A macabre, violent and grisly tale is unfolding in Peru - and vanity and greed may be the ultimate culprits
According to UK daily newspaper The Guardian, about four months ago police received a tip about black marketers trading human fat, who "exported the amber liquid to Europe as anti-wrinkle cream."
Journalists were shown two bottles of fat, allegedly worth $60,000 (€40,000)/gallon, as well as "a photograph of a rotting head believed to be of a male victim," reports US paper Los Angeles Times.
According to the UK's BBC, the gang sought out travelers on remote roads and lured them with job offers, before slaying them, and then hanging their bodies over low flames to extract the fat.
Col. Jorge Mejia, chief of Peru's anti-kidnapping police, told US-based Seattle Times that a suspect claims his was not the only gang involved.
Meanwhile, Streetgangs-dot-com, adds:
"Police hope the arrests will help solve the mysterious disappearances of a large number of people, including children, from villages in the central Peruvian provinces of Huanuco and Pasco."
A rural province located between the jungle and mountains, Huanuco's ties to its ancient past are strong.
Not only is the area dotted with old Inca pyramids, but the alleged ringleader of the killers nicknamed his gang the Pishtacos after the legendary "ruthless assassins of indigenous Quechua legend who ambushed solitary victims and drained their fat as an offering to gods to make the land fertile," says The Guardian.
He describes them as, The Washington Post says, "half-gringo ghouls who are said to live in caves, lurk along the highways, and suck the fat out of anyone foolish enough to travel the Andean roads at night."
Pishtacos, Vargas Llosa writes, "needed human fat to make church bells sing more sweetly and tractors run more smoothly... They not only slit their victims' throats but butchered them like cattle, or sheep, or hogs, and ate them. Bled them drop by drop and got drunk on the blood."
Our savage new times revive the memories of savage old times - and it is all for naught.
While human fat has some cosmetic applications, it is doubtful that a greater international black market exists for it.
According to the BBC: "Medical authorities have expressed skepticism about a black market for human fat, partly because of the wide availability of fat for use in surgical procedures."
In Peru, we are well beyond the realm of using liposuctioned fat for soap (as fantasized in the film Fight Club), or as fuel - like the now-disbarred Beverly Hills doctor who was allegedly using it to fuel his SUV.