Criminal groups operating in the city of Trujillo, in northwestern Peru, make over $4 million a year extorting public transport companies, illustrating the highly lucrative nature of this criminal activity.
According to figures obtained by El Comercio from transport unions, criminal gangs glean over $12,000 per day in protection money from transport companies around Trujillo -- a figure which adds up to almost $4.4 million a year. Those who fail to pay may have their vehicles stolen from them, as occurred to Rodolfo Azañero Lopez, president of the Federation of Motorcycle Taxi Drivers of La Esperanza.
Motorcycle taxi companies pay an average of $0.35 per vehicle per day to each criminal organization; taxis and vans pay around $0.70; and minibuses pay slightly over $1. Police said some minibus drivers paid up to four quotas daily to avoid problems with the various groups involved.
Trujillo judge William Rabanal Palacios said the crime had grown 50 percent in the past two years, and local transport union leaders claimed they would go on strike at the end of November until authorities agreed to resolve the problem.
InSight Crime Analysis
Extortion of public transport workers is a huge problem across Latin America, a crime firmly embedded into daily life which provides a primary income source for many of the region's gangs. Bus drivers carry cash unprotected along regular routes in crime-ridden neighborhoods, making them easy targets. Driving public transport in Guatemala is one of the world's deadliest professions, with 97 workers killed in the first six months of 2013. In Honduras, criminals targeting the transport sector reportedly earn $12.5 million a year in the capital alone.
The Peru case stands out for its size -- while Chiclayo gangs reportedly made around $900,000 from all forms of extortion in a year, Trujillo gangs make over four times that annually just from the transport sector.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Extortion
Other forms of extortion in Peru include extortion rackets run by Lima gangs that target the construction sector, schools and retailers, and the collection of taxes by guerrilla group the Shining Path from construction companies and informal loggers.