Earlier today, Interpol updated its list of wanted fugitives with a profile for Javier Duarte de Ochoa. The former Governor of the Mexican State of Veracruz has been on the run since mid-October. Duarte resigned his post after facing numerous accusations of corruption, protesting his innocence by stating that he had “nothing to be ashamed of”. This could not be further from the truth.
Duarte, a now former-member of President Peña Nieto’s PRI party, was elected governor in 2010. Yet, even his election was mired in controversy. Duarte was initially declared to have won by a clear margin of 14 % of the vote over his closest rival. However, widespread allegations of voter fraud galvanised an official investigation into the election, and a total recount. This process eventually disqualified over 250 ballot boxes, significantly reducing Duarte’s margin of victory to just 2%. Regardless, the evidence against him was deemed to be insufficient, and Duarte assumed office shortly after.
This was just the beginning of a scandalous governorship.
Since taking office, Duarte is accused of having embezzled and illegally spent anywhere between 35 million and 2 Billion US dollars worth of public funds. 200 million Mexican pesos of these funds were spent on furnishing a luxury ranch located on the outskirts of the city of Córdoba. After his disappearance, the property was searched and it was discovered that Duarte had adorned its walls with the works of several world famous artists. These included paintings by artists David Alfaro Siqueiros (internationally renowned for his post-revolutionary Mexican murals), as well as pieces by the Colombian Fernando Botero, and the Catalonian Joan Miro.
Duarte even had the audacity to dismiss the property as simply somewhere he had “lived all of his life”, claiming that it was one of his few inherited assets. The ranch has 25 rooms, multiple tennis courts and a helipad.
While it seems beyond any reasonable doubt that Duarte is a thief, he is also accused of severe incompetence. Under his governorship, Veracruz’s levels of indebtedness have risen considerably. Furthermore, cartel related violence in Veracruz has reached new heights. Although this is arguably true for much of Mexico, Veracruz has been the battle ground for several inter-cartel conflicts in recent years, resulting in a particularly dramatic increase in violence. The state appears to have transformed over the course of a few years. There is now a culture of silence and mistrust, and kidnappings, disappearances, and murders have become increasingly common. Indeed, Veracruz has even been singled out within Mexico as one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists.
An oil-rich and potentially prosperous state has been mismanaged by a self-interested, corrupt and incompetent governor. I leave any comparisons to the nation as a whole down to the reader.
Like President Peña Nieto, Duarte is accused of having unfairly distributed governmental contracts. However, perhaps the most disturbing of the allegations against the former governor surfaced earlier this month. Current Governor, Angel Yunes Linares, revealed that the investigation into Duarte’s corruption had uncovered evidence of medical fraud. That is to say, under Duarte’s administration, fake medicine was distributed throughout Veracruz’s hospitals. Most appallingly, this included the medication for child cancer-sufferers. There is evidence that many children with cancer were treated with distilled water, instead of receiving legitimate chemotherapy. Although Mexico has had to become accustomed to horrific violence over the course of the last decade, this revelation has rightfully been met with shock throughout the nation.
In December, Duarte’s attorney revealed that he had left the country. His whereabouts remains unknown, hence Interpol’s intervention earlier today in reaching out to its 190 member states. Last week, international cooperation definitively put an end to El Chapo’s saga of criminality and impunity with his extradition to New York. Similarly, I hope that Javier Duarte will soon be apprehended and returned to Mexico. He must face justice for his crimes.