Peru´s Toledo Says No to Sterilization Programs

President-Elect Visits Bishops

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LIMA, Peru, JUNE 14, 2001 ( President-elect Alejandro Toledo agreed with Peru´s bishops that sterilization cannot be a method of population control, as it was under the Fujimori administration.

Toledo visited the headquarters of the Peruvian bishops´ conference on Tuesday, while members of the Permanent Council were holding an ordinary meeting.

The bishops mentioned the abuses and damages caused by the sterilization programs implemented throughout the country by Alberto Fujimori´s government. Fujimori was forced to resign last year in part because of his ties to former spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos.

Bishop Luis Bambarén of Chimbote, president of the episcopal conference, said the prelates´ view was met with a «very positive» reaction from Toledo.

Shortly after the June 3 runoff elections, leaders of the bishops´ conference asked Toledo to make a courtesy visit. In a significant gesture, he took advantage of the presence of 12 bishops, attending the meeting, to discuss critical issues.

«The meeting served to initiate a dialogue with the new president-elect, establish channels of communication between the Catholic Church and the new government, and face, together with all Peruvians, the problems that affect our homeland,» an official statement of the Permanent Council reads.

Bishop Bambarén told the press that the bishops and Toledo addressed topics that are fundamental to future cooperation between the government and Church in Peru. The first is support of aid programs in a country of 13 million poor; and the second, the promulgation of legislation that will protect the family, weakened by past policies such as the sterilization programs.

During the meeting, the draft law to liberalize Peru´s divorce law was also discussed. The bishops expressed their opposition and asked the president-elect to assess the law and impede its promulgation. A similar petition was already presented to Peru´s interim president, Valentín Paniagua.

The new president and bishops also agreed on the need to support the campaign that John Paul II has fostered for the cancellation of the foreign debt of poor countries, in particular of Peru. The issue has been raised with the G-8 industrialized countries and international financial institutions.

According to Bishop Bambarén, during the meeting there was a discussion on the possibility of creating a National Truth Commission, whose first objective would be the struggle against corruption. The bishops said the commission should have a very clear objective: «to seek national reconciliation, not vengeance.»

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