Peru Army General Created 620 ‘Phantom Soldiers’

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A Peruvian army general has been accused of making up 620 “phantom soldiers” to claim extra funding, an illustration of the endemic corruption that reaches the highest levels of the country’s institutions.

General Juan Quintana Briceño, who led the 3rd Brigade of Special Forces of Tarapoto in northern Peru, was taken into preventative custody ahead of his trial for falsely listing the imaginary soldiers as part of his unit in order to pocket their salaries, reported El Comercio.

Meanwhile in a survey last month, 58 percent of Peruvians told Ipsos Perú corruption was the biggest impediment to the country’s progress. Another 22 percent blamed inefficiency in state institutions and authorities, reported El Comercio. Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed said the political sector was more corrupt than any other part of society, and close to 40 percent believe the last two years have seen no progress in reducing corruption among state institutions.

Respondents also cited law enforcement as a major issue, with a total of 91 percent saying Peru’s laws are not respected.

InSight Crime Analysis

While corruption is an issue throughout much of Latin America, in Peru it is particularly entrenched right to the highest levels of government and state institutions, as demonstrated by General Juan Quintana’s case. Another recent high-profile example is the “pay-for-pardons” scandal engulfing former President Alan Garcia, in which its alleged hundreds of drug traffickers bribed members of his administration to secure release from jail. In the last presidential elections, every major candidate faced some allegations of drug ties.

However, as contradictory as it sounds, there may be a positive side to this. While Peru is now the world’s largest cocaine-producing nation, it has not experienced the high levels of violent crime seen in places such as Colombia and Mexico. One theory is that as criminals do business with politicians and law enforcement unfettered, as well as with each other, they don’t end up resorting to violence. This could even help explain why 78 percent of respondents to the Ipsos said they “tolerated” corruption.

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