13 people died after a police raid on a 120-person party in a nightclub in Lima, Peru. Six more people were injured, including three police officers, as the 120 people tried to escape the club, called the Thomas Restobar club, in the Los Olivos district on Saturday, August 22nd.
Neighbours had reported the event, which was deemed illegal by Peru’s government in order to counteract Latin America’s second highest COVID-19 infection rate according to a Reuter’s tally.
The deaths were caused as individuals began to flee the second-floor venue to escape the police, and were crushed on the stairs. While partygoers claim to have witnessed the use of tear gas during the raid, police chief Gen. Orlando Velasco and the Ministry of the Interior have denied it.
Peru’s Women’s Minister, Rosario Sasieta, called for harsh penalties for the club’s owners, telling journalists that “… we are talking about a malicious homicide for profit,” during a visit to the site on Sunday morning. “Knowing that there is a health emergency, knowing that not even at home you can meet with relatives who do not live there, you have the irresponsibility of opening a place for 120 people to enter?” Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra echoed these sentiments at a public event in the south of the country, stating that “I feel sorry for the relatives… but also anger and indignation with the business people who organized the event.”
Claudio Ramírez, a Health Ministry official, told reporters that around 23 people were arrested, and that 15 of those people tested positive for coronavirus, explaining that the party “was a breeding ground for the transmission of this disease, there was a viral load because it was a closed environment.” Along with the 23 people arrested, the owners of the club, a married couple, were also detained, according to a statement by the Interior Ministry on Sunday, August 23rd.
These deaths are incredibly tragic and were easily preventable. While the force and fear used by the police in this situation may have been unnecessary, so too was the party being raided. Lives are at stake, and gatherings are not being banned simply because it’s possible or because people want to, but in order to protect the citizens of countries like Peru. All over the world, people are breaking laws and regulations put in place to protect not only themselves, but others too, from the coronavirus, from South America, to college campuses in the U.S., to Europe.
While Peru took action against coronavirus very quickly, it is now one of the worst affected countries in Latin America, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University. It has more than 576,000 cases, double the number reported on July 2nd, and the known death toll has risen to around 27,500. On June 30th, Peru started lifting quarantine restrictions in order to encourage the economy, and the daily number of virus infections has doubled to more than 9,000 in recent weeks.