On the evening of April 16, members of the Guatemalan national police captured former-Governor of Veracruz Javier Duarte who had been on the run for six months fleeing corruption charges. Duarte was arrested after surrendering outside of his hotel room at a luxurious resort near Lake Atitlán where he was staying under a false name.
According to El País, Guatemalan prosecutors listed the charges pressed upon Duarte by Mexican authorities, which include organized delinquency and money laundering. Duarte allegedly created a “complex scheme to redirect public funds,” and headed and instructed “a network of fronts to buy properties using public funds from Veracruz,” according to the charges read aloud by Guatemalan officials after Duarte’s arrest.
The former-governor refused to surrender to Mexican officials during his first hearing in Guatemala on April 19. The Mexican government has 60 days to produce a formal extradition request. According to El País, Duarte’s extradition would lead to the first trial of a politician in an open tribunal in Mexico City, the capital of a country where impunity runs rampant.
Duarte disappeared in October 2016 as the severity of his alleged crimes became known to the Mexican media. He is not the only fugitive ex-politician to be captured in April 2017; the former-governor of the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, Tomás Yarrington, was arrested earlier this month in Italy while facing similar charges in both Mexico and the United States, according to the New York Times.
The arrest of these two politicians may signal that the Mexican government finally is responding to public outrage against impunity. During a protest in February criticizing President Donald Trump and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, 28-year-old protester, Victor Robledo, said, “we’re also marching today to demand that our own rulers put an end to corruption and so much loss of life here and actually look out for the good of the country, not just themselves,” according to Time.
As governors, Duarte and Yarrington were members of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the same party as Peña Nieto. PRI’s opponents see Yarrington and Duarte as concrete examples not of the current administration’s crackdown on corruption but of the crookedness that they believe is ingrained in the PRI, giving them even more reason to oppose Peña Nieto’s presidency. According to the Economist, Peña Nieto once commended the incriminated Duarte as a symbol of the PRI’s “new generation” that was going to lead the country towards progress.
Mexican gubernatorial elections will occur in June, and its presidential elections will be held in July 2018. Already, candidates are using the Javier Duarte case as political ammunition against their opponents.
According to El País, National Action Party (PAN) leader Ricardo Anaya, who accompanied PAN candidate Josefina Vázquez Mota at a rally on April 19 on one of Duarte’s seized properties, accused Morena, one of the main opposing parties in the election, of accepting monthly bribes from Duarte during the 2016 gubernatorial elections in Veracruz. Presidential candidate Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador has also accused Mota of receiving and misusing public funds, allegedly from Peña Nieto, through her charitable foundation.
For now, the legal process to actually prosecute Javier Duarte in Mexico City could be lengthy. El Universal reports that internal sources indicate it could take six months to a year for Duarte to actually be extradited to Mexico, meaning that the road to justice will be a painfully long one.