City of Gosen, Peru
Every day for more than two years, Cindy Cueto wakes up in the house she shares with her three children on top of a desert hill in the capital of Peru and asks herself: “What are we going to eat?”
She joins her neighbors in the impoverished City of Gosen every day to cook a “common pot” of food, a survival strategy that emerged in Lima’s sprawling slums with the coronavirus pandemic. Since then, it has been expanded to mitigate the impacts of rising food, fuel, and fertilizer prices due to global inflation, the war in Ukraine, and a government that has failed to deliver on its promise to help the poorest. vulnerable.
The communal pot, comparable to a small-scale soup kitchen, provides them with one meal a day. Mrs. Cueto and her neighbors try to find the cheapest food in the markets, buying cow bones, chicken entrails, rice and potatoes. They keep their eyes open for any charity from the more fortunate Peruvians.
“We don’t buy meat. It is very expensive, we only have bones to make soup,” said Mrs. Cueto, whose husband works as a security guard, as she counted her coins. “Money goes like this,” she said, snapping her fingers.
On a recent Monday, like 15 other days since January, the communal pot was empty because they failed to raise any money. A day later, after collecting the equivalent of $16, they bought two kilos (4 1/2 pounds) of chicken bones, five kilos of potatoes (11 pounds) and the same amount of rice to feed 70 people, especially children and the old man
The inflation that plagues the world has hit Peru’s 33 million inhabitants hard, especially the 10 million poor who live on $3 a day. Monthly inflation in March reached 1.48%, the highest in a quarter of a century. Soaring food and fuel prices, combined with the inefficiency of President Pedro Castillo’s government, have sparked violent protests that have caused five deaths and prompted Castillo and Peru’s lawmakers to resign.
According to government data from February, there are at least 3,400 communal pots in Peru, 70% of them in Lima. Most are in slums like Ciudad de Gosen, where there is no running water, electricity is scarce and residents have built their own houses and roads on the dusty earth of the desert hills surrounding Lima. Neglected by the government, they have now had to organize their own food supply.
City of Gosen residents say the price of cooking gas has tripled since the start of the pandemic. Ms. Cueto and her neighbors feed the fire under their communal pot with wood scraps that they receive twice a month as charity from a carpentry shop.
Trinidad Espinoza, a local cooking gas vendor, said even she uses firewood.
“I can’t even afford a boat,” he said.
The Peruvian government’s response to rising hunger and spreading unrest has been ineffective, even though it came to power with promises to put the poor first.
Castillo, a rural teacher before winning the election, has changed his cabinet four times in just nine months in office and has been criticized for appointing inexperienced allies and neophytes to key ministries. Peru’s unicameral congress has twice tried to remove him from office.
Polls conducted by Peru’s major polling companies show that roughly three-quarters of Peruvians disapprove of his performance as president and 79% disapprove of Congress.
“They don’t care about people, they fight all the time for their interests,” said Enedina Avilés, who lives alone a few steps from the communal pot.
To control the social unrest, protests and roadblocks that have affected the Andean country in recent weeks, the government has banned demonstrations on the main highways for 30 days. He also removed a tax on fuel, but people complain that prices remain high.
On April 5, authorities briefly ordered Lima’s 10 million residents to stay home and close public transport in a lockdown reminiscent of the coronavirus pandemic. A Lima legislator angered many when he justified the 22-hour lockdown by calling those who live in the impoverished hills surrounding Lima “looters.”
Ms. Cueto’s husband, Walter Ríos, works far from Ciudad de Gosen in an affluent neighborhood of Lima. Without public transportation on April 5, he had to walk the 22-mile round trip to and from work.
When her husband came home that night, she had prepared a bucket of salt water to soak his feet.
“They decide anything without thinking about the consequences,” he said.
This story was reported by The Associated Press.