Day 6 of quarantine and things are getting stricter. It was reported today that they have arrested over 8,000 people for disobeying the state of emergency regulations. If you are caught on the street between 8pm and 5am you could receive a jail sentence for up to 5 years. My neighbors tried to drive to the grocery store in their car but were not allowed past the the gate of the urbanization, about four blocks from our building. This means that we all will necessarily have to make the mile-hike down the mountain to the supermarket and then back up with the food. This is tough because we are not allowed to go with anyone. Supposedly it’s only one person per family, but I will need help from my husband to carry the groceries. We will have to pretend not to know each other.
What is most troubling to me is that these extreme measures and arrests are not being questioned. All over social media people are praising the President and the management of the COVID-19 crisis. I do believe that strict measures are necessary and think that the US, for example, is not doing enough to curb the spread of the virus. However, the suspension of civil liberties and the street harassment by police worry me.
It is also disturbing the way people are being quick to point fingers and film their neighbors taking an illegal jog around the park or walking their dog and then posting them as “idiots” who don’t obey. How can these accusers be so comfortable with being on, what seems like, house arrest for weeks? Are they ok with the possibility that they could be arrested if they forget their documents or are caught walking down the street without groceries?
The population is becoming very polarized and anyone who questions is immediately shot down. To them, our President is a holy, one that can do no wrong. I posted on Facebook last week about the harassment my neighbor and husband received by police. I asked people to stay vigilant during these times and keep an eye on our civil rights. At the same time, I said I agreed with quarantine but not with treating people like criminals and that I was questioning how vulnerable members of society were being treated. I received a message from Facebook that my post had been taken down but then restored after being reviewed. This scares me that someone tried to sensor my post, which was not extreme in any way.
It has seemed that President Vizcarra has been taking responsible measures for COVID-19, as well as cracking down on corruption, a deeply pervasive problem in Peru. However, it is important to note that he wasn’t democratically elected. He was Vice President and became President when the former resigned over corruption scandals. Vizcarra then dissolved Congress last year, also because of widespread corruption, and new elections were held in January this year. He seems to be doing well by the country. But the extreme measures now give me an unsettling feeling that we may be living behind a smokescreen. I can’t shake the feeling that there might be deeper powers at play and that our civil liberties and democracy might be at risk.
For example, with the arrests of people walking their dogs. The emergency regulations clearly state that you are allowed to walk your dog if it is near your home (near is not defined). But this has not been respected by police and there are pictures circulating of police stations filled with people with their dogs. Why hasn’t the government corrected this issue? Why has it not defended its own norm and protected its citizens?
My impending layoff, which will be officially announced Friday, makes things all the more complicated. Our plan is, as soon as quarantine is lifted, to move back to Lima and stay in my parents’ apartment. We would stay in Lima until we can get our paperwork together to move to the US, where I believe I will have a better opportunity to find work. Watching the current state of things I question when quarantine will be lifted. Will we be able to move to the capital city and then to the US? How long will we be stuck here and confined to the house?