Peru has implemented a new law to fight organized crime, providing law enforcement with better investigation tools amidst an increase in criminal activity, but raising concerns over corruption and abuses of power.
The new law -- which went into effect on July 1 -- allows law enforcement officials to intercept phone calls, use undercover agents, and follow suspects involved in organized crime, reported El Comercio.
In addition, the law eliminates sentence reduction benefits for members of criminal groups and increases sentences for group leaders who use minors or high caliber weapons in their operations. The law also includes measures to set up a system to store data on inmates tied to organized crime, including detailed information on the visitors they receive in prison.
The law applies to 21 different crimes carried out by groups of 3 or more including drug trafficking, money laundering, corrupting public officials, human trafficking and smuggling, and extortion.
InSight Crime Analysis
The implementation of the law comes at a time of growing problems with organized crime in Peru.
The country is the world's leading cocaine producer, and in April, authorities identified what they believe to be the first independent Peruvian group running transnational drug trafficking operations directly to the United States. Peru has also seen a recent surge in extortion, particularly in the transportation sector, and human smuggling and illegal mining appear to be on the rise.
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Although the law gives security forces new tools to combat organized crime, the country will continue to struggle to contain the spread of organized crime while corruption reamains widespread.
Corruption is rampant in the security forces, with police officers facilitating extortion and signs that officials may be involved in providing weapons to criminal groups. A recent US State Department report also highlighted corruption in the judicial system, which has been echoed by Peru's anti-narcotics prosecutor, and even three of Peru's recent presidents have been accused of criminal activity.
Under these conditions, the law could also generate concerns about the amount of power being placed in such hands and the balance between security and civil liberties. Allowing broader use of tools such as phone intercepts can be a powerful weapon against organized crime but can also be abused for personal or political purposes, as has happened in places such as Colombia.