Low vaccination rates, in part, are the result of a history of forced sterilizations and unethical medical experimentation, which has created distrust of Western medical initiatives by indigenous populations.
In Peru and Bolivia, indigenous women of the Andes endured forced sterilizations at the hands of both local government and foreign organizations.
Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori sterilized 272,028 indigenous women, the majority without consent, from 1996 to 2001.
Fujimori said his infamous “family planning” project was a means to give women the ability to make decisions without the burden of unplanned pregnancy.
However, Peru’s human rights ombudsman’s office revealed in 2002 it was nothing more than a stratagem to control birth rates among poor, indigenous populations in order to fight off “resource depletion” and “economic downturn.”
Fujimori is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence in Peru for crimes against humanity carried out during his regime.
“It’s a challenge, fighting a legacy like that,” Maria Cabrera, a nurse working in Arequipa, told The Epoch Times.
“Rural communities in these areas [the Andes] were most affected by Fujimori’s regime, so they don’t trust anything they’re given by the government now,” she said.
Role of Foreign Organizations
In 2017, then-Bolivian President Evo Morales reminded the world of the unauthorized sterilization of Andean indigenous women by U.S. Peace Corps workers in 1962, which was done under the guise of offering “medical assistance” in rural communities.
A documentary film released in 1969 by Jorge Sanjinés called “Yawar Mallku” exposed the sterilization program, which triggered outrage and violence against the volunteers in rural communities.
President Juan José Torres expelled the Peace Corps from Bolivia indefinitely in 1971.
Today, many members of the Quechua and Aymara indigenous communities in Bolivia laugh at the idea of being vaccinated against COVID-19.