When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

Crime And Fear, Peru's "New Terrorism"

Amid the seeming complacency or incompetence of the government, drug-related violence and criminals acting with impunity are creating an all-too-familiar atmosphere of fear.

Policemen at work after the July 22 explosion in a Lima circus
Policemen at work after the July 22 explosion in a Lima circus
Carlos Escaffi


SANTIAGO DE CHILE — Those of us who lived in Peru during the 1980s have macabre memories of terrorism in our midst. We can recall the sensations we felt on hearing a nearby explosion, immediately followed by a power outage, or the fear that kept us in even blacker darkness. It was during the virtual civil war between the state and Maoist Shining Path guerrillas, and for civilians it was an era of helplessness and constant concern for the safety of loved ones.

A similar sense of absolute defenselessness is increasingly being felt there today. It's not just a matter of mild concern or analysis. We've reached a crisis point in which parents fear that taking their children to dinner or to the circus might endanger their lives (Criminals used grenades and other explosives at a Lima circus in late July, injuring 11 people). Drug cartels and other organized crime engaging in extortion and other violence have driven murder rates in some of Peru's cities to levels similar to the most violent countries in Central America.

These aren't just isolated incidents, and the fear isn't just a perception. Peruvians are living with violence on a daily basis, with increasing frequency — and worse, amid increasing indifference. When murder becomes commonplace, there is the danger of our senses being dulled. In addition, we have to listen to the excuses that make the public seem like idiots, from officials who may well see insecurity as a matter of perception, sitting as they do in highly secured offices.

I'm not speaking of pseudo-political terrorism. Peru is suffering from terrorism that wants — precisely as the word implies — to dominate us through fear being spread by a relentless series of violent acts, followed by chilling and sickening impunity. A bomb attack in a circus one day, and gunmen entering a well-known restaurant in Lima to kill a customer in full view of everyone eating there on another. Gang members recently tried to kill senior staff at a high school, successfully murdering the principal. The students had no idea what had happened, but they were aware there was violence because the pool of blood at the school entrance left little to the imagination.

Then there are the threats commonly delivered by mail, ranging from sending someone a few bullets in an envelope to leaving explosives cartridges at someone's doorstep as reminders of some pending debt or in acts of extortion cooked up inside one of the country's prisons — perhaps that high-security installation where inmates recently enjoyed a tranquil weekend swimming, with barbecued chicken and beer.

And yet the current government insists the raging violence is all mistakenly "fixed" in our minds. What should be done? Bring out the army again, as some suggest? Do people even trust the government to protect their interests? Ordinary Peruvians wonder these days who will defend them, given that state institutions and officialdom seem either incompetent or untrustworthy, or both. The response right now, frankly, is the press. If we don't report crimes and demand solutions, nobody will do anything about the culture of violence.

The aim here is not to be alarmist. The intention is to generate awareness about the public's lamentable vulnerability and the fear that is metastasizing like a vile tumor on society. As the public are kept distracted with gossip and scandals affecting the rich and powerful, the specter of terrorism is once more creeping up around us.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Why Poland's Break With Ukraine Weakens All Enemies Of Russia — Starting With Poland

Poland’s decision to stop sending weapons to Ukraine is being driven by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party's short-term electoral calculus. Yet the long-term effects on the world stage could deeply undermine the united NATO front against Russia, and the entire Western coalition.

Photo of ​Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky with Polish President Andrzej Duda in Lutsk, Ukraine, on July 9

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky with Polish President Andrzej Duda in Lutsk, Ukraine, on July 9

Bartosz T. Wieliński


WARSAW — Poland has now moved from being the country that was most loudly demanding that arms be sent to Ukraine, to a country that has suddenly announced it was withholding military aid. Even if Poland's actions won't match Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s words, the government has damaged the standing of our country in the region, and in NATO.

“We are no longer providing arms to Ukraine, because we are now arming Poland,” the prime minister declared on Polsat news on Wednesday evening. He didn’t specify which type of arms he was referring to, but his statement was quickly spread on social media by leading figures of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

When news that Poland would be withholding arms to Ukraine made their way to the headlines of the most important international media outlets, no politician from PiS stepped in to refute the prime minister’s statement. Which means that Morawiecki said exactly what he meant to say.

The era of tight Polish-Ukrainian collaboration, militarily and politically, has thus come to an end.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest