Another ex-governor is in the headlines today but he’s not going to jail — he’s getting out, though not for long.
Mario Villanueva, governor of Quintana Roo from 1993 until 1999, is to be released from a United States prison tomorrow after doing time for money laundering. He is to be extradited to Mexico, where more jail time awaits.
Evidence of links to drug trafficking and the Juárez Cartel surfaced while Villanueva was governor but two weeks before his term ended he disappeared, presumably to avoid arrest but he has claimed he did so fearing for his safety.
He remained a fugitive until he was arrested over two years later, in May 2001, during a chance vehicle inspection near Cancún.
Villanueva was found guilty of money laundering but cleared of drug-trafficking and organized crime charges and spent six years in a high-security prison in the State of México.
Upon his release in June 2007 he was immediately taken back into custody to face extradition to the U.S. on charges that included conspiracy to traffic and transport cocaine.
One year later, while in custody awaiting extradition, Villanueva was found guilty by a Mexican federal judge of the original drug trafficking charges and his original six-year sentence was extended to 36 years and nine months.
He was extradited to the U.S. in 2010 and sentenced to 11 years in prison after being charged with conspiring to import cocaine and launder millions of dollars in bribe payments. He was found guilty of the money laundering charge.
The years spent in custody before his sentencing were counted as part of the 11-year-sentence.
Villanueva claims he is innocent and in a letter obtained by the newspaper Reforma he wrote that he would fight to prove it. He also said he would request house arrest in lieu of jail time due to poor health.
He said he suffers from a respiratory condition and arthritis and requires special equipment and care and a long list of medications.
“The American authorities gave me my medical records, with the recommendation that the same conditions be provided for me in Mexico. Otherwise, my good health is not guaranteed . . . .”
“Since my ailments are considered serious and chronic, the U.S. government has me in a prison-hospital where I am provided with the best medical attention 24 hours a day. No Mexican federal prison is properly equipped to provide the medical care I need.”
A provision in Mexican laws warrants house arrest for criminals older than 70 or those afflicted with serious or terminal medical conditions. Villanueva is 68.
“The cost of the perverted machinations against me has been harsh. It’s been 17 years and nine months since I left my home. I was a fugitive for two years and two months, but in reality I took refuge because my life was in danger.”
“I’ve spent over 15 years and seven months in jail, my family and I have suffered great humiliation, most of my assets have been lost and what’s more important, my health and that of my wife’s have deteriorated,” declared the former governor, who has been identified as closely tied to the Juárez drug cartel.
Villanueva was expelled from the Institutional Revolutionary Party in 2011.
He believes that, “given my profile,” he should be kept in a medium security prison, and he would prefer the federal penitentiaries of his native Chetumal, in Quintana Roo, or the Reclusorio Norte, in Mexico City.
Villanueva’s nickname is “El Chueco” or “crooked one,” which has a double meaning. According to Wikipedia, he suffered from a facial paralysis which give his features a crooked appearance.