HomeNewsAnalysisCronies of Disgraced Veracruz Ex-Governor Walk Free in Mexico
ANALYSIS

Cronies of Disgraced Veracruz Ex-Governor Walk Free in Mexico

ELITES AND CRIME / 5 APR 2019 BY CAT RAINSFORD EN

Six officials linked to disgraced Veracruz ex-governor Javier Duarte's cabinet have been cleared of all charges or secured early release from jail, prompting renewed suspicions that one of Mexico’s most shocking corruption scandals is being swept under the carpet.

On March 15, Flavino Ríos Alvarado was cleared of multiple charges of influence-peddling and abuse of authority associated with his time as secretary of the interior in Duarte’s administration. Two days after taking over as interim governor following Duarte’s hasty resignation in 2016, Ríos Alvarado allegedly organized a helicopter to facilitate Duarte’s escape.

Duarte served as governor of Veracruz for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional – PRI) party from 2010 to 2016, in an administration that became known as one of the most flagrantly corrupt in Mexico. His government stands accused not only of the embezzlement of over $45 million in federal funds as well as of involvement with an upsurge of forced disappearances that left Veracruz one of the most dangerous states in the country. He resigned from office shortly before the end of his term, but fled the country rather than face charges, remaining a fugitive for six months before his eventual capture in Guatemala.

SEE ALSO: Veracruz: Report Unveils Mexico’s “State of Terror”

Ríos Alvarado is the sixth Duarte official to be released from jail since the current Morena administration took power in the state on December 1.

Arturo Bermúdez Zurita, the former secretary of public security, Mauricio Audirac Murrillo, Duarte's former treasurer, and Francisco Valencia García, the former secretary of public works, were all released under cautionary measures within days of the new governor’s arrival, although they continue to face charges. Duarte’s former spokeswoman Maria Georgina Dominguez Colio was transferred to house arrest in February, and his private secretary Juan Antonio Nemi Dib was exonerated on March 12.

Given the weight of allegations against these former officials, including massive embezzlement, influence-peddling and abuse of authority, the string of precipitous releases has caused alarm in Veracruz. Most striking is the case of Bermúdez Zurita, who additionally stands accused of participating in the forced disappearance of 15 people later found dead.

Publicly, Veracruz officials on all sides of the political spectrum have condemned the releases, including current National Regeneration Movement (Movimiento Regeneración Nacional – MORENA) Governor Cuitláhuac García. But the timing cannot fail to raise eyebrows.

InSight Crime Analysis

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador took a hard line against the former Veracruz governor on the campaign trail, holding up his case as the quintessential demonstration of corruption and impunity in Mexico. But his rhetoric has softened notably since his election, raising questions as to whether his anti-corruption agenda runs more than skin deep.

Demonizing egregious examples such as Duarte is a convenient vote-winning tactic across the political spectrum. But rooting out systemic corruption is a harder, more thankless task.

Despite the supposed autonomy of prosecutors in Mexico, a huge backlog of cases has long meant that high-profile cases like these need a political push to ensure they move forward, *according to Arturo Angel, a journalist from Veracruz who spoke to InSight Crime. López Obrador has repeatedly expressed his reluctance to do so, citing the need to look to the future rather than engage in political “witch hunts.”

Officials from Duarte’s administration have been adept at taking cover under the mantles of other political parties – both the PAN/PRD administration of Miguel Angel Yunes that held the governorship from 2016-2018, and the current Morena administration of Cuitláhuac García, Proceso reported in November. In this context, López Obrador’s pledge not to undertake political witch hunts appears a veiled excuse not to expend resources delving into the vast legacies of corruption that entangle states such as Veracruz.

SEE ALSO: Mexico Arrest of Fugitive Ex-Governor is the Result of Politics, not Ethics

However, the Morena party in Veracruz has been dogged with allegations of deeper complicity with the Duarte administration. Rumors have abounded since 2016 of an electoral “pact” between Morena and Duarte’s PRI, in which Morena allegedly received payments from Duarte to turn a blind eye to his misdealings, with the aim of electorally sidelining Yunes’ rival coalition of the National Action Party (Partido Acción Nacional – PAN) and the Democratic Revolution Party (Partido de la Revolución Democrática – PRD).

While no proof has been presented in support of these allegations, the rapid release of Duarte’s officials has inevitably intensified such suspicions.

Angel, however, warns against hasty extrapolation. Accusations of association with Duarte have become a political football in Veracruz, with all sides using them to score points against their rivals. For their part, the Morena administration has accused current Veracruz Attorney General and close Yunes ally Jorge Winckler of bungling the charges against the ex-officials and striking deals allowing them to exchange properties for impunity.

While such allegations appear far-fetched, particularly given the open animosity Duarte officials have expressed towards Winckler, Angel proposes a more plausible interpretation.

“The new governor who came in, a rival of Duarte, pressured the Attorney General to get results fast and errors were committed in the compiling of these investigations… This caused some of these cases effectively to fall apart, while others have been severely questioned," he explained.

The Duarte saga is far from over. Four new cases against his former officials are expected to open in the next month, while 26 more are pending in the Attorney General’s Office. The progression of these cases, or lack thereof, will be a key barometer of political will behind the anti-corruption agenda in Mexico, as well as providing clues as to the true alignment of interests in Veracruz.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

ELITES AND CRIME / 7 MAY 2015

A United States judge has sentenced one of Guatemala's most notorious money launderers behind closed doors, adding intrigue to a…

ARGENTINA / 23 OCT 2019

An Argentine former intelligence agent was detained in Mexico, accused of leading a powerful transnational sex trafficking ring. The arrest…

MEXICO / 25 AUG 2017

Members of a federal police unit in Mexico have traded in their weapons for musical instruments in an effort…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Unraveling the Web of Elites Connected to Organized Crime

27 JUL 2021

InSight Crime published Elites and Organized Crime in Nicaragua, a deep dive into the relationships between criminal actors and elites in that Central American nation.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime’s Greater Focus on US-Mexico Border

20 JUL 2021

InSight Crime has decided to turn many of its investigative resources towards understanding and chronicling the criminal dynamics along the US-Mexico border.

THE ORGANIZATION

Key Arrests and Police Budget Increases Due to InSight Crime Investigations

8 JUL 2021

With Memo Fantasma’s arrest, InSight Crime has proven that our investigations can and will uncover major criminal threats in the Americas.

THE ORGANIZATION

Organized Crime’s Influence on Gender-Based Violence

30 JUN 2021

InSight Crime investigator Laura N. Ávila spoke on organized crime and gender-based violence at the launch of a research project by the United Nations Development Programme.

THE ORGANIZATION

Conversation with Paraguay Judicial Operators on PCC

24 JUN 2021

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley formed part of a panel attended by over 500 students, all of whom work in Paraguay's judicial system.