The evidence suggests that Peru's upcoming local elections will be strongly influenced by drug trafficking, a phenomenon with a troubling historical precedent -- but one which the authorities seem to be trying to combat.
In late September, mayoral candidate Lider Villasana Flores was murdered by an assassin on a motorcycle, according to reports. He had been considered the favorite to win the election for mayor of San Martin de Pangoa, Junin.
The following day Edgar Zevallos, another mayoral candidate in Junin, said he had received death threats, and suggested that they were linked to drug interests.
"This responds to dark interests of people who want to be in power … There are a lot of rumors. There is talk of mafias, of drug trafficking," he told Canal N.
These events are just the latest evidence of criminal influence on Peru's October 5 local elections, in which 25 regional presidents (similar to governors), 195 provincial mayors, and 1,647 district mayors will be chosen for four-year terms, along with numerous councilors.
In August, the national electoral authority (JNE) reported it had received a list of 2,131 candidates with criminal records, and later announced that they were excluding 345 of them from the elections.
Around the same time, Interior Minister Daniel Urresti handed a list of 124 candidates with suspected drug ties or drug trafficking sentences to the electoral authority (though he later said one of these candidates had been included by mistake).
Of the people named on the list, 12 currently face judicial processes, 16 have been sentenced, and two banned from leaving the country. Others are under investigation. Seven candidates for regional president are included on the list: two from Huanuco, and one each from Amazonas, Apurimac, Ayacucho, Pasco and Puno.
Many of the 124 candidates are concentrated in and around the country's principal coca-growing regions (see map below): the Upper Huallaga Valley, Pichis Palcazu and the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro River Valleys (VRAEM).
In keeping with this, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for Peru and Ecuador recently reported that just three national political parties had a major presence in coca growing regions in this year's elections (many candidates belong to regional movements). Two of these parties -- Alianza por el Progreso and Fuerza Popular -- also have the highest numbers of candidates on the list of those with suspected drug ties (13 and nine, respectively).
Following these reports, the head of Peru's anti-drug agency (DEVIDA), Alberto Otarola, reiterated his warnings about the drug trafficking influence among candidates, and called on election authorities to release a full list of candidates with drug ties.
Peruvian Candidates Suspected or Convicted of Drug Trafficking