Social Issues

The enigma of being dead in Peru

By Gonzalo Dominguez Loeda

Lima, Oct 19 (EFE).- The frequency of “how do I know if I’m alive” as an internet search query in Peru is not a symptom of existential doubt, but a response to revelations that the official census incorrectly lists thousands of people as dead.

One of those “walking dead” is three-time presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori.

Last Saturday, less than two weeks after smiling for photographers as she cast her vote in the Oct. 2 local and regional elections, the daughter and political heir of disgraced former President Alberto Fujimori shared the news that she had been officially dead since February.

The politician spotted the mistake in an entry on the website of Peru’s National Civil Registry (Reniec).

“I urge you to take corrective measures, as beyond the security problems with the Reniec database, we citizens should not be exposed and harmed in this way,” Fujimori said in a message to the head of the registry.

Two days after formally asking Congress to impeach and remove President Pedro Castillo, Attorney General Patricia Benavides learned that she, too, is listed by Reniec as dead.

The embattled head of state is likewise officially deceased, according to Reniec, whose director, Carmen Velarde, held a press conference to attribute the errors in the database to the machinations of “organized crime.”

Though the scandal has provided ample fodder for jokes and social-media memes, it is no laughing matter.

Reniec issues the National Identity Document – required of every Peruvian – and keeps track of births, deaths, marriages and divorces. And electoral officials rely on the registry to draw up voting rolls.

Velarde said that the attack on the Reniec database may be connected to the Health Ministry, which provides physicians with the passwords they need to submit death certificates.

“This is an issue of doctors who issue (death) certificates,” she said. “Eighty percent of the process is based on that.”

On Monday, for the first time since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, authorities reported zero coronavirus deaths in Peru during the preceding 24 hours.

But the rejoicing was short-lived, as it emerged that Reniec had shut down its system due to the breach, preventing deaths from any cause from being reported. EFE gdl/dr

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