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Vigilante lynchings go viral in Peru

The “Chapa tu choro” or “Catch your thief” movement took off in August, when Cecilia Rodriguez, a journalist from the town of Huancayo created a Facebook group called “Chapa tu Choro Peru.” Hundreds of similar Facebook groups have sprung up in recent weeks in various cities. People across Peru began capturing criminals and subjecting them to various forms of corporal punishment and humiliation, with pictures and videos of their actions posted in Facebook groups.

Cecilia Rodriguez, who started the campaign told BBC:

I didn’t imagine the campaign would catch on the way it did. I do accept that it has got out of control and that some are taking the violence too far, which I’m not justifying but I do understand.But, We’re living in a failing state, which is not fulfilling its duty of giving us all security.

With Peruvian authorities remaining silent on the issue and none of the vigilantes arrested so far, the campaign is gaining momentum. A recent poll published by Peru’s largest newspaper, El Comercio, shows that 60 percent of Lima’s residents support the campaign.

Peruvian Interior Minister Jose Luis Perez Guadalupe says that Peruvian law gives the public the right to arrest thieves and criminals, but not to punish them.

Basically there are problems within our police forces. Sometimes their reach is limited, there aren’t enough men on the ground.We’ve had the issue here in Peru of fine-tuning the coordination between the police, the public prosecutor, and the judiciary. So I would say these three institutions share the responsibility on that matter.

Citizens forming vigilante groups is not uncommon in Latin America. It has been especially prevalent in southwest Mexico, where local self-defense militias have taken up arms in recent years to combat violent drug cartels.

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