Demetrio Chávez Peñaherrera, alias “Vaticano”

A former drug kingpin has disparaged the frontrunner in Peru’s forthcoming presidential election for her familial ties to ex-President Alberto Fujimori, the latest twist in a campaign that has already been marred by allegations of corruption.

Demetrio Chávez Peñaherrera, alias “Vaticano,” criticized Keiko Fujimori, the 40 year-old daughter of Peru’s Alberto Fujimori, arguing that her father transformed the country into a "narco-state" between 1990 and 2000, reported Reuters. 

"A Keiko Fujimori government would be disastrous," Vaticano said. 

Vaticano, who is considered to be Peru's most prolific drug trafficker during the 1990s, made the comments shortly after being released from prison following a 22-year term. 

Vaticano also repeated specific allegations he had already made from prison in 2012. He claims to have bribed Fujimori’s notorious head of intelligence, Vladimir Montesinos, with $50,000 to secure safe passage for his light aircraft carrying coca base to Colombia, adding that Fujimori himself was aware of the deal. 

InSight Crime Analysis

Allegations of complicity in drug trafficking against Fujimori and Montesinos, both currently behind bars in Peru, are not new. As InSight Crime has reported, Pablo Escobar’s brother, Roberto, alleged that Montesinos accepted a $1 million donation for Fujimori’s first presidential campaign in 1990 and that he even visited the drug lord’s famed Napoles ranch in Colombia.

The timing of Vaticano’s comments are significant, however, as Peru is gearing up for the first round of presidential elections, which will be held in April. High-level corruption is a chronic problem in Peru, with two other former presidents and even the current head of state, Ollanta Humala, linked to criminal activity. Alejandro Toledo (2001-06) was accused in 2014 of money laundering, while Alan García (1985-90 and 2006-11) has faced government probes over allegations of illicit enrichment and involvement in illegal property dealings. Alarmingly, both men are candidates in this year’s election, with García fourth in the polls.

SEE ALSO: Peru News and Profiles

Keiko Fujimori, who is leader of the right-wing party Fuerza Popular, has worked hard to distance herself from her father’s record and built support on a promise to crack down on crime. Her father's many convictions do not appear to have impacted Fujimori's campaign and many Peruvians would likely support the elder Fujimori's potential pardoning, according to Reuters.

Recent opinion polls put Fujimori well ahead of the 19 other candidates with a commanding 33 percent. She is not expected to win the 50 percent needed in the first round, however, and a run-off in June is likely. Her closest competitors are Cesar Acuña, a businessman-turned politician who was summoned to testify in a money laundering case in November 2015, and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, or “PPK,” a former prime minister and Princeton-educated economist.