A Sinaloa man who was imprisoned 13 years ago on organized crime and weapons charges was released on Friday a day after his journalist mother appealed to President López Obrador to intervene in the case.
Judith Valenzuela appeared at the president’s regular news conference on Thursday and for the second time in two weeks asked for López Obrador’s help in getting her son out of jail.
Rafael Valenzuela remained in prison even though he completed his sentence three years ago due to what López Obrador called “a misinterpretation of the law.”
Addressing the president, Valenzuela said: “He completed his sentence three years ago and even so he’s still detained – you say due to legal questions of the judicial power. The court is closed [and] the investigations of torture [of my son] are still shelved. So I came here, Mr. President, because the truth is I had nowhere else to go.”
López Obrador promptly asked Interior Minister Olga Sánchez whether he had the authority to pardon Valenzeula’s son to secure his release, saying that if he did he would do so immediately.
Sánchez responded that the case was complicated because the man is currently serving a non-existent sentence due to the judicial power’s decision to retry him.
“The case of this young man is a legal tragedy, Mr. President. There is no sentence [that can be pardoned]; if you allow me, we’ll see what alternatives we have,” she said.
López Obrador then told Valenzuela that he would speak with Supreme Court Chief Justice Arturo Zaldívar and give her a response on Monday. However, minutes later Sánchez told the president that he could indeed pardon the woman’s son and he quickly committed to doing so.
López Obrador subsequently wrote to Zaldívar, who contacted the judge responsible for the case and arranged for Rafael Valenzuela’s release. He left prison shortly after 3:00 a.m. Friday, the newspaper Reforma reported.
Just a few hours later Valenzuela was back at the National Palace for López Obrador’s Friday news conference.
She thanked the president for his intervention. “Thanks to your political will to do things well, to serve justice, my son is free.”
Visually emotional, Valenzuela added: “I’m now going to Culiacán, I want to be with my son, I want to hug him. … Thank you very much, Mr. President. … A lot of open wounds can still be healed; one of them is mine, I’m going to heal it. … God bless you.”