The US apologized today for a series of medical experiments about sexually transmitted diseases it carried out in Guatemala in the 1940s. A Wellesley College professor discovered the project.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Senior US officials responded swiftly and contritely Friday to revelations of a secret 1940s medical research project in which US scientists infected hundreds of Guatemalans with syphilis.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius issued a joint statement Friday condemning the “appalling violations” of medical ethics and human decency that occurred as a result of the research.
The two cabinet officials in the Obama administration apologized on behalf of the US to the individuals affected by the “abhorrent” practices revealed in the uncovered project. At the White House, press secretary Robert Gibbs said President Obama was informed of the research and planned to call Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom to offer official apologies.
Still, the revelation of the six-decade-old project, first made by a Wellesley College professor, is likely to revive perceptions among many Guatemalans that the US long used their country – as well as Central America as a whole – as a colony where it did as it pleased. The US assisted a military coup in Guatemala that toppled a democratically elected president in 1954, and sided with a number of repressive regimes during a 36-year civil war that ended in 1996.