Just when you thought you’d heard the worst of COVID-19 stories, Peru says “hold my beer.”
Peruvian authorities allowed secret burials of COVID-19 victims in a field in Iquitos, a city in the heart of the Amazon, but they never told the families. Instead the officials told them that their loved ones had to be urgently buried to avoid more infections. They were then told their loved ones were buried in the San Juan cemetery, which ended up being a complete fabrication.
The discovery was made in June 2020 when the local newspaper, La Región, front page story headline read: “Muertos sin nombre y sin tumba propia,” which translates to “the nameless dead without a proper resting place.” The next day, close to 500 people arrived at the field, demanding to know the truth about their loved ones remains.
Despite the article and the people that demanded answers, the Peruvian government chose to instead say nothing. Ten days later, Loreto Governor Elisban Ochoa signed a document promising to exhume the bodies. Nearly a year later, and still, nothing has been done.
Families then tried to sue the government to exhume the bodies, so that they may recover their loved ones remains and be given a proper burial. But a judge ruled last year in favor of the authorities, saying the law establishes that the remains can only be exhumed a year and a day after burial. The families have appealed the ruling, however, that’s just one hurdle.
As families have received information on the location in the field where their loved ones might be, some are wondering if the government is lying to them yet again–and if they actually don’t know who is buried where.
Joaquín García, told the AP that his father is there in the field, somewhere. He says that he was told first that his father was in a spot marked as D24, although days later they said the correct location was D22.