Peru presidential candidate Cesar Acuña has joined other officials in calling for the military to help police battle rising crime.
Acuña is the sitting governor of La Libertad state and former mayor of Trujillo, the country’s third largest city which has seen several high-profile crimes make national news this month. Armed robberies and extortion have particularly plagued the country’s second largest metropolitan area.
15 managers of regional bus companies received public death threats from extortion gangs yesterday. On Monday somebody fired 20 shots at a high school. That same day, a 14-year-old student admitted to extorting his high school in collaboration with the school’s private security guard.
Two armed robberies occurred four days apart in bank robberies on Aug. 18 and Aug. 14. Two weeks ago, a business owner’s car was set on fire just a few blocks from Trujillo’s historic city center.
Early this month two men from Trujillo were the country’s first to be sentenced under new criminal penalties for hired killings, which President Ollanta Humala announced in his Message to the Nation would be increased to a minimum of 25 years.
A controversial social media campaign started in Trujillo captured the country’s attention. A Facebook event titled “Catch a Crook and Leave Him Paralyzed” attracted 100,000 followers before the page was taken down yesterday. A new page was launched and attracted over 1,200 “Likes” at the time of publishing.
“I agree that the armed forces should should go out in the streets as a deterrent. We can’t have our families living in fear,” Acuña published from his Twitter account. He joins Lima district mayors Juan Navarro and Felix Moreno from San Juan de Lurigancho and Callao, respectively.
While Acuña trails at least four other candidates in voter intention surveys, including front-runners Keiko Fujimori and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, public opinion polls consistently show crime to be Peru’s greatest problem according to voters.
However InSight Crime reports that using the military to police the streets can create more problems than it solves.
“Soldiers are trained for combat and to kill adversaries, not settle disputes or investigate crimes,” says InSight’s report. “Militarization can also lead to human rights abuses that extend beyond extrajudicial killings. The military, for instance, often treats suspects like enemy combatants, not like civilians.”
Peru’s government has taken a series of legal measures to address rising crime and extortion since congress gave Humala’s government decree powers for 90 days.
In addition to tougher prison sentences, the government has enacted without debate an overhaul of the police force and a law requiring telecommunications operators to provide police with geographic locations of cell phone users.
Delincuentes robaron S/. 63.000 del Banco de la Nación (El Comercio)
The Siren Call of Militarization in Latin America (InSight Crime)