Peru: police ‘death squad’ leader absolved

A court in Trujillo, Peru, issued a ruling July 23 absolving former National Police colonel Elidio Espinoza and nine troops who served under him in the deaths of four suspected "delinquents" in the coastal city in 2007. Espinoza, who was accused of operating a "death squad" within the National Police, had been sentenced to life in prison by the Public Ministry, the branch of Judicial Power with authority over government officials, for the crimes of kidnapping, homicide, and abuse of authority. After the ruling was issued, Espinoza led his supporters in a public celebration in Trujillo's Plaza de Armas. (Peru21, RPP, July 23)

Police abuse and corruption is an ongoing source of unrest in Peru. May saw a wave of angry protests in Casma, a fishing port just down the coast from Trujillo, with road barricades and clashes with police, following the slaying of a local merchant in the town's market. Supporters said the slain woman had refused to pay protection money to an extortion gang protected by the police. (La Primera, May 22; El Comercio, May 21)

Scandals over extra-legal police and military "social cleansing" operations have recently made headlines in HondurasGuatemala, El Salvador and Colombia.

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