A Peruvian mayor has been arrested during an operation to dismantle a large criminal organization, providing new evidence of the close ties between politics and crime in the country.

An April 6 operation by Peru’s National Police led to the arrest of Richard Ramos Ávalos, the mayor of Chilca, a city located in the Lima region, reported El Comercio.

Ramos is accused of being part of a criminal organization known as “Los Rucos,” allegedly responsible for land trafficking, extortion and assassinations.

Police forces captured Ramos in his house, where they also reportedly found an estimated $100,000 in US currency and Peruvian soles. Ramos was unable to explain where the money had come from.

Another 35 individuals allegedly linked to the criminal group, including a former police captain, were also arrested during the raid.

Interior Minister Carlos Basombrío told Perú 21 that 690 police officers and 70 members of the country’s Attorney General’s Office took part in the operation.

“This is one of the most important operations ever carried out in Lima,” the minister told the press.

In an April 7 press conference, Basombrío added that the strike against “Los Rucos” is part of a massive campaign against criminality in the country.

“Every 15 days we will reveal new large-scale operations against organized crime, designed to eradicate this malaise that plagues the country,” the minister said.

InSight Crime Analysis

Notwithstanding the dismantling of “Los Rucos” and Basombrío’s promise of more operations to come, Peru still has a long way to go in its struggle to eradicate the links between politics and crime.

The extent of corruption in the country is exemplified by the fact that three recent presidents have been implicated in criminal activities, including former President Alan García, who was investigated for allegedly accepting money from drug traffickers in exchange for official pardons.

But Ramos’s arrest and his alleged links with “Los Rucos” draws attention to the issue of corruption among local officials, and how decentralizing political power can increase the incentive for crime groups to attempt to corrupt or otherwise infiltrate local governments.

SEE ALSO: Peru News and Profiles

The growing decentralization of authority across Latin America has allowed local officials to enjoy more influence over security policies and budgets. And as a result, local officials have turned into attractive targets for organized crime groups. 

In October 2015, Honduras authorities arrested a mayor who allegedly led a criminal organization suspected of multiple murders. In Mexico, the mayor of Iguala and his wife have been arrested and accused of carrying out the disappearance and possible killing of 43 students in September 2014. And in Colombia, a candidate was elected mayor from behind bars in October 2015.

Peru is no exception to this regional trend. A 2014 report by the Attorney General’s Office said 92 percent of Peru’s mayors were under investigation for corruption. And at least 345 political candidates for the October 2014 elections were linked to a crime, including drug trafficking and terrorism.

In October 2016, Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczkynski established the Presidential Integrity Commission (Comisión Presidencial de Integridad), one of the five anti-corruption measures his administration has vowed to implement. The Integrity Commission is not the first anti-corruption body created in Peru. The High-Level Anti-Corruption Commission (Comisión de Alto Nivel Anticorrupción – CAN) was created in 2010 and tasked with weeding out corruption.

However, it remains to be seen whether Kuczkynski’s effort will compensate for the CAN’s shortcomings and yield sustainable results in the effort to eradicate links between politics and crime in the country.  

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