#AceNewsServices – PERU (Irazola) – October 04 – The two-term mayor of this poor farming district in a cocaine-producing region where the Andes meet the Amazon is one of hundreds of candidates in Sunday’s local and state elections suspected of being bankrolled by drug traffickers.
Manuel Gambini, a 43-year-old former coca farmer, is among at least seven gubernatorial candidates – in a quarter of Peru’s 24 states – under investigation for drug trafficking or related crimes.
Cocaine cash is threatening to hijack democracy in this nation that in 2012 became the world’s top cocaine producer. The infiltration has become so brazen and widespread as to draw comparisons with conditions in Colombia and Mexico that preceded major political bloodletting.
‘ Coco to Cocaine Turns Simple Farmers into Economic Potentates ‘
“We are now a despicable reflection of what Colombia was – and what Mexico is today,” said Sonia Medina, Peru’s public prosecutor for drug enforcement.
Peru is far less violent, but drug-related murders have been on the rise.
‘In this Sept. 25, 2014 photo, supporters of Irazolas two-term mayor and Ucayali gubernatorial candidate Manuel Gambini, attend his campaign rally in Irazola, Peru. Gambini is among hundreds of candidates in the Oct. 5 nationwide local and state elections suspected of being bankrolled by drug trafficking, a phenomena that threatens to hijack democracy in a country that became the worlds top cocaine-producer two years ago’ (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)(Credit: AP)
One of three Peruvian voters lives in a region with candidates under investigation, on trial or previously convicted of drug-related crimes. Medina said her office has identified 700 such candidates.
In his run for governor of the rough jungle state of Ucayali, Gambini has sought to milk his praise from the U.S. Agency for International Development for promoting the cocoa bean over the coca leaf.
Yet he may have been enriching himself along with relatives and associates “closely tied to drug trafficking,” according to an eight-page order for a money laundering probe issued Aug. 29 and obtained by The Associated Press.
It says he transformed “simple farmers into economic potentates” after becoming mayor in 2007.