Arrests for participation in the global cocaine trade surged in Peru during the 1970s. This article uses court cases to explore complaints in Ayacucho of wrongful arrests in the cocaine trade, examining claims of innocence, false confessions under torture, and police and judicial misconduct between 1976 and 1981. What emerges is a picture of abuse and lives upended by the cocaine trade's repression, often on dubious grounds. Ayacucho police routinely tortured during interrogations, engaging in the kinds of violence that became systematic during counterinsurgent warfare against the Shining Path and its presumed supporters. These cases reveal that many Ayacuchanos profoundly distrusted their police and court systems. That was especially true for impoverished—and predominantly rural and indigenous—men and women who could not afford lawyers or bribes. Ayacuchanos' devastating experiences of cocaine repression fueled anger toward the police, which Shining Path militants capitalized on early in their armed struggle.

You do not currently have access to this content.