Things That Matter

Husband Is Forced To Carry His 81-Year-Old Wife Six Hours To Collect Her Pension Because The Government Has Failed Them

Sometimes we read stories on the Internet that reveal the best and the worst of humanity. Such a case happened in Peru, a country that, like most places in Latin America, presents disgusting socioeconomic inequality.

Yes, you have the high-end restaurants in Lima that are ranked as some of the best in the world and are over $100 for a tasting menu, but you also have the rural indigenous populations living in poverty. For decades, indigenous Peruvians have been dealt a terrible hand and regardless of who sits in government (and Peru has gone through everything, from neoliberal bullies to even a president of indigenous origin), they are often forgotten. 

A recent story brought to light the precarious situation in which millions of Peruvians (and Latin Americans) are forced to do the impossible to make ends meet. 

She is 81-years-old, he is 77-years-old, and they are alone in the world, so he had to carry his sick wife so she could collect her pension.

Peruvian social media was recently shocked by the story of Ricardo Campos Haro and his sick wife, Victoria Vega Medina. Every two months, the couple takes a perilous three hour journey so Victoria can collect her pension. He carries his wife using a large cloth and keeping the balance with a cane. Ricardo believes that a bus ride would be detrimental to his wife’s health.

In an interview, the man said that if there is a car crash his wife might not survive it and that when she travels on a vehicle she gets a terrible nausea that cannot be controlled with medicine. Then there is a three hour journey back home. The pension amounts to 250 Peruvian soles, which is roughly $75 USD. Yes, you read that right. Next time you have a #firstworldproblem remember this figure. Most of the world’s population lives on that or less. 

This story isn’t “sweet”: it is an indication that there is something seriously wrong with the system.

Ricardo and Victoria travel from the town of Queros to Tayabamba, the capital city of the province of Pataz. Some in social media romanticized this story as an example of eternal love, of the real commitment of a marriage en la salud y en la enfermedad. But the fact is that no one should have to endure this kind of pain just to survive. There is something wrong with a system that makes people risk their lives and shed any ounce of dignity for a government allowance that is barely enough to get by. There are a little over 3 million senior citizens in Peru (over 60), which represents roughly 10% of the population. 

Once Ricardo became famous online, he was granted a power of attorney to collect his wife’s pension. 

After their case became viral on social media and was broadcast on news channels, the director of the Pension 65 program, of which Victoria is a beneficiary, provided Ricardo with a power of attorney to collect his wife’s pension by himself. In an interview, he stated that he had tried to sort out the paperwork but it was not possible for him to work within the time frame that the office demanded. There also needs to be better information programs for older folks to understand bureaucratic processes, particularly if they live in a precarious situation. 

This seems like a happy ending, but it is far from ideal.

 Credit: YouTube. Diario El Comercio videos

Ricardo himself is vulnerable, an elderly citizen who should be treated with more respect and dignity. He is an elder, caray! In an interview, he said that his own body “is completely falling apart”. The mountain area of La Libertad (quite an ironic name, meaning Freedom) in Peru’s Northwest is one of the prime examples of Latin American inequality. Many of the older folk that need to collect their checks also face adversity and are impaired when it comes to freedom of movement.

But the story triggered online discussions around the availability of social programs to the dispossessed.

We like this user’s take on the situation: people are citizens, and those who are poor need much more help. She also pointed out that far from being the exception, seeing elderly people travelling great distances to collect their checks is the norm. It is also common to see long queues in the state owned bank on paydays. There are over 500,000 senior citizens in the program. Other users asked if this is what the Peruvian government judges as justice when it comes to aid programs. According to census data, 21.7% of the Peruvian population lives in poverty. In rural mountain areas, however, the figure reaches 48%.

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Peru Is In Crisis As The Country Searches For A New President Amid Protests And A Police Crackdown

Things That Matter

Peru Is In Crisis As The Country Searches For A New President Amid Protests And A Police Crackdown

ERNESTO BENAVIDES/AFP via Getty Images

Peru is facing one of the greatest crises the nation has faced. Just as the country seemed to be emerging from the worst of its battle against the Covid-19 pandemic, the country has entered a severe political crisis.

In less than a week, the country is on the verge of seeing its third president – if legislators can find someone able and willing to take the job. In the meantime, protesters are making their voices heard in cities all across the country and police are using violence and oppression to silence them.

For a country that was turning the bend on the pandemic, how exactly did Peru end up crashing into one crisis from another?

Peru’s interim-President has resigned just days after assuming the office.

Peruvians woke up on Monday morning still wondering who would be their new head of state after lawmakers failed overnight to name a replacement to become the country’s third president in a week.

It was less than 24 hours earlier that the country’s interim leader Manuel Merino was forced to resign. Following a week of protests against the removal of former President Martín Vizcarra, police responded with increased force over the weekend.

Saturday’s protests in Lima, which are mostly being led by young Peruvians, were largely peaceful but clashes broke out towards the evening between police and protesters. Police reportedly fired tear gas and shotgun pellets to repel demonstrators, some of whom had thrown fireworks and stones. Two students, Jack Pintado, 22, and Inti Sotelo, 24, were killed in the protests.

Politicians immediately called for Merino’s resignation following the violent crackdown. In fact, twelve of his own ministers (of his recently appointed cabinet) resigned in protest against police brutality and his handling of the crisis.

“I want to let the whole country know that I’m resigning,” Merino said in a televised address.

It’s still not clear who will be selected to take over the country until elections can be held in April.

Credit: Roberto Agn / Getty Images

On Sunday, legislators failed to approve Rocío Silva-Santisteban, a leftist human rights defender, as the next interim leader – even though he was the only name put forward for consideration.

