In a particularly blatant example of vote buying, a candidate running for town council in an Amazonian town was arrested on election day for allegedly handing out cocaine in exchange for votes.
When police approached a large crowd gathered around a car in the town of Itacoatiara on October 7, the morning of the first round of Brazil’s municipal elections, the group dispersed and the vehicle fled. Police eventually caught up with the car, inside of which they reportedly found local town council candidate Carme Cristina da Silva Lima, an unidentified man, several election pamphlets and 11 packets containing cocaine paste.
According to Brazilian news site TNonline, police believe Lima was attempting to buy votes by distributing cocaine to potential supporters.
Spanish news agency EFE reports that witnesses said Lima had already distributed much of the cocaine among residents in the neighborhood of Picareira, an area under the influence of local gangs. Lima was arrested for drug dealing and electoral corruption; campaigning of any kind on election day is also illegal in Brazil.
InSight Crime Analysis
Both state presence and the rule of law are weak in Brazil’s Amazon region. In May 2012, Brazil deployed 8,700 troops to its northern Amazonian border, its fourth such operation in the span of a year intended to curb drug trafficking, illegal logging and mining in the vast jungle region.
Though an Itacoatiara district prosecutor called da Silva’s actions an isolated incident, Brazilian authorities took steps to prevent problems fueled by the drug trade elsewhere in the country on election day. In Rio de Janeiro, the government deployed thousands of troops to gang-controlled slums where voters face intimidation to support candidates favored by local drug or vigilante group leaders.