Latin America & Caribbean

Peruvian mayor blackmailed with father's stolen skull

Peru map

Thieves have tried to blackmail a Peruvian small-town mayor into withdrawing his re-election bid by claiming to have stolen his late father's skull, police say.

The thieves dug up the body of Rogelio Vizcarra's father and then sent him a text message.

Mr Vizcarra, mayor of San Cristobal in southern Peru, says the message sender offered to return the skull if he withdrew his bid for re-election.

But he says he still plans to run.

Police in the small town near Moquegua say the grave robbers unearthed the remains of Juan Vizcarra, who died in 1978, removing the skull and leaving the bones scattered around the cemetery.

The crime of offending the memory of the dead could be punished by a two-year jail sentence, police said.

Meanwhile Mr Vizcarra publicly condemned his political rivals for running a dirty campaign, and the authorities said they were investigating a number of leads including the mayor's opponents.

Peruvians are to vote in municipal and regional elections across the country next week.

Local polls say the current mayor is the second most popular of the four candidates for the job.

But the public sympathy of shocked local residents might just push him into the number one position.