Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies this week stripped lawmaker Julio César Godoy Toscano of his legal immunity, paving the way for the lawmaker’s prosecution on charges of money laundering and protecting the criminal organization known as the Familia Michoacana.
The lower legislative house voted 384-2 on Monday to withdraw Godoy's protection.
Last month, the Attorney General’s office leaked audio to Mexican radio that reportedly captures a conversation between Servando Gomez Martinez, alias "La Tuta," a leader of the powerful Familia. In the recordings, Godoy assures Gomez protection from the law, at one point calling him "uncle." Throughout the conversation, Gomez repeatedly refers to Godoy as "friend" and "son."
Although Godoy has maintained his innocence, leaders of his own party, the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) have called for him to face the charges.
On Tuesday, the Ninth District Court of Michoacan issued an arrest warrant for Godoy on charges of accepting 25 million pesos in "illegally obtained funds." However, this ruling was promptly challenged by a judge in the state’s First District Court, which issued an injunction in which it suspended Godoy’s arrest warrant. The Attorney General called the injunction a "failure" in a statement, and vowed to challenge it in an Apellate Court.
Meanwhile, the Attorney General’s Office of Special Investigations on Organized Crime (SIEDO) is still on the hunt for Godoy, whose whereabouts are unknown. The former senator was not present for Tuesday’s meeting, and was represented by his lawyer, who denounced the charges against his client as a political ploy by the right-wing Political Action Party (PAN).
If the injunction on the arrest warrant is overturned and the charges are true, the allegations serve as an alarming indicator of political influence of the Familia. The group lost its main leader, Nazario Moreno, in a series of confrontations last week with the military and police that left eleven people dead.