13 June 2010

Q.R. gubernatorial race goes from farcical to tragic

The federal electoral tribunal (Trife) has rejected a petition from jailed Quintana Roo gubernatorial candidate Gregorio "Greg" Sánchez to overturn a state electoral tribunal decision disqualifying him from the July 4 election. Sánchez, the mayor Benito Juárez - the municipality containing Cancún - faces drug, organized crime and money laundering charges. (Sánchez took a leave of absence from his mayoral post to pursue the gubernatorial election.)

Meanwhile, on June 13, a plane carrying staff members from the poll-leading, Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) candidate Roberto Borge's campaign crashed in the jungle near Carrillo Puerto. Borges confirmed the crash in an interview with the newspaper Reforma, although the number of casualties - if any - was unknown.

The race in the fast-growing southeastern state has been beset by allegations of dirty politicking as the coalition of left-wing parties previously headed by Sánchez alleges he has been the victim of political persecution on the part of the state's PRI government and federal officials making politically motivated arrests under the pretenses of links to organized crime.

Sánchez was arrested in late May for having supposed links to the Beltrán Leyva cartel and Los Zetas, along with having unexplained riches in his accounts. Polls published since his arrest show the PRI holding more than a 30-point advantage and the PRD running even with the National Action Party (PAN).

The PRD-Labor Party-Convergence party coalition he heads has yet to name a successor, but it confirmed late on June 13 it would do so the following day and that the candidate would carry out no campaign activities. The coalition says it will vie for the entire gubernatorial race to be annulled.

Various officials in the coalition have said Sánchez would campaign from prison if necessary. His wife, Niurka Alba Sáliva Benítez, has been mentioned as a possible replacement, although her name has been linked by various media reports to rings smuggling Cuban migrants through Mexico.

The Attorney General's Office (PGR) has denied any suggestions his arrest was politically motivated and revealed that Greg and the PRD were warned in January that he was under investigation. Actions by the Sánchez campaign - such as recording videos prior to his arrest in which the gospel singer-turned-big city mayor proclaims his innocence - suggest they knew an investigation was ongoing. The Convergence party president in Quintana Roo revealed June 13 that it was recommended Sánchez go into hiding and run a virtual campaign.

The PRD has compared the arrest of Sánchez, currently jailed in the western state of Nayarit, to the arrests of some 28 public officials, including 10 mayors, in Michoacán a little more than a year ago - in a case commonly referred to as the "Michoacanzo." None of the officials has been convicted.

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