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    Chihuahua's Governor Javier Corral gestures to the audience during the arrival of the "March for Dignity" from the border city of Ciudad Juarez to Mexico City, to demand the detention and extradition of Cesar Duarte, the former governor accused of corruption, in Mexico City, Mexico, February 4, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 5 February 2018

Chihuahua's governor claimed the federal government is punishing state opposition by holding up funds.

The Mexican federal government has agreed to pay the state of Chihuahua the 900 million Mexican pesos (almost US$50 million) and accelerate the extradition process of Cesar Duarte, the ex-governor of Chihuahua accused of corruption who ran away to the United States.

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This comes after Chihuahua Governor Javier Corral from the right-wing National Action Party organized a "Dignity Caravan" supported by national and local intellectuals, social leaders and business people to demand the federal government to comply with their demands.

Earlier this year, Corral blamed the national Treasury Department for holding up their corresponding funds for political reasons and declared his government in rebellion against the federal government.

Corral claimed that Hacienda is being used as a tool to punish local governments that oppose the federal government, currently under the administration of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.

The treasury denied this multiple times, saying that in fact, the government had received all corresponding money. But they also said they couldn't finalize the payment because of an investigation into a corruption case involving Chihuahua's past administration, the one the current government is investigating. They also claimed they couldn't make the payment because the bank account number had a mistake.

“Is it too crazy to think that the federal government's reaction is as big as its fear that the Chihuahua prosecutor's investigations reach the heart of a regime characterized for its corruption?” Corral said during a press conference earlier this year.

One of Corral's main campaign promises was to imprison his predecessor, Cesar Duarte, who was charged with embezzlement, corruption and abuse of authority. Even though Interpol published a “Red Alert” for Duarte last July, the national General Prosecutor didn't complete the necessary paperwork to demand his extradition, as he was last seen in Texas. Duarte, a high-profile PRI governor, ran away to the United States as soon as the opposition won state elections.

The Corral administration has since prosecuted several public officers from Duarte's government, putting some in jail for embezzlement and money laundering. But the case that might have provoked the treasury's “punishment” has to do with a much bigger scandal: one that involves the highest circles of the PRI federal government.

Chihuahua's state prosecutor's office is currently investigating Alejandro Gutierrez, a high officer in the PRI, for his alleged role in diverting federal education funds to political campaigns for his party. The trial continues and he was put pre-emptively prison.

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On Jan. 4, Corral met with the Treasury Department's Federal Secretary, Jose Antonio Gonzalez Anaya, who told him Chihuahua wouldn't get the agreed funds until they declared how far did they wanted to push the investigation regarding Gutierrez.

For Corral, this was just the confirmation of his hypothesis. “It was perfectly clear then,” Corral said during a press conference in January, “the reason they are holding up our state funds is the development of this investigation.”

The Dignity Caravan traveled around 1,800 kilometers from Ciudad Juarez to Mexico City, and the agreement with the Federal government was made just before the last scheduled date. Corral denied the possibility of amnesty for Alejandro Gutierrez as part of the agreement.

During the administration of Mexico's current president Enrique Peña Nieto, six state governors (and members of the PRI) have been arrested. Duarte would be the seventh one, but his ties with the ruling party and the federal government seem to be protecting him so far.


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