Mexican Political Elite Collapsing Under Weight of Narco-Corruption


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Javier Duarte, the fugitive ex-governor of Mexico’s Veracruz state, was detained in Guatemala on Saturday in a joint operation by Interpol and Guatemalan police. He’s now awaiting extradition back to Mexico, where he is wanted on charges of money laundering and protecting organized crime.

Duarte was governor of Veracruz from 2010 until he stepped down last October, shortly before the end of his term. He was doing so in order to face the allegations against him—but then he disappeared and went on the lam.

This is hardly an isolated case. The Associated Press provides a remarkable litany of Mexican ex-officials now on the wrong side of the law.

Just a week before the capture of Duarte, Tomás Yarrington, ex-governor of Tamaulipas state, was arrested in Italy—also on allegations of organized crime links and money laundering. And a former governor of Chihuahua, César Duarte Jáquez, is wanted on suspicion of corruption and is believed to have fled to El Paso, Texas. All three ex-governors were members of the ruling Institutional Revolution Party (PRI) of President Enrique Peña Nieto.

But it’s questionable whether Mexican prisons will be able to hold these guys even if they are captured.

The 2015 jailbreak by Sinaloa Cartel kingpin El Chapo Guzmán made world headlines, but Mexico has more recently seen replays with less notorious criminal figures.

On March 23, a tunnel, like the one El Chapo used, allowed the escape of 29 inmates from a prison in Ciudad Victoria, the Tamaulipas state capital. One escapee killed a civilian to steal his car and make a getaway. A manhunt is underway, and at least 10 of the escapees have been recaptured. But authorities say the tunnel must have taken months to build, pointing to complicity by prison officials. 

And just a week before that, five senior members of the Sinaloa Cartel escaped from the Aguaruto prison in Culiacán, Sinaloa state. The prison’s security chief disappeared immediately after the jailbreak.  

And attacks on journalists who dare to report on the corruption continue unabated.

A reporter who covered the crime beat for a news website in the Baja California Sur state became the latest victim on April 14. On that day, Maximino Rodríguez Palacios became the fourth journalist murdered in Mexico since the beginning of March. The website he wrote for, Colectivo Pericu, said the killing took place in a store parking lot in La Paz, the state capital. He was gunned down in a hail of bullets while helping his wheelchair-bound wife out of this car. By amazing luck, his wife was not hit.

As the Latin American Herald Tribune noted, the slaying of Max Rodríguez follows the killings last month of journalists Cecilio Pineda in the southern state of Guerrero; Ricardo Monlui in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz; and Miroslava Breach in the Chihuahua state, bordering Texas.

Rodriguez was also the 124th media professional killed in Mexico since 2000, according to figures from Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission.

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