MEXICO CITY — The mayor of Cancun was charged with drug trafficking ties yesterday, forcing him to end his campaign for governor in a scandal that has shaken Mexico’s upcoming state elections.
A federal judge indicted Gregorio Sanchez on charges of organized crime and money laundering a week after he was arrested in Mexico’s most important tourist resort. Prosecutors say he protected two of Mexico’s most brutal drug gangs and lived beyond his means.
The formal charges bar Sanchez from participating in politics, ending his run for governor of the coastal state of Quintana Roo.
Officials have said they cannot remember another Mexican election candidate ever being charged with drug ties in the middle of a campaign, and leaders of Sanchez’s party say the allegations are politically motivated.
The July 4 elections in 10 Mexican states have already been marred by attacks and threats against candidates, fueling fears that Mexico’s powerful drug cartels are increasingly infiltrating politics through bribes and intimidation. One candidate for mayor of a northern town near the border with Texas was shot dead inside his business after ignoring warnings to drop out of the race.
Judge Carlos Elorza said prosecutors have submitted testimony and documents indicating that Sanchez was using illegally obtained funds and had ties to the Beltran Leyva and Zetas cartels.