The country’s fragmented and unpopular legislature will vote again on Monday when another name will be on the list: lawmaker Francisco Sagasti, a 76-year-old industrial engineer and former World Bank official.

Peru’s political upheaval adds to the uncertainty facing the country as it was already hit devastatingly hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. Many fear that the ongoing crisis will lead to the worst economic contraction the country has seen in more than a century.

The political crisis started just last week when the elected president was impeached and removed from office.

It was just last week that the nation’s elected leader – ex-President Martín Vizcarra – was impeached and removed from office by Congress over allegations of corruption.

Since taking office in March 2018, Vizcarra was embroiled in a bitter battle with Congress, which is made up of rival parties. During his presidency, he worked to combat corruption throughout the country’s legislature. Half of the lawmakers are under investigation or indictment for alleged crimes including money laundering and homicide.

And as president, he enjoyed support among the public and voters but it was ultimately the allegations of bribery that brought him down. He has denied allegations that he accepted bribes worth 2.3 million soles ($640,000) when he was governor of the southern Moquegua region.

The former president has asked the country’s highest court to weigh in. “It can’t be that the institution that got us into this political crisis, that has for five days paralyzed Peru, with deaths, is going to give us a solution, choosing the person who they best see fit,” Vizcarra said, according to The Associated Press.

The country was just emerging from what seemed the worst of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Credit: ERNESTO BENAVIDES/AFP via Getty Images

Many are concerned about the country’s short and long-term future, as a growing political and constitutional crisis seems likely. At the beginning of the pandemic, Peru imposed one of the earliest and strictest lockdowns in Latin America to stop the spread of coronavirus – but has still seen cases rise rapidly.

It has so far reported nearly 935,000 infections and more than 35,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University – making it the country with the third highest rate of deaths per 100,000 people in the world.

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Machu Picchu Reopened To Tourists With This Massive Performance But It Doesn’t Mean You Can Visit Just Yet

Culture

Machu Picchu Reopened To Tourists With This Massive Performance But It Doesn’t Mean You Can Visit Just Yet

Ernesto Benavides / Getty Images

All around the world some of the most popular attractions have been shuttered for months because of the Coronavirus pandemic. With planes grounded and borders closed, few of us have been able to make those once in a lifetime trips.

With the fall in travel, entire communities are suffering as tourist dollars dry up and industries succumb to the economic effects of the pandemic. In Peru, a country heavily reliant on tourism, things are finally starting to improve as it appears the country has started to see a decrease in Covid-19 cases.

As the country reopened to international travel last month, it’s now reopening one of its most popular tourist attractions – Machu Picchu.

Peru’s famous Machu Picchu has reopened and is welcoming travelers for the first time tin eight months.

The Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, the crown jewel of Peru’s tourist sites, reopened Sunday with an ancient ritual after a nearly eight-month lockdown due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“Today, Machu Picchu opens. It opens with (health and safety) protocols, it opens to say that we are reactivating ourselves but with responsibility and great prudence, because we see everything happening in the world” with the pandemic, Foreign Trade and Tourism Minister Rocio Barrios said in a speech.

For safety reasons, however, only 675 tourists will be able to access the site per day, just 30 percent of the number of visitors pre-pandemic. The number of Coronavirus cases has been steadily decreasing in Peru, and tourists will be expected to maintain social distancing.

The first train of tourists arrived Sunday morning at Machu Picchu Pueblo, the village closest to the citadel, after a 90-minute journey along the Urubamba River from the ancient Inca village of Ollantaytambo.

Opening Machu Picchu to the world shows “that we Peruvians are resilient,” Barrios told the AFP.

To celebrate the reopening, officials hosted a massive celebration with traditional roots.

Peruvian authorities organized an Incan ritual to thank the gods on Sunday as the major tourist attraction once again welcomed visitors. The massive celebration was meant as an act of gratitude to Incan gods for welcoming the reopening.

Dozens of Indigenous performers and dancers welcomed a cadre of travelers with music and dance and officials orchestrated an incredible light show.

The pandemic has had a devastating effect on Peruvians – especially those dependent on tourism.

Ernesto Benavides / Getty Images

Tens of thousands of people in the mountainous Cusco region rely on visitors for their livelihoods and have suffered due to the Coronavirus lockdown closure this year.

Dozens of hotels, restaurants and tourism-related businesses throughout the region went bankrupt by the time a strict mandatory virus lockdown that lasted more than 100 days was lifted in July. Before the pandemic there were 80 hotels of various types in Ollantaytambo, a town with an imposing Inca stone fortress located at the end of the road from Cusco to Machu Picchu.

Taxi driver Eberth Hancco, who works at the airport of the city of Cusco, the former capital of the Inca empire, was among those affected.

“The situation has been very bad, because Cusco depends on tourism,” he told the BBC.

Just a few weeks ago, the park had welcomed one lucky traveler who had the ruins all to himself.

A Japanese tourist who made it to Peru just before the pandemic hit became the first person to have exclusive access to the park. Jesse Takayama had been stuck in Peru for seven months since the country had closed its borders.

In a video first reported by The Guardian, Jesse Takayama shared his immense gratitude for being allowed to visit the ancient Incan city – which had long been one of his dreams.

Peru’s Minister of Culture, Alejandro Neyra, said at a press conference that “He [Takayama] had come to Peru with the dream of being able to enter. The Japanese citizen has entered together with our head of the park so that he can do this before returning to his country.” Talk about a once in a lifetime experience. 

Neyra went on to add that this really was a rare moment and that Takayama only received access after submitting a special request to the local tourism authority. 

In an Instagram post about his special access, Takayama said that “Machu Picchu is so incredible! I thought I couldn’t go but many people asked the government. I’m the first one to visit Machu Picchu after lockdown!”

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