Peruvian ‘Narco-Governor’ Announces Free Condom Campaign Against Zika

Reuters/Mariana Bazo
Reuters/Mariana Bazo

The governor of Peru’s Tumbes province, Ricardo Flores Dioses, kicked off a campaign to distribute condoms and insect repellents to prevent the spread of the mosquito-borne Zika virus in his jurisdiction located in the northern part of the country.

Health authorities in the United States have confirmed that the Zika virus can also be transmitted through sexual contact.

The virus has been linked to microcephaly, a neurological disorder that causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads, and Guillain-Barré, a rare syndrome that causes the immune system to damage nerve cells, leading to muscle weakness and even paralysis.

Correo reports that the plan to distribute repellent and condoms to prevent the spread of the disease was agreed upon following a meeting between the governor and Tumbes’s senior health officials.

The Regional Health Authority of Tumbes, known by its Spanish acronym DIRESA, began to develop a contingency plan after the United States revealed that the virus can also be spread through sexual contact, adds the report.

Figures provided by DIRESA revealed that just over 6,000 women are expected to become pregnant in Tumbes this year.

Rommel Veintimilla, DIRESA’s head of epidemiology, noted that 35 percent of the entire population of Tumbes are women of childbearing age.

According to the latest estimate by Peru’s National Institute of Statistics, the population of Tumbes province is 237,685.

If 35 percent of the population are childbearing age females, that means an average of about 80,000 women are at risk of their babies being born with microcephaly if they become pregnant and contract Zika.

Veintimilla stressed that five thousand women gave birth in Tumbes last year, adding that the number of pregnancies fluctuates around that figure.

Health authorities in Tumbes have urged women to use contraceptives in order to avoid the consequences of getting pregnant, while the risk of contracting the Zika virus remains a concern.

Peru is not among the 30 countries and territories identified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as “areas with Zika.” The majority (26) of those countries and territories, however, are in the Americas.

Health ministers in several Latin American countries listed by the CDC — including El Salvador, Ecuador, and Colombia — are urging women to postpone pregnancy.

Flores Dioses, the governor of Tumbes, was listed as a “narco-governor” in a December 2014 report of Insight Crime, which tracks organized crime.

The Tumbes governor was one of “at least six governors under investigation or facing charges for crimes ranging from embezzlement to drug trafficking, which undermines the legitimacy of regional government in many parts of the country,” noted the report.

Jaime Antezana, a drug trafficking analyst, referred to the crime-linked elected officials as “narco-governors.”

“The newly elected governor of Peru’s Tumbes province, Ricardo Flores Dioses, faces 70 allegations including embezzlement, money laundering, extortion and concealment,” reports Insight Crime. “In 2008, Flores was sentenced to four years in prison for the misappropriation of public funds, but his sentence has been suspended. A large portion of his other judicial processes have been archived.”

“Prior to being elector governor, Flores served as mayor of the city of Tumbes for four terms. He has been linked to the fugitive former governor of Tumbes, Gerardo Viñas, who is under investigation for corruption,” it adds.

Health officials in Brazil, home to more confirmed Zika cases than any other affected country, found that the disease can also be contracted trough blood transfusion.