Peru: Young Woman Killed After Participating in Reality Show

On Saturday July 7, 2012, 19-year-old Ruth Thalia Sayas Sanchez became the first participant on the newly launched reality show ‘The value of truth’ (El valor de la verdad) on a local Peruvian TV network [es].

The show consists of 21 questions previously asked to the participant, whose answers must match what a lie detector machine deems as true. These 21 questions are divided into six levels, with increased difficulty. The highest amount a participant can win is 50,000 Peruvian soles (about US$19,200). The participant has the choice to quit every time the questions go to a higher level. Furthermore, the participant can take three companions that have one possibility of pressing a button when they feel the question is too sensitive, delicate, or intrusive. If the participant lies when answering, he or she doesn't take home any money.

El Valor de la Verdad - TV Show

‘The value of truth’ – TV Show

Ruth Sayas took her parents and Bryan Romero Leyva, whom she introduced as her boyfriend, to the show. She answered 18 questions, including the confession that she worked as a dancer in a night club and not for a call center, as her parents believed, and that she had had sex in exchange of money. She quit the game with 15,000 Peruvian soles (about US$5,700).

At the end of the show cameras caught a crying Ruth Thalia kneeling in front of her mother, evidently asking for forgiveness.

Almost two months after that date, her family reported that Ruth Thalia was missing. They accused Bryan Romero, claiming he was demanding that Ruth share with him part of the prize money. They also accused Romero of sneaking into their house and taking money and some belongings from Ruth's bedroom.

Then the public learned that Romero had been Ruth’s boyfriend, but that the relationship ended before the show; and that Ruth had promised him a part of the money, but at the end, she gave him less than offered.

More than a week later, a body was found and the police suspected it was Ruth Thalia’s body. When it was confirmed that it was actually her body, the news grew even more grim: Romero and two other accomplices had kidnapped and eventually killed Ruth for money.

Bloggers and Twitter users are abuzz about this terrible news.

Gustavo Faverón, on his self-titled blog, talked about gender violence [es]:

Mientras Ortiz [presentador del programa] fabricaba el siguiente episodio de El Valor de la Verdad, Ruth Thalía estaba muerta y precariamente enterrada por su asesino en Jicamarca [en las afueras de Lima].

La mayoría de quienes comentan el tema señalan la responsabilidad de Frecuencia Latina, del programa El Valor de la Verdad y del conductor del programa.


La razón por la cual existe el femicidio [sic] pero no está tipificado el homicidio de hombres, la razón por la cual nuestra sociedad comprende que hay femicidio [sic] pero no persigue como casos especiales el homicidio de zurdos o personas que pasen del metro noventa, es que no hay nada en la estructura de la sociedad que propicie el asesinato de hombres zurdos o de personas que pasen del metro noventa, pero sí hay algo en la estructura de nuestra sociedad que propicia el asesinato de mujeres.

While [TV show host Beto] Ortiz was putting together the next episode of El Valor de la Verdad, Ruth Thalía was already dead and precariously buried by her killer in Jicamarca [in the outskirts of Lima].

Most of the people who comment on the topic point to the responsibility of [TV network] Frecuencia Latina, of the show and the show’s host.


The reason why there is gender violence crimes against women, but male homicide is not categorized as crime, the reason our society understands there is gender violence crimes against women but doesn’t criminalize as special cases the homicides of left-handed men or men over 1.90 mt, is because there is nothing in the structure of society that encourages the murder of left-handed men or of men over 1.90 m, but there is something in the structure of our society that encourages the homicide of women.

Meanwhile, the group blog De la Selva Su Web On reflects on Peruvian society and the media [es]:

Al margen de criticar o poner como culpable al programa de TV, lo que me preocupa es la salud mental de la población peruana. Creo que en nuestra mayoría no estamos acostumbrados a conocer la verdad, o casi nunca aceptamos la verdad y preferimos engañarnos. Una mentira desvalorizada es más valiosa que una verdad dura.

Es cierto que el Tv se ha convertido en una herramienta nociva para la conciencia colectiva del país, pues aparte de destruir las culturas locales, embrutece a las nuevas generaciones […].

La prensa peruana sólo zombifica la sociedad.

Besides criticizing or blaming a TV show, what troubles me is the mental health of the Peruvian population. I think most of us are not used to knowing the truth, or we almost never accept the truth and rather be fooled. A devalued lie is more valuable than a hard truth.

Certainly, TV has become a damaging tool for the country’s collective conscience, because aside from destroying local cultures, it stupefies the younger generations […].

Peruvian press just zombifies society.

Twitter users shared their opinions using the hashtags #ruthsayas [es] and #EVDLV [es, for the name of the show]:

Fiorella Danitza (@PlanetaFiorella) [es] plays with the idea of truth and lies, the TV show's format:

@PlanetaFiorella: Creo que la única VERDAD es q @malditaternura guardó un frío silencio ante la desaparición d #ruthsayas y la MENTIRA es q la tv es solidaria

@PlanetaFiorella: I think the only TRUTH is that @malditaternura [TV show host Beto Ortiz] kept cold silence about #ruthsayas‘ disappearance and the LIE is that TV is supportive

Raquel Chávez R. (@RaquelChavezR) [es] separates the crime from the TV show, using legal terminology:

@RaquelChavezR: hay conductas moralmente sancionables, pero no por ello justiciables. No veo relación jurídica entre #EVDL y el homicidio de #RuthSayas

@RaquelChavezR: There are morally punishable behaviors, but not necessarily justifiable. I don’t see a legal relation between #EVDL [the show] and the homicide of #RuthSayas

Meanwhile, journalist Patricia del Río (@padelriol) [es] indirectly addresses some colleagues:

@padelriol: Lo peor que le podría pasar a la memoria de Ruth Sayas es que su muerte sea el pretexto para una ombliguista guerrita entre periodistas

@padelriol: Worst case scenario for Ruth Sayas’ memory is that her death become the pretext for a selfish little war between journalists.

User Csar™ (@Ccsarr) asks [es]:

@Ccsarr: cuando durará este caso #RuthSayas ???? simple hasta q salga otro pior [sic]

@Ccsarr: How long will the case of #RuthSayas last???? Simple, until something even worse surfaces.

Finally, columnist El Búho (The Owl) [es] reflects:

Que de esta tragedia se saque conclusiones positivas, sobre todo para las jovencitas que no les importa degradarse y avergonzar a la familia, haciendo lo que sea con tal de ganar dinero fácil. Yo me saco el sombrero al ver a chicas […] que estudian y trabajan a la vez. Por 600 o 700 soles mensuales.

Esos son ejemplos de una juventud con afán de superación, que luchan decentemente por alcanzar logros en la vida. Esos ejemplos se deben promover. No todo puede ser escándalo y miseria en nuestra televisión. Apago el televisor.

May we all come to positive conclusions after this tragedy, above all for those young ladies who don’t care about degrading themselves and embarrassing their families, doing whatever it takes to earn easy money. I applaud those young girls […] who study and work at the same time. For 600 o 700 Peruvian soles [about US$230-270] per month.

These are examples of a youth full of desire for self-improvement who strive decently to accomplish things in life. Those are the examples we must encourage. Not everything has to be scandal and misery on our TV. I turn the TV off.

There are several Facebook pages dedicated to the memory of Ruth Thalia, such as Justice for Ruth Thalía [es] and Ruth Thalia Sayas Sancez RIP [es].

Thumbnail image via Shutterstock, copyright Steve Heap

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