A former Mexican governor accused of mishandling millions of dollars from programs for the poor was arrested Saturday in Guatemala, according to the Mexican attorney general’s office.
Javier Duarte de Ochoa, former governor of the Mexican state of Veracruz, was detained by the Guatemalan police at a hotel in the tourist town of Panajachel, about 90 miles east of Guatemala City, according to a statement from the attorney general’s office.
He’s being held by Guatemalan authorities while the Mexican government formally requests his extradition to Mexico, the statement said.
Duarte, 43, had been at large for more than six months.
The former governor is facing money laundering and organized crime charges. A Mexican judge had issued an arrest warrant against him in October.
Duarte’s case is an embarrassment to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. Both politicians belong to the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI by its Spanish acronym, which governed Mexico for most of the 20th century. Peña Nieto once mentioned Duarte as an example of the new, younger, less corrupt PRI.
PRI applauded Duarte’s arrest in a statement published in the party’s website Saturday.
Corrección: Javier Duarte de Ochoa, al momento de su traslado al Juzgado pic.twitter.com/NipkZQQyl4
— PNC Guatemala (@PNCdeGuatemala) April 16, 2017
“We demand federal authorities to recover the money and goods from illicit activities and fully repay the people of Veracruz,” the statement said.
Authorities claim Duarte enriched himself from 2010 and 2016 by misappropriating funds that should have been used for social, education and security programs.
In November, Mexican officials froze 112 bank accounts belonging to Duarte.
They also seized five businesses and four residences owned by the former governor.
The Mexican government was offering about $810,000 for information leading to his capture and arrest.
The state of Veracruz has seen a spike in violence in recent years fueled by drug violence and a turf war involving at least two drug cartels.
Veracruz was called a “state of terror” in a report published in February, by the International Crisis Group, a non-governmental organization that analyzes criminal trends and proposes solutions. The group analyzed at least 2,750 missing person cases and the murders of 17 journalists since 2010.
Last month, a mass grave with more than 250 human skulls was uncovered in Veracruz. Those killed were likely the victims of drug cartels over the years, authorities said.
to the gruesome discovery, Veracruz Attorney General Jorge Winckler told CNN affiliate Televisa that his state “is one big mass grave.”
Duarte is just one of a several former Mexican governors in trouble with the law.
Last week, Tomás Yarrington Ruvalcaba, former governor of the violence-ridden state of Tamaulipas who had been on the run since 2012, was captured in Florence, Italy.
Yarrington was sought by both Mexico and the United States on charges of money laundering and racketeering.
“Yarrington received large bribes from major drug traffickers operating in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, including the Gulf Cartel. In return, Yarrington allegedly allowed them to operate their large scale, multi-ton enterprises freely, which included the smuggling of large quantities of drugs to the United States for distribution,” according to the FBI.
Late last month, Mexican authorities issued an arrest warrant for former Chihuahua state governor Cesar Duarte, who ruled Mexico’s largest state between 2010 and 2016. He is being sought on embezzlement charges. Cesar Duarte is not related to the former Veracruz governor.
Duarte fled the state and is believed to have crossed into the United States, current Chihuahua Gov. Javier Corral told CNN affiliate Televisa.
He was added to the Interpol’s list of wanted fugitives.