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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Mexican Governor to Step Down amid Corruption Investigation



MEXICO CITY – Javier Duarte, the governor of the Mexican Gulf state of Veracruz, said on Wednesday that he planned to step down 48 days before the end of his term to deal with the corruption investigation targeting his activities.

“I have made the decision, as of today, to ask the state legislature to grant me leave so I can step down from the post of governor,” Duarte, who took office in 2010 and was to finish his term this year, said in an interview with Televisa.

The 43-year-old Duarte, who is under investigation by the Attorney General’s Office for illicit enrichment, embezzlement and failure to perform his official duties, said “Veracruz does not need a part-time governor, it needs a full-time governor.”

“And it’s the right time to deal with, to face up to, the allegations and I cannot, if I stay on, govern on the one hand and on the other deal with this situation,” Duarte said, adding that the allegations against him were “unfounded.”

The Veracruz state legislature plans to hold a special session on Wednesday afternoon at which it may take up Duarte’s request.

The governor will not appear before the legislature in person, but his request is contained in a letter to lawmakers, state government spokesman Alberto Silva told EFE.

Duarte, a member of the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, said no one demanded his resignation and that the move was “a personal decision.”

“I have nothing to hide, my assets have been made public, my financial statements have been very clear and have no variations in them,” Duarte said.

The governor said he had not touched “a single peso” from the public coffers and that the state’s debt “is balanced.”

“It would be truly laughable (to say) that I stole 35 billion pesos (nearly $1.85 billion). Where is it? It’s not simple or easy to hide” a sum of that size, Duarte said, adding that the allegations were “mere speculation.”

The governor was suspended by the PRI in late September, the final step before expulsion from the party.

Duarte has been accused of engaging in corrupt acts during his nearly six years in office and of attempting to shield himself legally from prosecution.

State lawmakers in Veracruz approved the creation of an anti-corruption prosecutor’s office and a special court in the state judicial system focused on corruption, with both initiatives seen as a way to protect Duarte, who was scheduled to leave office on Nov. 30.

The last governor to request a leave to step down before the end of his term was Angel Aguirre, a member of the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution, or PRD, in Guerrero in October 2014, following the disappearance of 43 education students at the hands of police and drug traffickers in the city of Iguala.

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