Peruvian drug lord freed from prison, slams Fujimoris

LIMA (Reuters) - A notorious former Peruvian cocaine kingpin who was released from prison after 22 years on Wednesday criticized Keiko Fujimori’s run for president and said the Andean country became a “narco-state” during her father’s 1990-2000 government.

Demetrio Chavez, nicknamed “The Vatican,” reiterated that he once paid the government of former president Alberto Fujimori $50,000 per month to fly drugs to Colombia from his private runway near a military base without interference.

Alberto Fujimori has denied any dealings with Chavez. He is now in prison for corruption and human rights abuses.

Keiko Fujimori, 40, has been the frontrunner in the 2016 race for the presidency for months and enjoys a double-digit lead over her closest rivals.

“A Keiko Fujimori government would be disastrous,” Chavez told a crowd of reporters from the backseat of a car after leaving Lima’s Miguel Castro Castro prison. Peru under her father’s leadership became corrupted by drug traffickers, “a narco-state ... that’s undeniable, he added.

Fujimori’s campaign and Alberto Fujimori’s lawyer did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Chavez’ comments come as Fujimori has been trying to break from the tarnished legacy of her father to win over middle-ground voters. Fujimori is not expected to win outright the first-round vote scheduled for April 10.

Fujimori could pardon her aging father if elected to the top job - a move many Peruvians support.

Chavez is believed to have been one of the top suppliers of cocaine paste for late Colombian drug trafficker Pablo Escobar in the early 90s.

Chavez said he plans to continue living in Lima as a free man. He asked society for forgiveness.

Peru’s interior ministry said authorities would keep an eye on him.

Colombia arrested Chavez in 1994 and extradited him to Peru, where a military court gave him a life sentence. He was later retried and sentenced to 25 years for drug trafficking. In 2007 his sentence was reduced to 22 years.

Chavez said he used to pay Alberto Fujimori’s close adviser and spy chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, for protection but called off the arrangement after Montesinos asked him to double the bribe to $100,000 per month. Chavez said Alberto Fujimori was aware of the deal.

Montesinos, also in jail for corruption, has denied the accusations. Prosecutors said Montesinos ran a mafia that penetrated the military, courts and Congress.

Peru is nearly tied with Colombia as the world’s top producer of cocaine. Anti-corruption advocates warn that drug traffickers may try to influence this year’s elections.

Reporting By Mitra Taj and Reuters TV; Editing by Sandra Maler