A protest convoy that set out from Chihuahua yesterday bound for Mexico City soon hit a stumbling block in Durango, but state Governor Javier Corral says that protesters will continue and not succumb to provocation.
Corral said last week that the procession to Mexico City was intended in part to pressure authorities to hasten the extradition of former Chihuahua governor César Duarte, who is accused of corruption and believed to be in hiding in the United States.
The “For Dignity and United with Courage Against Corruption” convoy left Chihuahua yesterday morning and passed through several municipalities in the northern border state without incident.
But when it was just two kilometers away from the city of Gómez Palacio, Durango, early yesterday afternoon, its vehicles were blocked by almost 100 people.
The group used large pieces of wood and other objects, as well as their own physical presence, to prevent the convoy from passing.
The counter-protesters, Corral claimed, were put up to the task by the Gómez Palacio mayor, an elected representative of the same party that Duarte governed for and also the party of current President Enrique Peña Nieto.
“The same PRI [Institutional Revolutionary Party] strategy as always: the mayor of Gómez Palacio, Durango, Leticia Herrera sent protesters to block the #CaravanaPorLaDignidad [Dignity Convoy] at the entrance to the city . . .” the governor wrote on Twitter.
Corral has recently clashed with federal authorities over what he claims is deliberate inaction on the Duarte case.
In announcing the protest convoy last week, Corral charged that federal officials are protecting the former governor although the federal Attorney General’s office (PGR) also said last week that it was preparing requests for Duarte’s provisional arrest and extradition.
Earlier this month, the National Action Party (PAN) governor also accused the federal government of withholding funds promised to the state in retaliation for an investigation into corruption allegedly committed by members of the PRI during Duarte’s administration.
Corral has made the fight against corruption and impunity central to his governorship, and more than two dozen people have already been arrested in relation to corruption allegations.
Billboards demanding that the federal government immediately extradite Duarte were even erected in the state.
But earlier this week, a federal court judge issued a provisional order that the Chihuahua government must take down the billboards, stating that the signs violated the ex-governor’s right to the presumption of innocence and his dignity.
“. . . Billboards where the name and image of the accused are included, associating him with an extradition request . . . could represent an extrajudicial way to informally condemn a person or to issue a judgement to society that contributes to the formation of public opinion,” the judge said.
He added they were a “clear contravention of [rights] that have been established by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights and . . . the Supreme Court.”
The legal action leading to the ruling was initiated by Duarte’s lawyers. They directly accused Corral of ordering the state’s social communication authorities to erect the billboards. A permanent ruling on the signs’ legality could come next week.
Corral said last week that when the convoy reaches Mexico City, the protest will conclude with meetings at the Finance and Interior Secretariats and the PGR.
Referring to the allocation of some federal funds and revenues, Corral claimed that he is the “most punished governor,” arguing that money can be taken away according to the mood of the president or finance secretary and the quality of his relationship with them.