25 May 2010

PRD Candidate, Gospel singer "Greg" Sánchez detained for alleged cartel ties

Quintana Roo gubernatorial candidate and Gospel singer Gregorio "Greg" Sánchez was detained May 25 after arriving at the Cancún airport from Mexico City.

A press release from the Attorney General's Office (PGR) said Sánchez, the PRD mayor of Benito Juárez - the municipality containing Cancún - was detained for alleged links to "Los Zetas" and the Beltrán Leyva Cartel and "offering information and protection to them." The press release added the detention was by a judge's order, that he was accused of offenses related to organized crime, drugs and the use of illicit funds and he would be locked up in the western state of Nayarit.

Sánchez would we be the most high-profile politician arrested in the ongoing crackdown on drug cartels and organized crime since Felipe Calderón took office in December 2006.

Ironically, former Quintana Roo Gov. Ernesto Villanueva Madrid was extradited to the United States earlier this month to face drug charges. He allegedly facilitated the passage of cocaine through Quintana Roo in the mid to late 1990s, when he was governor.

A Twitter feed updated by the Sánchez campaign confirmed the dentention and insisted there was no order for his apprehension. One posting on the feed remarked, "They want to commit another 'michoacanazo,'" a reference to the 10 mayors and various public officials arrested in a sweep of Michoacán last May. Many of those arrested were from the left-wing PRD have since been released and were never convicted.

The Sánchez campaign denied the allegations and planned a rally for March 26 in the afternoon. The PRD called the detention politically motivated and said it was carried out so the left doesn't win Quintana Roo, one of Mexico's youngest and fastest growing states.

Sánchez was leading a PRD-PT-Covergence coalition in Quintana Roo and some in the PAN were backing his candidacy, too. At a press conference in Mexico City earlier on May 25, Sánchez and various left-wing party leaders said he was being "politically persecuted."

Sánchez, known in Cancún for his Gospel music career and derided by some critics for allegedly preaching politics from the pulpit, narrowly captured the Benito Juárez mayor's race in what was perhaps the PRD's most notably victory of 2008. He is trailing the PRI in polls for the July 4 gubernatorial election, however.

The mayor had courted controversy for much of 2010. The newspaper La Razón reported in February his brother was giving classes on extortion from behind bars in Mexico City's Reclusorio Norte. In April, the military raid discovered an espionage centre in Cancún with ties to Sánchez. The centre supposedly gathered informtion from phone calls and radio messages on businessmen, political rivals and supposedly journalist Lydia Cacho, longtime Sánchez critic.

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