When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Peru

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

-OpEd-

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 monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Geopolitics

Why The 'Perfect Storm' Of Iran's Protests May Be Unstoppable

The latest round of anti-regime protests in Iran is different than other in the 40 years of the Islamic Republic: for its universality and boldness, the level of public fury and grief, and the role of women and social media. The target is not some policy or the economy, but the regime itself.

A woman holds a lock of her hair during a London rally to protest the murder of Mahsa Amini in London

Roshanak Astaraki

-Analysis-

The death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in Tehran on Sept. 16, after a possible beating at a police station, has sparked outrage and mass protests in Iran and abroad. There have been demonstrations and a violent attempt to suppress them in more than 100 districts in every province of Iran.

These protests may look like others since 2017, and back even to 1999 — yet we may be facing an unprecedented turning point in Iranians' opposition to the Islamic Republic. Indeed newly installed conservative President Ibrahim Raisi could not have expected such momentum when he set off for a quick trip to New York and back for a meeting of the UN General Assembly.

For one of the mistakes of a regime that takes pride in dismissing the national traditions of Iran is to have overlooked the power of grief among our people.

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in
Writing contest - My pandemic story
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