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February 19, 2018

Fugitive Mexican ex-governor arrested in Guatemala

Fugitive Mexican ex-governor arrested in Guatemala
'Javier Duarte (C), former governor of the Mexican state of Veracruz, in a police patrol car following his arrest upon his arrival at the Matamoros military barracks in Guatemala City on April 16, 2017' - By: AFP Johan ORDONEZ

Mexico City (AFP) - A fugitive former governor of Mexico's Veracruz state suspected of embezzling hundreds of millions of dollars has been detained in Guatemala after six months on the run, officials said Saturday.

Javier Duarte was arrested arond 8:00 pm at the reception of a luxury hotel in the tourist resort town of Panajachel, Guatemalan police said.

The town, located on the shores of Lake Atitlan, is visited by many tourists during the Easter holiday season.

Duarte had been staying at the four-star hotel for at least two days, where he paid with cash used a false name and was accompanied by his wife, Stu Velasco, deputy director of Guatemala's police, told Milenio television.

The agents handcuffed the ex-governor, who at the time of his capture was wearing a blue summer shirt, a dark vest and his characteristic glasses. He had gained weight since he first fled.

Duarte, 43, will be placed at the disposal of a counternarcotics court.

Mexico requested Guatemala's assistance in capturing the fugitive ex-governor of Veracruz, which borders the Gulf of Mexico. His extradition is pending.

Mexican authorities issued an arrested warrant against Duarte in October for his alleged responsibility in organized crime and embezzlement. Interpol also issued an international arrest warrant against him.

Duarte, of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), resigned last year before the end of his term and then went into hiding.

Made into example

After his escape, the PRI expelled him from its ranks. After his capture, it demanded that he be "punished to set an example" along with other members of his criminal network. The party also demanded that proceeds and goods from his illicit activities be recovered.

Duarte is not the only Mexican ex-governor to face justice: Tomas Yarrington, governor of the northern state of Tamaulipas between 1999 and 2005, was arrested a week ago in Italy for ties to drug trafficking.

And former governor of the eastern state of Quintana Roo Mario Villanueva was arrested in 2001. He was extradited to the United States and convicted of ties to drug trafficking, before being returned to Mexico, where he was again jailed.

In January, authorities got two companies to return $19.3 million obtained illegally from the Duarte government.

A month later, authorities seized a warehouse full of Duarte's artworks, antiques and personal journals. They also found luxurious saddles, silverware sets, ostentatious furniture, school supplies and even wheelchairs presumably owned by the government.

Investigators were said to have found a set of documents linking the ex-governor's wife Karime Macias de Duarte directly to the preparation and execution of actions to divert public resources for the personal benefit of some accomplices.

During Duarte's tenure, Veracruz became one of the most violent states in Mexico, with bloody murders by drug cartels, several cases of enforced disappearance and the murder of 17 journalists.

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