The mysterious recurring case of Mexico’s disappearing governors

(BLOOMBERG) — The hunt for Mexico’s Javier Duarte, the former governor of Veracruz state who went underground last month after being accused of looting billions in taxpayer money, is getting close to the end, according to federal Attorney General Raul Cervantes.

He disappeared about a month ago and is now, or was recently, in Puebla state, Veracruz’s governor-elect, Miguel Angel Yunes says. For a time, Duarte was said to be hiding out on a ranch in the southern state of Chiapas. How’d he get away? He took flight, literally, in a state-owned helicopter. He got to the heliport in the trunk of a car, according to one report.

However, it’s been a couple weeks since Cervantes said that, and in the meantime the government has had to appeal for the public’s help by posting a reward. On Sunday, the government seized bank accounts, businesses and properties belonging to the fugitive, the kind of concerted effort that hasn’t been a hallmark of justice when it comes to governors of Mexican states.

Because before Duarte there was Eugenio Hernandez, and Tomas Yarrington, and Jorge Torres Lopez, and Mario Villanueva, and, until last week, Guillermo Padres. (There are still others.) All governors at one time, all who took it on the run, trailing corruption charges like clanging cans that fell on deaf ears.

Crooked governors have evaded the law for decades in Mexico, either through agreements struck with presidential administrations or an inability of law enforcement to seize them or their assets, says Mike Vigil, the former head of international operations for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Duarte, 43, fled just as investigators said they were closing in on him, leading to howls of criticism for allowing him to slip away under their noses.
Corrupt and Contented

“Many governors in Mexico are corrupt,” said Vigil, whose territory included Mexico until his retirement in 2004 and who wrote the book “Metal Coffins: The Blood Alliance Cartel.” “It’s rare that we can get to these governors because many times they’re protected” by the administration in power. Marko Cortes, lower-house leader of the opposition National Action Party, or PAN, concurred, saying Duarte’s escape “appears as if it was something agreed upon.”

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