Fugitive Mexican ex-governor arrested in Guatemala

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 April, 2017, 3:02pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 April, 2017, 10:20pm

A former state governor who had come to symbolise corruption within Mexico’s ruling party, was arrested on Saturday in Guatemala, Mexico’s attorney general’s office said, in what could be a boost for embattled President Enrique Pena Nieto.

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Javier Duarte, former governor of Veracruz state wanted on graft and organised crime charges, was detained in a hotel in the colonial town of Panajachel, about 129km west of Guatemala’s capital, the national police said in a statement.

“They found him in the lobby of the hotel,” police spokesman Pablo Castillo said.

The Mexican government will seek Duarte’s extradition, but it was not immediately clear how quickly that could happen or whether he will try to block it.

Mexican authorities have up to two months to formerly request Duarte’s extradition.

The arrest was carried out with the help of Interpol agents, Mexico’s attorney general’s office said.

Lorenzo Meyer, a political scientist and historian at Mexico’s National Autonomous University said Duarte’s capture is likely to boost the Mexican president, whose popularity has fallen dramatically over the past couple of years.

“This is a plus for Pena Nieto because it goes against this accusation that he and [Interior Minister] Osorio Chong were really fine with Duarte fleeing, hiding and not knowing anything about him,” said Meyer.

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Agriculture and oil-rich Veracruz, on Mexico’s Gulf coast, is one of Mexico’s largest states, and has historically been a stronghold of Pena Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.

Duarte was a PRI party stalwart for years in Veracruz until he was suspended from the PRI in September last year, and then a month later expelled.

He resigned his position as governor in October, a couple months before his six-year term was due to end.

In June, the opposition National Action Party won a hotly contested race to succeed Duarte in a contest widely seen as a repudiation of rampant corruption and a stinging defeat for the PRI.

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An arrest warrant for Duarte was issued in October last year, about the same time he disappeared, and public auditors have since called his administration of state accounts among the worst cases of misappropriation of public funds in years.