Suspects in land theft gang 'Los Sanguinarios'

Peruvian authorities have arrested 16 suspects who allegedly worked for a criminal gang dedicated to forced displacement and land theft outside Lima, highlighting a crime that is a growing concern in Peru and parallelling problems in other parts of Latin America.

According to authorities, the people arrested formed part of the band "Los Sanguinarios de Pachacamac" and worked for a civil construction company. They were allegedly contracted by land traffickers to forcibly seize land from residents of two settlements in Pachacamac, to the south of the country's capital, which they then resold with false documentation, reported El Popular.

National police arrested the suspects in the settlements Las Mercedes and Las Casuarinas, where they also found revolvers, ammunition, five vehicles, 10 cellular phones and over 130 packages of drugs, reported La Republica.

The suspects will be tried for aggravated theft, crimes against public safety, drug trafficking, and on weapons charges.

InSight Crime Analysis

This case is not an isolated event in Peru. A July 2012 police report stated that members of civil construction companies in the Piura and Castilla regions were similarly engaged in land trafficking. Last August, the Lima city government proposed the creation of a special police unit to combat land trafficking, while invasion and trafficking of land in protected areas has also been an ongoing concern.

Land conflicts and forced displacement are rife in other parts of Latin America as well, especially Colombia, which has the highest internally displaced population in the world. The now demobilized paramilitary army the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) was notorious for displacing the population then using or selling their land for agro-industrial or extractive projects, a practice that is continued today by the narco-paramilitary groups that succeded them. The government is currently struggling to implement an ambitious land restitution program, which has faced serious logistical issues and fierce opposition from the remnants of the AUC and their successors.