In a recent survey, 70 percent of respondents said they believe Peru is in danger of becoming a narco-state, a reflection of perceived ties between drug traffickers and government institutions in the Andean nation.
The survey conducted by the company Ipsos-Peru and published in Peruvian newspaper El Comercio also found that 67 percent of those polled believe the links between drug trafficking and the state have increased during the administration of current President Ollanta Humala, who took office in 2011.
Notably, respondents believe drug trafficking has infiltrated Peru’s central government to a higher degree than state institutions at the regional and municipal level. Close to half (43 percent) of the 1,208 Peruvians surveyed said infiltration by drug traffickers is widespread and reaches the highest levels of the national government (see graph below).
In comparison, 35 percent of respondents think drug traffickers influence high-ranking officials at the regional level, and just 23 percent think this is true in local government institutions (see graph below).
At least forty percent of respondents also believe high-level officials in Peru’s judicial branch, Attorney General’s Office, and national police have ties to drug trafficking.
Perhaps just as noteworthy is how few Peruvians feel drug trafficking has no influence over state institutions. Less than 10 percent of those polled said they think the central and regional governments, Congress, the judicial branch, the national police, and the military are not infiltrated whatsoever by drug traffickers.
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The large percentage of Peruvians who feel the country is in danger of becoming a narco-state is somewhat surprising, but not entirely baseless. In April, Congresswoman Rosa Mavila said Peru may already “merit the label ‘narco-state’” because of the heavy flow of cocaine leaving the country’s principal coca-growing region, known as the VRAEM.
It also appears that drug traffickers and other criminals have managed to influence, at least to some degree, many branches and levels of the government in Peru. Former President Alan Garcia has been investigated for allegedly selling pardons to convicted drug traffickers. In 2014 gubernatorial elections, Peru elected six governors who are under investigation for either drug trafficking, corruption or money laundering. That same year, then Interior Minister Daniel Urresti identified over 100 candidates running for municipal and regional government positions who had been linked to drug trafficking cases.
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However, the public’s perception of the degree to which drug trafficking has co-opted the state may be a reflection of increased media reports of corruption and drug trafficking scandals, rather than an increase in actual ties between criminals and government officials. Drug trafficking’s subversive influence on Peruvian politics “is not something new,” Peruvian university researcher Nicolas Zevallos told Spanish news agency EFE. “What could be happening is that the coverage of these [narco-politics] cases in the media is affecting citizen perception,” Zevallos said.