Peru to receive $10 million for cataract operations from former president Bill Clinton, Mexican businessman Carlos Slim and Canadian mining financier Frank Giustra

Peru’s foreign minister said Thursday that a major donation from former U.S. President Bill Clinton, Mexican telecommunications magnate Carlos Slim and Canadian mining financier will fund some 50,000 cataract surgeries for impoverished Peruvians over the next three years.

“I believe that this is very good news and it ties in perfectly with the government’s efforts,” José Antonio García Belaunde told offcial state news agency Andina. Peru has already paid for 20,000 operations for low-income persons, he added.

In Peru, Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative, or CGSGI, and the Carlos Slim Foundation have each pledged $5 million. The money will be directed toward supporting the costs of medical equipment and supplies, personnel, and transportation for 10,000 cataract surgeries in year one, 15,000 in year two, and 25,000 in year three.

“These surgeries will restore vision — and productivity — for thousands of people, with positive consequences for their families and communities,” the William J. Clinton Foundation said in a post on its Web site.

“CGSGI is working to give people and communities the tools they need to work themselves out of poverty,” said Clinton. “I’m honored to be working with Frank Giustra, Carlos Slim, Luis Moreno, and our many other partners in the government, NGO, and private sectors, and I’m delighted that we’re launching this work in Latin America, where the income gap between rich and poor is among the largest in the world.”

Cataract surgery, which is highly effective and inexpensive, is the most common surgical procedure in the western world today. But in the developing world, cataract blindness and poverty are often correlated as the disability increases the risk of poverty and poor patients are often unaware of treatment options or do not have enough money to pay for it.

The donation is part of a larger $45 million project initiated by the CGSGI and the Carlos Slim Foundation to create a $20 million fund to strengthen small and medium-sized businesses in Colombia, enable 50,000 cataract surgeries over three years in Peru, and support a $20 million education project in Mexico.

“I imagine that the money will be deposited in the IDB (Inter-American Development Bank) because the bank promised to advise them,” Belaunde told Radio Programas radio, “and from there we will begin to implement it in Peru. Hopefully it will be in the short-term.”

Slim, nicknamed “Mr. Monopoly” and ranked the world’s richest man by Fortune magazine in 2008, controls more than 200 companies in telecommunications, construction, mining, soft-drinks, airlines, hotels, railways and banking. His net worth is evaluated at $60 billion in holdings and represents 7% of the Mexico’s annual output.

Frank Giustra is a Canadian executive involved in the mining and filmmaking industries. The New York Times reported that in 2005 he landed a stunning deal to buy three uranium projects controlled by Kazakhstan’s state-owned uranium agency after Clinton vouched for him to Kazakhstan president Nursultan A. Nazarbayev during a three-country philanthropic tour. Just months after the business deal was sealed, Clinton received a $31.3 million donation from Giustra, which remained a secret until Jan. 2008.

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