nurse Mayra Ramos and organizer, Rafael Almazon.
    State health officials refuse to say whether they are still working in Guerrero.
    However, the three denied in a joint interview with the human rights commission to having duped people. They said they relied on a translator and were ``unaware whether the translator . . . had offered them something in exchange for having the vasectomy.''
    The commission concludes that ``it is illogical that three translators, belonging to different communities . . . would have offered the same conditions for the operation in similar terms (including identical terms in the communities of Ojo de Agua and La Fatima).''
    ``What is most worrisome is that those who were sterilized are in bad health,'' says Filemon Santos, co-founder of the Independent Organization of Mixtec and Tlapaneca Peoples.
    ``The programs are meant to heal people, but on the contrary, they were destructive. It's the reverse of healing. They have changed people's lives for the worse - and the government has washed its hands of the problem.''
    Benito Morales, the indigenous group's other founder, says the villages took their allegations to the health ministry in 1998.
    ``They wouldn't accept the complaints,'' he says. ``They say they have nothing against indigenous peoples, but they haven't delivered on their promises. They think if the people are indigenous, they won't complain.''
    The Mexican constitution protects people's right to decide ``in a free, responsible and informed way'' about the number and spacing of children.
    That right is guaranteed in international conventions signed by Mexico, including accords on indigenous peoples.
    There are global sanctions for abuse. The most prominent is the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which cites ``imposing measures intended to prevent births within (a) group'' as a definition of genocide.
    In recent months, there has been widespread coverage in the Mexican media of allegations of forced sterilizations, including ground-breaking reports by Gloria Leticia Diaz in Proceso magazine.
    Officials from federal and state governments say claims are political, and that no such activity occurs in Mexico.
    ``We reiterate the policy of the Mexican government: full freedom for women, men and couples to be well-informed whether they . . . want contraceptive measures, but it should never be obligatory,'' federal health minister Jose Antonio Gonzalez told reporters last week.
    ``We have said in reaction to these allegations (in Guerrero) that there is no proof which shows it happened and, if there were, we would want to be the first to know if there had been any crime committed under the law.''
    He declined to be interviewed by The Star. So did Guerrero Gov. Juarez Cisneros and state health minister Carlos de la Pena.
    A spokesman from President Ernesto Zedillo's office failed to get back to The Star, as promised, about allegations of forced sterilizations across the country.
    The international community has a link to these cases.
    The Guerrero vasectomies (which nobody denies took place) were covered under a federal health program, funded by a $465 million loan from the World Bank (which is supported by member nations, including Canada). The loan is slated to improve conditions among 15 million impoverished people in nine states.
    ``It's absolutely false from our point of view,'' says World Bank spokesman Chris Neal from Washington, referring to allegations of ``forced sterilization'' in Guerrero. ``These are informed programs by which individuals or couples decide the method of family planning like everybody else in the free world.
    ``We don't support forced sterilizations. That's ridiculous.''
    Meanwhile, similar reports continue to surface across Mexico, particularly in states where the country's 12 million Indians are concentrated.
    For example:
    Elsewhere in the Guerrero mountains, health officials performed tubal ligations in 1998 on 11 Nahuatl women, without proper consent, according to the Human Rights Centre of Tlachinollan, a non-governmental group.
    Their report describes cases in which women were either told the operation was free and would prevent cervical cancer (and given a litre of oil and a kilo each of tomatoes and green chilies), or operated on without their knowledge after Caesareans and found out much later.
    In the eastern state of Veracruz, community groups have urged a federal investigation into what they say are ``forced sterilizations.''
    In the Sierra Norte mountains of Puebla state, east of Mexico City, there are reports some 200 women have been improperly sterilized since 1994. Some women say the state promised 30,000 pesos ($4,600).
    Dr. Rodolfo Cardenas, former director of four state hospitals, recently told reporters that squads went into isolated areas ``where they improvised places, without proper hygiene or lighting, in which to perform tubal ligations.''
    At the Ayutla meeting, Mixtec women say they, too, were pressured.
    They are not part of the state's human rights report and they don't want to speak. They do so only when this reporter keeps asking through the translators.
    They are so timid, it's easy to understand the clout medical authority figures, sweeping into villages in big trucks, would have had with them.
    Several women from La Fatima say No. 3 Brigade lined them up when the village elders were away and treated them at a clinic. They were not transported to hospital in Ayutla like the men.
    They describe a painful gynecological procedure - but they don't know what it was.
    ``I was very frightened,'' says Toribio's wife, Maria Feliciana Faustino, 31. ``They said I had no choice. They said I would die if I had another child.''
    As the meeting winds down, Vicente Lauro, 25, from Ocotlan, stands up in the back.
    He says he can't sow maize since his vasectomy.
    ``When the people of Canada find out what is happening to us,'' he asks, ``will they make the government keep its promises?''
    Posted by Richard Ferguson on Marzo 28, 2000
    Unfortunately, this report fits in with the general pattern of Indians in Mexico being discriminated against at almost any level that you care to view, whether income, education, etc. It is not a coincidence that the armed revolutionary groups in Mexico (EZLN, EPR, etc.) have a base of indigenous people. Occasionally Mexicans will claim that they do not have racial discrimination in Mexico. Anyone who doubts the race consciousness of Mexican society has only to watch any TV program with a studio audience. The people on stage will invariably be very white, (gueros), while the audience will be obviously mixed race (mestizo). There is no Indian counterpart of Oprah Winfrey in Mexico, unless you want to count a comedienne who plays a dumb Indian for cheap jokes.

