By Delisa Morris
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
LIMA, Peru — The unofficial count of election ballots from Peru Monday evening shows at least two gubernatorial candidates under investigation for drug trafficking related crimes have won their elections. An additional two face run-offs, after a nationwide vote for mayors, governors and municipal councils. While many on the outside are shocked at the outcome, others are not.
Hundreds of candidates suspected of ties to drug trafficking were on the ballot Sunday in what authorities called the Andean nation’s most violent campaign since 2000.
The Ipsos Apoyo polling firm compiled unofficial results of the election. According to their tally the winners included Manuel Gambini, a former coca grower in the Amazon state of Ucayali. Gambini is known for promoting the planting of Cocoa beans and other alternative crops, in place of the crop that produces cocaine. A clean image that earned him praise from the U.S. and a trip to Miami to showcase his efforts.
However, this past August a judicial order launched an investigation of Gambini, detailing that he amassed a fortune and extensive land holdings, which would have been unlikely funded by his salary as mayor. Gambini vehemently denies the allegations saying they are lies pitted against him by his competitors.
Also victorious was Gilmer Horna in the northern state of Amazonas. The owner of a chain of chicken restaurants, he is under investigation for possible money laundering.
One of every three Peruvian voters lives in a region where candidates were investigation, on trial or previously convicted of drug-related crimes. Peru’s state attorney for drug enforcement, Sona Medina, said her office had identified 700 such candidates.
Electoral authorities reported more than 100 incidents of election-day violence, including the destruction of ballot boxes, temporary seizures of polling stations, threats to elections officials and destruction of vehicles.
“We haven’t had situations of this magnitude in Peru for some time,” said Gerardo Tavara, secretary general of the citizen watchdog group Transparencia. “Hit men are being hired to assassinate candidates” he said.
Two mayoral candidates were slain in gangland-style killings during the campaign, both in cocaine-trafficking corridors, and on Friday, two police officers were shot and killed in an ambush blamed on drug-funded rebels in the Apurimac and Ene river valley, the world’s top cocaine-producing region.
Peruvian law allows convicted criminals to run for office as long as they have been rehabilitated by court order. More than 1,300 candidates convicted of crimes — including rape and graft — were on Sunday’s ballot, and two governors jailed under preventative detention pending possible corruption trials were re-elected, according to unofficial results.
This election day boasted 30 deaths from car accidents. Mostly from people attempting to navigate Peru’s mountainous terrain. In Peru voting is mandatory, if a citizen does not vote they can be subject to fines.
Official electoral results remained incomplete Monday.
For more information please see:
Sky News.com.au – Thirty Killed in Peru Election Day Accidents – 6 Oct. 2014
ABC News – 2 Peru Governor Candidates Win Despite Drug Probes – 6 Oct. 2014
Fox News – In No.1 Cocaine-Producer Peru, Narco Candidates are Tainting Nationwide Elections – 4 Oct. 2014
SBS News – 30 Killed in Peru Election Day Accidents – 6 Oct. 2014