Alfonso W. Quiroz


On his book Corrupt Circles: A History of Unbound Graft in Peru

Cover Interview of June 14, 2009

In a nutshell

Corruption has existed since the earliest civilizations but documenting and writing its history has not been easy.  In the case of Peru, tackling through detailed research the challenges to writing a history of corruption, one finds abundant evidence of structural corruption.  This prevalent type of corruption is defined broadly as the persistent abuse of power for private gain.  In successive phases, over a stretch of more than 250 years, systemic corruption seriously undermined Peru’s basic institutions and promising possibilities for development.  To untangle this intricate knot Corrupt Circles follows the guiding threads left for posterity by courageous reformists and opponents of unchecked graft in a poor society.  The book is intended to be read as a story of the perils of greed and abuse past and present.

In Peru, the interested mismanagement of the state and national resources inflicted endemic social harm over time.  Evolving corrupt schemes and the networks of persons who implement them affected strategic sectors.  Initially it was colonial mining and contraband trade that exhibited deep problems ascribed to rampant corruption.  After independence similar hurdles afflicted republican guano income and public debt administrations often bribed by foreign contractors of public works and arms procurement.  In the twentieth century corruption thrived under military dictatorial oppression, preyed on deals of oil exploitation, and most recently, drug interdiction.  Corruption reached a zenith under the cover of gross undemocratic abuses during the infamous Fujimori-Montesinos regime.

The exposure of this hidden history leads to a reinterpretation of Peru’s evolution and a reevaluation of the importance of transparency and individual and collective efforts at critical reform.  In our own times of global frauds and political corruption these insights apply beyond a single, albeit paradigmatic, Latin American country.