A high-level Mexican fugitive is living in luxury down the road from Buckingham Palace.
Punishment for embezzling public money? A life of luxury in London, apparently.
According to the Guardian, the current governor of the Mexican state of Veracruz claimed this week that the wife of a former governor “had moved into a luxury property in SW1, one of London’s most desirable postcodes” to escape allegations of embezzlement. A state judge has issued an arrest warrant for Karime Macías Tubilla. Current governor Miguel Ángel Yunes Linares says she embezzled at least $5.65m during the 2010-2016 administration of her husband Javier Duarte – who himself is in prison awaiting trial. There are also claims that she gave alleged shell companies government contracts.
Interpol has now issued a red notice (an international request to find and arrest a person pending extradition).
In London, she is continuing a life of luxury and corruption. The money of Veracruz citizens is still being used to live in the lap of luxury… She’s not just the governor’s wife, she’s a significant actor in this plot of corruption.
He also claimed that the monthly expenses of Macías in London reach £60,000.
Mexico knew little about the exact location of Macías until this week. But journalists have now arrived right outside her door, as the following footage shows:
Karime Macías, esposa del exgobernador de Veracruz, Javier Duarte, huye de las cámaras de Noticieros Televisa en Londres, Inglaterra #EnPunto Mira la nota completa https://t.co/Xombn7toBS pic.twitter.com/8VzHzMEixk
— Noticieros Televisa (@NTelevisa_com) May 31, 2018
Macías reportedly applied for asylum in Britain in 2017. She claims she’s facing ‘political persecution’ back in Mexico. Her lawyer, however, has told CNN that she would cooperate with the investigations of Mexican authorities.
Veracruz “outside the rule of law” under Duarte
On 20 May, the Intercept gave more information on Javier Duarte’s rule in Veracruz. It reported on Yunes’ claims that Duarte personally knew “of at least 19 disappearances that took place during his term”. It also insisted that, upon becoming governor in 2010, Duarte:
immediately began to syphon public funds, taking money destined for social programs and laundering it through phantom companies, among other strategies. By the end of his governorship, it’s alleged that he and his associates stole approximately $3.2 billion.
The litany of abuses allegedly committed by state forces working for Duarte goes beyond disappearances. His security forces operated an illegal detention center out of the Lencero Police Academy — complete with garish touches like a zoo full of exotic animals — and ran arrests, interrogations, and disappearances with ruthless efficiency and no regard for due process…
Under Duarte’s administration, 17 journalists were killed and three disappeared [Spanish]; the region is widely considered one of the most dangerous places in the world to practice journalism…
police forces often acted like cartels, or worked with them; justice was decided outside the rule of law.
“Emblematic” of a putrid national government
The Intercept also pointed out that the case of Veracruz is “emblematic” of the government of current Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto. Only 24.7% of registered voters opted for Peña back in 2012; and he won thanks to both massive media support and alleged voter fraud. His approval ratings have fallen at least as low as 16% [Spanish] in recent months. As the Intercept highlighted, the president “has been dogged by corruption scandals himself and has failed to stem the violence that led to Mexico hitting a record number of homicides in 2017”. At the same time, it said:
State violence in Veracruz cast a harsh light on Peña Nieto and Duarte’s Institutional Revolutionary Party, known by the Spanish acronym PRI; ahead of Mexico’s presidential elections in July…
Duarte’s public fall from grace was an emblematic representation of Peña Nieto’s failure to address corruption, one of his central campaign promises when he ran in 2012.
Peña had campaigned alongside Duarte and other governors like Roberto Borge and César Duarte, who he labelled the “New PRI”. (The old PRI, as the Guardian has reported, “ruled Mexico through patronage and intimidation for 71 [consecutive] years” in the 20th century.) Borge and César Duarte also “fled amidst corruption allegations after their governorships ended”, according to the Intercept.
A chance for change?
On 1 July, Mexico will hold elections. And in an environment of state violence and corruption, “staggeringly high” income inequality, and unpopular neoliberal economic policies, many citizens are clamouring for change.
But centre-left candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador (aka ‘AMLO’), for whom over 50% [Spanish] of voters currently plan to vote, is facing a strong campaign of fearmongering from the right. AMLO would be the first left-leaning president for decades. And while his political coalition is far from perfect, an electoral victory would be a blow to a system long dominated by the right. As openDemocracy has highlighted, his party represents “soft Keynesianism with some of the characteristic features of social democracy”. It also aims to tackle poverty and inequality while reducing the wages of top government officials, and AMLO has promised to “end corruption”.
In the run-up to the election, the appearance of Karime Macías Tubilla – living a life of luxury in London – can only intensify Mexico’s desire for change.