Narco-Pardons Scandal Rattles Argentina Judge

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Argentina is investigating a judge for pardoning and releasing drug traffickers in exchange for bribes, echoing similar scandals elsewhere in the region, particularly Peru. 

Raul Reynoso, a federal judge in the northwest province of Salta, is under investigation for allegedly heading an organization that charged large sums of money in exchange for freeing prisoners being held for drug offenses, reported La Nacion.

According to documents viewed by Infobae, Reynoso is accused of releasing Colombian and Bolivian drug traffickers in at least 11 cases since 2010. According to witness testimony, on one occasion Reynoso was allegedly paid $350,000 to free Bolivian businessman Jose Luis Sejas, accused of trafficking large amounts of drugs and precursor chemicals.

Reynoso, who has been a federal judge for almost 11 years, was also recently considered as a possible candidate for a new Supreme Court commission meant to combat drug trafficking.

Five other people have been arrested in connection to the investigation, while another two are in hiding. The network was allegedly made up of lawyers and current and former judicial workers.

InSight Crime Analysis

The province of Salta is near the Bolivian border, and is prime real estate for drug trafficking networks in the Southern Cone. Unsurprisingly, Reynoso’s is not the only case of alleged drug corruption in the area. Trial proceedings recently began against another federal judge, accused of collecting bribes in exchange for removing arrest warrants for certain drug traffickers.  

While the Reynoso investigation is still ongoing, it nevertheless calls attention to Argentina’s ongoing struggles with narco-corruption. Nonetheless, anti-drug trafficking proposals by presidential candidates Daniel Scioli and Mauricio Macri have emphasized a more militarized strategy, rather than targeting corruption. 

SEE ALSO:  Argentina News and Profiles

The Reynoso probe also bears similarities to another corruption case that continues to cast a shadow over former President Alan Garcia in Peru. As highlighted in a recent report by the Associated Press, Garcia is currently running third in polls on Peru’s 2016 presidential race, perhaps in part due to his own ongoing “narco-pardons” investigation. Garcia is accused of involvement in a scheme in which the president acquitted over a thousand people of drug offenses, while other officials collected and distributed bribes.  A political analyst quoted by the AP remarked that perhaps no other president in the world has acquitted so many convicted drug traffickers. 

Other countries in Latin America have seen similar cases. Earlier this year, for example, Mexican federal judge Jorge Armando Wong was accused of accepting bribes of over $20,000 by the Familia Michoacana for the prompt release of the son of its founder Jesus Mendez, alias “El Chango.”

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