October 20th, 2007

Adapted from The Lima Bean.

On Sunday, October 21st, the whole of Peru is under house arrest. Nobody may leave their home; no business may open; even the homeless will be rounded up and confined to sports stadiums. Police and military will patrol the streets to enforce the “immobility order”.

The reason for this unprecedented measure is the National Census, run by the governmental statistics institute INEI. In one day, they plan to gather information on all of Peru’s estimated 27 million inhabitants.

Tourists and business travelers will not be exempt from the measure, which will be in force from 8am to 6pm, and the Ministry of the Interior has recently reversed a previous decision and stated that anyone found out of their home will be fined.

The only exemptions are for businesses considered of absolute priority, such as hospitals and power stations. No supermarkets or stores may be open during the hours of curfew, and all transport will be suspended.

In previous declarations, INEI stated that international and internal air transport will proceed, and that taxis will be permitted to operate to and from airports – but not for other routes. However, a communiqué issued today calls that into question, stating that “aircraft… may not transit… national territory”.

Foreigners present an unusual situation, and INEI have yet to respond to The Lima Bean’s inquiries regarding how the rules apply to them. We advise that all tourists and business travelers ask their hotels what arrangements will be made.

Given that all stores and restaurants will be closed, INEI have advised that anyone who will be in Peru on the 21st of October stock up on food and other necessities a few days in advance, to prevent shortages due to sudden buying.

In addition, the purchase and consumption of alcoholic beverages will be outlawed for 24 hours, starting at 6pm on Saturday October 20th.

Many have been asking me, why is crazy scheme going ahead? Well, the postal system in Peru is so undeveloped that sending millions of questionnaires to peoples home is going to be near impossible considering only a small percentage of the population (in Lima mostly) has reliable mail delivery. 90% of the country does not. So why not just do a sample like in other countries? Well, because those who run the country simply aren’t educated and intelligent enough to think of it. Statistically analysis means nothing to them.
My answer would be to do the census at the same time of any up-coming election, where voting is mandatory here. But, with Government departments not being coordinated, this would probably be as much of a disaster as this.
Peru does most things badly, but with a lot of effort and good intentions. Let’s hope the census results prove useful in the future.

Tourists will be interviewed on arrival at Lima’s airport, or at their hotels by hotel staff. They will be able to pass freely afterwards.

The fact that the census violates several parts of the constitution, such as the right to move freely and the right to work, is being conveniently ignored.

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