Leaked Letter Shows NIH Invited Disgraced, Closed Colombian Monkey Lab to Move to Another Country

NIH Didn’t Cut U.S. Funding Even After Colombian Authorities Filed Charges Against the Research Organization and Seized All Animals

For Immediate Release:
June 27, 2023

Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382


Correspondence obtained by PETA (here and here) reveals that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has invited a discredited foreign organization recently shut down by Colombian authorities to submit an updated plan so it can continue to receive millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars and move its experiments on animals to another country.

In December, PETA exposed filthy, makeshift cages covered with a tarp where the Caucaseco Scientific Research Center (Caucaseco) and the Malaria Vaccine and Development Center kept monkeys for use in malaria experiments and other violations of Colombian law and NIH policy. PETA called for the agency to cancel the two open grants Caucaseco holds with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Caucaseco has received $17 million in NIH funding.

In a May 4 letter to Caucaseco, NIH accuses the husband-and-wife team Sócrates Herrera and Myriam Arévalo who head the laboratory of failing to inform the agency that Colombian authorities suspended experiments, shut down its laboratory, and seized more than 100 monkeys and 180 mice earlier this year, following a thorough PETA investigation. But PETA had informed NIH, as had two members of Congress in an April 3 letter.

NIH’s letter then directs Herrera and Arévalo to come up with a new plan to continue receiving funding from the agency. Part of that plan, according to the letter, may include moving at least a portion of the Colombian organization to Brazil, Panama, or Peru because it “does not seem possible that animal studies (at least the non-human primate studies) will be resumed” in Colombia, following the raid of the decrepit facility and the seizure of all the animals held there.

NIH doesn’t address the fact that Caucaseco has already allegedly violated Colombia’s animal welfare laws, which should invalidate the terms of the grant.

“NIH seems to be trying to save face, since the chief its own malaria immunology section is listed as a collaborator of this filthy, bogus operation,” says PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo. “NIH must immediately cut funding to Caucaseco, which has clearly violated the terms of its grants and apparently Colombian law as well.”

Colombia’s environmental agency has filed formal charges against Caucaseco, including for lacking permits to experiment on monkeys or capture squirrel monkeys and causing “harm to wildlife.” The Colombian comptroller general audited the pair’s contracts with a local funding agency and found several irregularities that warrant legal action. In addition, this official requested a refund of at least $157,000. Criminal charges may also be on the way.

A recent report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office revealed that between 2011 and 2021, NIH gave around $2.2 billion to approximately 200 foreign organizations to fund 1,177 grants and 180 contracts involving experiments on animals. The taxpayer money went to Colombia and 44 other countries. The agency doesn’t ensure that laboratories outside the U.S. comply with local laws or NIH requirements.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to experiment on”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETA.org, listen to The PETA Podcast, or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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