U.S. drug agents say they have evidence that Mexican drug cartel leaders paid $4.5 million for political favors to a Mexican border state governor and other figures in Mexico's former ruling party.
According to court documents filed by the agents in the U.S. District Court in San Antonio, Texas, confidential informants told U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration investigators that leaders of the major Mexican drug cartels made payments to members of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI. One of the PRI members, Tomas Yarrington, served as governor of Tamaulipas state from 1999 to 2004.
The affidavits of the money-laundering case in Texas identify Antonio Pena as the conduit between Mexican politicians and the drug kingpins.
PRI has said the probe is politically motivated ahead of the July 1 presidential vote. Its candidate has a big lead in opinion polls.
The accusations have given President Felipe Calderon's ruling conservative National Action party, or PAN, fresh ammunition against the PRI, which ruled Mexico for seven decades until it was ousted in 2000.
Mexican drug gangs are responsible for thousands of kidnappings, slayings and acts of extortion.
President Calderon has deployed thousands of troops across Mexico to fight the country's drug cartels. The spiraling violence has left at least 50,000 people dead.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.