Over 400 people are under investigation for ties to a former Peru governor accused of murder and criminal conspiracy, highlighting the breadth of a criminal network that infiltrated nearly every part of the government of the country's wealthiest state.
Mesias Guevara, the head of a congressional commission tasked with examining the case of former governor Cesar Alvarez Aguilar, has stated that with 60 percent of the probe complete, more than 400 people have come under investigation, reported El Comercio.
The congressional commission was formed in April 2014 following allegations that Alvarez led a criminal organization while serving as the governor of Peru's northwestern Ancash state between 2007 and 2014. According to The New York Times, Alvarez's criminal network doled out around $1 million in bribes a month and allegedly assassinated rivals. Alvarez's network is also under investigation for allegedly facilitating drug shipments through the Ancash port of Chimbote, as well as for corruption involving Ancash's lucrative mining sector.
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The number of people implicated in the case and the breadth of the investigation -- which, after a year, is just over halfway complete -- illustrates the extent to which Alvarez's network was able to infiltrate the local government, and raises questions about how this criminal enterprise went undetected by the national government for so long.
In general, corruption appears to be an endemic problem in Ancash. Last September, Peru's Attorney General's Office estimated that there were over 1,200 allegations of corruption against public officials and institutions in Ancash, with 60 percent involving the state government, reported El Comercio.
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However, these issues are not unique to Ancash. Last year, Peru elected at least six governors who were under investigation or had been charged with a crime. In July 2014, Peru's Anti-Corruption Attorney General's Office revealed that some 92 percent of the country's mayors -- a total of 1,699 officials -- were under investigation for corruption.
Nonetheless, there have been signs that Peruvian officials are taking steps to combat the problem, including removing over 300 political candidates with criminal records from the country's October 2014 elections. The fact that the congressional commission appears to be taking the time to thoroughly investigate Alvarez's activities in Ancash is also a promising sign that the government is making an effort to weed out corruption among local politicians.