The horror was located just a short distance from Plaza Mayor square in the city of Cusco, Peru, on Tres Cruces de Oro Street. A criminal organization operated on the second floor of an obstetrics clinic, performing abortions and delivering babies with a dark purpose: to sell newborns to families, and discarded fetuses to people who follow an ancient Andean tradition of making offerings to the land in search of prosperity.
The police operation against this group began on September 4, when a 45-year-old woman with a baby in her arms showed up at the Manco Cápac Hospital, in the district of Santiago, to request routine check-ups and vaccines for her child, who was barely 14 days old. When the nurses told her that it was important that she also get checked, the woman became visibly nervous. Fanny Hurtado Altamirano refused, and that made one of the obstetricians suspicious, especially because the child was crying and at no time did the alleged mother attempt to breastfeed him. The doctor asked her to do so, and after a while Hurtado Altamirano reluctantly agreed, but her breasts had no milk. It was then that the workers called the police.
The woman claimed that she had delivered the baby at home, but her body showed no signs of having given birth. Hurtado Altamirano then confessed that the child was not hers but that she was only helping a family, that there was nothing to worry about because the baby would go to a good home. Under pressure from interrogators, the false mother confessed that she had paid three thousand soles ($811) for the newborn to a woman named Rosa Doris Huayhua Mamani, 55. It was a case of human trafficking involving the sale of children. Through the hospital’s security cameras, it was possible to verify that Huayhua Mamani had accompanied Hurtado Altamirano to the hospital, and that a third party involved had taken them there: Rubén Mora Cuyuchi, 55. Both were arrested that same day at a shopping center.
Police officers and prosecutors found the place where the couple allegedly conducted their operations. Inside the premises of what looked like a regular obstetrics office, they found pregnancy tests, accessories for performing ultrasounds, surgical instruments, abortion pills, diapers, baby clothes, bank transfer receipts and notebooks. But what caught the officers’ attention the most was an altar with incense and charcoal.
When they checked the cellphones of the detainees, they found evidence that the couple marketed at least 20 newborns, selling them for an average of 4,200 soles ($1,135) each. The fetuses were allegedly used by healers as offerings to the land, a widespread practice in the Andes. In June 2022, in the same district of Santiago, an individual known as Brujo Malero was captured after seven human fetuses were found in his home.
“Due to the number of children involved, we are facing an aggravated crime of criminal organization. Babies had become objects and merchandise,” said Alberto Arenas, spokesperson for the Ministry of Women. The Special Protection Unit of Cusco placed the baby that Fanny Hurtado Altamirano paid for under official protection, but has not yet been able to locate the biological mother. Researchers believe she is from the Apurímac region. The Human Trafficking Prosecutor’s Office has called for all women who have ever been treated at the obstetric center to file complaints in an effort to find clues about how this alleged network operated.
“We are not ruling out that teenage mothers or women who did not want to be mothers came to this clandestine and unlicensed center. As well as vulnerable people who did not have the means to support their children and decided to sell them. The Prosecutor’s Office has 120 days to collect all the evidence,” said Rocío Gala, national coordinator of the human trafficking prosecutors’ offices.
Last Sunday, the Superior Court of Justice of Cusco ordered nine months of pretrial detention for Fanny Hurtado Altamirano and Rosa Doris Huayhua Mamani for the alleged crimes of human trafficking and falsehood. The latter has fled and is now a fugitive from justice. There is a fourth person involved: Lizet Blanca Zambrano Huayhua, who has a degree in obstetrics and is believed to be the person who certified the birth of the babies.
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