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A top official of the Organization of American States warns that drug cartels are influencing elections in Latin America by threatening and killing politicians and even by running their own candidates.

The OAS secretary for multidimensional security says crime and violence represent the region's two greatest threats. Adam Blackwell says an estimated 357,000 people died as a result of violent crime in the region in 2010, the latest year for which figures are available.

Blackwell says the pressure on political candidates underlines "the risk that organized crime represents for the preservation of our democratic institutions."

He spoke Thursday in Mexico City at a meeting of security officials from the 34 OAS countries.