Peru children are increasingly used by organized crime networks for drug trafficking, says a Lima-based child’s rights organization. The coordinator of Action for Children, María Pía Hermosa, told daily El Comercio that efforts by State authorities to eradicate child exploitation have largely failed.
State authorities “have told me about the frustration that exists among officials in the police and in Public Ministry” said Pía. “State authorities are trying to make an effort, but so far it’s been insufficient.”
On Dec. 22, police officers arrested Evelyn Changra Lazo with her 17-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son in Lima’s Jorge Chavez International Airport. Changra and her children were preparing for a flight to Argentina when officers found more than three kilograms of cocaine capsules in their stomachs.
A week later, police arrested Betty María Quispe Janampa in Lima’s San Juan de Lurigancho district. Quispe had allegedly worked as a drug mule with her 18-year-old and 11-year-old children in July 2007. Police say the two women were part of the same organization that used children for drug trafficking to Argentina.
“The case of the mothers exploiting their children for drug trafficking reflects an alarming situation in our country” said Pía. “The reality is these organized crime networks that work in drug trafficking and sexual exploitation of children are constantly perfecting their ways to attract these victims and use them to make a profit.”Action for Children says Peru’s child exploitation rate is one of the highest in Latin America and has a direct correlation to poverty levels.
According to the World Bank, more than 50 percent of Peru’s population lives in poverty and about 20 percent in extreme poverty. In rural areas the poverty rate climbs to 72.5 percent and extreme poverty to more than 40 percent of the population.
Pía says most efforts to combat child exploitation are in Lima. “But the problem is much worse in the country’s interior where corruption has more adherents, where authorities are more susceptible to corruption and where they are the main allies of organized crime.”