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Ex-Cancun mayor arrested, linked to drug cartels in Mexico

MEXICO CITY — A former mayor of Cancun who was running for governor of his Caribbean state laundered cash for two drug cartels, prosecutors charged Wednesday, a possible new sign of the taint of narcotics on Mexican politics.

Police arrested Gregorio Sanchez Martinez, who was running for governor of Quintana Roo, at the resort's airport late Tuesday.

Sanchez moved millions of dollars in suspicious funds through his bank accounts, a spokesman for the federal Attorney General's Office, Ricardo Najera, said at a news conference early Wednesday.

"We are certain that many people around him are also involved," Najera said.

He linked Sanchez to the Beltran Leyva and Los Zetas drug cartels and said Sanchez "provided them information and protection to facilitate their illicit activities."

As federal police put Sanchez on a plane from Cancun, the candidate sent a string of short messages on his Twitter account, claiming his innocence.

"Why now?" he said in one Tweet, referring to his arrest. "Because we are winning."

Quintana Roo and nine other states hold elections July 4.

Mexico's Caribbean coast serves as a major transit point for cocaine that is processed in the Andean region and shipped to U.S. markets.

A top politician in the alliance that supports Sanchez's candidacy, Jesus Ortega Martinez of the opposition Revolutionary Democratic Party, accused prosecutors Wednesday of filing the charges to give electoral advantage to the party of President Felipe Calderon.

"We will not permit — and we should not permit, for the health of the country — that judicial processes be utilized for political ends," Ortega Martinez said.

U.S. focus shifts

to judicial reforms

The Obama administration wants to shift U.S. aid in Mexico away from high-priced helicopters and airplanes and toward reforming Mexico's corrupt law enforcement, courts and politicians. Marking a dramatic change from past years, most of the $310 million that the Obama administration seeks for Mexico in its 2011 budget request is aimed at judicial reforms and good governance programs. The proposals to be unveiled today indicate a fundamental shift in the way the Untied States has waged its war on drugs for four decades.

Ex-Cancun mayor arrested, linked to drug cartels in Mexico 05/26/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 11:22pm]
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