    Richard Ferguson
    Posted by Bill on Marzo 29, 2000
    After spending more than 6 years living in Mexico I must admit that I don't feel qualified, or comfortable, taking a stand on something like this with any degree of certainty. There is a great deal of complexity involved, and I really don't know enough of the facts. There is probably nothing that upsets Mexicans more than foreigners commenting on internal matters when those same foreigners may have similar, or more serious, situations that exist, or that existed, in their home countries. That's not to say that those of us who are not Mexican comment. It's just that many of us do so with an attitude of superiority, as if the places we come from are free of such situations.
    The existence of forced sterilization, of men and women, in the United States, is widely known. Recently, I think it was the ABC 20/20 program that told the story of mental patients (who were really not mentally ill at all) that were forced to undergo sterilization against their will. We also know that many poor black women in the South were subject to forced sterilization, until recent times. The victims of these acts were all minorities, in one way or another, either by race or by assumed condition.
    Today, in the United States, we live in one of the most racially segregated countries, yet we are quick to point the finger at other countries without cleaning our own house first. The record of abuse against indigenous peoples by the majority in the United States is hardly in dispute. Our own record is shameful. Yet today, few people raise their voices in defense of the American Indian. My experience has been that discrimination based on race per se is not common in Mexico. Class distinction is present, and there may be discrimination based on economic level, but I don't often hear someone comment negatively about someone's color. The Costa Chica area of Guerrero, where some of these sterilization stories are coming from, is governed by Mexico's first Afro-Mestizo "Black" governor, Rene Cisneros. I have traveled to many places and I'm not certain I've come across a country where just about everyone is accepted for who they are.
    I see no grand plan by the Mexican Government to sterilize the indigenous. The average Mexican is appalled at these stories. And, our Mexican friends need to understand that we are not people living in glass houses who are throwing stones at them. The forced sterilization reports are indeed disturbing. Let's not judge Mexicans and the society in Mexico solely on these reports.

    Dateline Mexico 
    by CarlosMendez

    EIR Volume 17, Number 11, March 9, 1990

    On Feb. 4, President Carlos Salinas de Gortari signed a foreign debt renegotiation pact under the Brady Plan, an event attended by World Bank president Barber Conable, International Monetary Fund (IMF) managing director Michel Camdessus, and United States Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady. Two days later, in presenting the National Population Program for 1989-94, President Salinas fulfilled an unwritten condition of the debt pact, in declaring that "the level of demographic growth continues very high" in Mexico, and that "therefore it is fundamental to achieve a population growth rate of only 1 % by the year 2000."

    To achieve such a barbaric result will require "a good dose of coercion, as has occurred in China," charged journalist Moises G. Barbosa in the daily Unomasuno Feb. 11.

    President Salinas' statements surprised many, above all in light of the upcoming May visit to Mexico of Pope John Paul II, and because the Catholic Church is a fierce opponent of sterilization and other artificial methods of birth control.

    But increasingly, commentators are suggesting that the emphasis on such a population goal is the result of pressures from the World Bank and IMF, backed by the U.S. government.

    On Feb. 9, columnist JoseE. Perez wrote in the daily Excelsior that "within days of having concluded the foreign debt renegotiation process, the meeting of the National Population Council awakened the idea among various circles that multinational credit
    agencies are pressuring for the imposition of population control policies here. In the circles where this rumor was spreading, the old strategy followed by the World Bank under [Robert Strange] McNamara, through which population control was imposed
    as a condition for economic aid to the developing nations, was cited."

    This World Bank strategy, of course, continues in force today. On Nov. 7, 1989, bank president Conable declared in Ottawa, Canada that the bank would nearly triple its expenses on population reduction activities.

    Conable, who spoke before the International Planned Parenthood Federation, added that the World Bank will be working with private groups to make "family planning" an accepted practice by "at least one-half of all Third World couples."

    According to the Washington, D.C. correspondent of the Mexican daily EI Financiero,
    "sources maintain that the 'happy conclusion' of the refinancing package between Mexico and the creditor banks is implicitly tied to a reduction of Mexico's population growth to 1 % by the year 2000. The conditions stipulated by the International Monetary Fund rarely contain explicit reference to demographic
    policy, but it appears 'between the lines' of the negotiation process, the
    sources noted."

    It is thus clear that one of the renegotiation conditions was the drastic reduction of population growth. But it is also clear that achieving this will require application of the methods of Communist China, a task which required the oversight of the Red Army in that unhappy country.

    In his Feb. 11 article in Unomasuno, Moises G. Barbosa wrote, ''To achieve a rate of 1 % by the year 2000, one need only avoid a little more than 5 million births by that year," meaning that of the nearly "2.5 million births that occurred in 1988, we must reach approximately 2 million births a year in 1994, avoiding thus the first
    2.5 million. From then on, the efforts will be 'redoubled' even more, so that the number of yearly births would continue to fall, reaching approximately 1.6 million in the year 2000, thereby achieving the proposed reduction.

    The problem emerges when one observes that the existing children and youth, proportionally higher than the adult population, will shortly be entering the group of fertile-age women, and from the 21.1 million that existed in 1988, that number will reach 25.6 million in 1994 and 29.5 million in 2000, independent of the hypothesis we are dealing with, since this corresponds to an already existing population which as can be seen . . . cannot easily be made to disappear."

    Barbosa concluded:
    "One can only hope that the proposed goal, which is only achievable with a good dose of coercion, as happened in China, is not translated into an abrupt rise in the number of sterilizations or in the proliferation of phrases such as those used by many doctors following administration of abortions: 'Little mother, we put in a little thing so you won't be having any more children. ' "

    The warning is not far-fetched.

    The clinics of the Mexican Institute of Social Security and the State Workers'
    Social Security Institute have been sterilizing mothers for years, without consulting them first-that is, following in the fascist footsteps of Communist China.

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