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A classic shot of the former teachers' union boss, La Maestra. A classic shot of the former teachers' union boss, La Maestra.

2 federal departments acted illegally to gather evidence against Gordillo

Nor did the teachers' union file a complaint over embezzlement

Corruption charges against former teachers’ union boss Elba Esther Gordillo were dismissed because two federal departments acted illegally to collect evidence against her, according to a federal court ruling.

The stay of proceedings also ordered the immediate release of the ex-SNTE union chief from house arrest, five and a half years after she was arrested and placed in custody on charges of embezzlement and organized crime.

Judge Miguel Ángel Aguilar López established that both the federal Attorney General’s office (PGR) and the financial intelligence unit of the Secretariat of Finance and Public Credit (SHCP) gathered evidence against Gordillo without first obtaining court orders to do so.

The latter department accessed the ex-union boss’s bank accounts to build a case against her, violating bank secrecy.

In addition, the National Educational Workers Syndicate (SNTE) didn’t file a complaint against Gordillo for the diversion of billions of pesos of funds from the union, according to federal officials who supplied details of the ruling to the newspaper Milenio.

The judge’s verdict is not open to appeal, Milenio said, and immediately restores the rights of the 72-year-old widely known as “La Maestra” (The Teacher), who led the SNTE for almost 25 years and gained notoriety for living a lavish lifestyle that critics said was the result of corruption.

To unfreeze her bank accounts, federal officials said, Gordillo simply needs to provide a letter from the court that informs financial institutions of its ruling.

The PGR has now lost three legal battles against the former union boss after courts dismissed cases against her in November 2016 and May last year that together related to the alleged embezzlement of just under 6.6 billion pesos (US $354 million at today’s exchange rate).

The latest ruling absolved Gordillo of charges of the use of funds derived from illegal sources to the tune of 1.98 billion pesos (US $106.1 million), and also declared that there is no evidence that she has links to any organized crime group.

The PGR said in a brief statement issued yesterday that while “it respects the decision . . . it does not agree with it.”

It also said that “the PGR has acted, at all times, with strict compliance to the constitution . . . as well as laws that direct its conduct and above all, with absolute respect for human rights.”

Some of the many faces of Elba Esther Gordillo.
Some of the many faces of Elba Esther Gordillo.

Earlier this year Gordillo’s lawyer, Marco Antonio del Toro, presented evidence to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington D.C. to support her claim that she was a political prisoner and to argue that she had been the victim of serious human rights violations perpetrated by the state because of her opposition to the 2013 educational reforms.

Gordillo was arrested at Toluca International Airport in February 2013, just three months into the six-year presidential term of Enrique Peña Nieto and one day after he signed the educational reform into law.

Gordillo and the SNTE union she headed were formerly staunch supporters of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) but after switching allegiances to the National Action Party (PAN), La Maestra was expelled from the PRI in 2006.

After receiving news of her absolution and release late Tuesday night, Gordillo issued a statement via a lawyer to say that she needed time to process the court’s decision but committed to holding a press conference on August 20.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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