Thursday, August 04, 2016

The Wall of Shame

Peru’s "Wall of Shame" separates rich and poor people. The wall started being built in 1985 and now separates one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the country, Casuarinas, from one of the poorest, Pamplona Alta. The wall is 10-foot high and over 6-miles long. It was built at the request of those on the wealthy side, who say they need protection from crime committed by the poor. The first part of the Wall of Shame was built by Jesuits who own a prestigious primary and secondary school, The Immaculate, attended by the children of Peru's elite. The Jesuits were worried about the alleged threat to their students posed by people from Pamplona. Other residents of Casuarinas were worried about a drop in the price of their real estate due to the proximity to Pamplona.

Pamplona Alta suffers extreme poverty, lacking most basic services. The residents lack clean water services, sewage, electricity, paved roads and public lighting. In the winter residents have to cover their houses with big plastic sheets to help prevent the cold and humid weather from penetrating inside. One of the common complaints about the daily life of people of Pamplona is getting water. Private companies bring drinking water on trucks as far as the road goes and then people have to carry it further up the hill to their homes. The companies sell the water at a higher price than what public services charge.

Casuarinas is one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in all of Peru, with houses that cost more than US$5 million. All public roads are paved, well lighted and clean. Most houses have electric fences, security cameras and private security personnel.  Even though the roads that go through Casuarinas are public, there are checkpoints at the entrances to keep non-residents out. Besides guests of the rich, some of those who allowed in are workers who perform all types of services for the residents of Casuarinas, such as gardeners, cooks, cleaners, nannies and guards. Many of those who work in Casuarinas are from Pamplona Alta, but they cannot cut across the hills to come to work because of the wall. They must go down the hill on the Pamplona side and take a road that goes around it. The trip takes close to an hour on public transportation.

Peru is one of the most unequal countries on the planet, with 25 percent of its citizens suffering from monetary poverty and 37 percent suffering from what's called multidimensional poverty, according to CEPAL. Multidimensional poverty is precisely what one sees in Pamplona Alta with the lack of access to good health care, education and water services. Furthermore, 43 percent of Peruvian children under 3 years of age suffer from anemia due to poverty. At the same time, the wealth of the top 515 richest Peruvian accounts for 3 percent of the national GDP and represents 10 times what the state invests in education every year. The poorest members of society would have to work for 326 years just to make as much as one month of income of those in the top groups. Between 2013 and 2014, the GDP of Peru grew 2.35 percent, but the wealth of the rich increased by 9.6 percent.

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