The fugitive ex-governor of Veracruz was arrested last night at a tourist destination in Guatemala.
Javier Duarte de Ochoa, wanted on corruption charges, was detained at a luxury hotel in Panajachel, a town on Lake Atitlán about 130 kilometers from Guatemala City, said the federal Attorney General’s office last night.
He was arrested at 8:00pm in the lobby of the Riviera de Atitlán hotel by the Guatemala national police in collaboration with that country’s Interpol office, Mexico’s Attorney General and Federal Police after more than six months on the run.
Official sources have been quoted saying that Duarte had entered the country within the last 72 hours, but it was a private flight carrying Duarte’s children and other family members to Guatemala from Toluca, State of México, that led authorities to him.
An official with Interpol in Guatemala said Mexican officials called Duarte in his room to advise he had been located and that he should give himself up to police.
He was intercepted by police in the hotel lobby after leaving his room. Duarte initially denied being the fugitive they sought and gave another name, claiming he was a Mexican tourist visiting the town for the Easter holiday.
But he ended the attempted deception after his fingerprints confirmed his identity, said senior Guatemala police official Stu Velasco.
He was with a woman whose identity has not been confirmed.
Extradition proceedings against Duarte, wanted for organized crime, money laundering and tax fraud, are under way. In the meantime he is being held at a maximum-security prison in Guatemala City.
Before entering the Matamoros prison in the custody of two dozen police officers, Duarte told an Associated Press reporter, “I have no comment, thanks.”
Various reports described Duarte as looking both bewildered and pensive after his arrest.
He was last seen in public last October when he took a leave of absence as governor to, in his words, defend himself against mounting accusations of corruption.
He was elected in 2010 under the banner of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which expelled him from its ranks in October. A warrant for his arrest was issued the same month in connection with the embezzlement of hundreds of millions of pesos in state funds.
A political scientist told Reuters that Duarte’s capture should provide a boost for a very unpopular President Enrique Peña Nieto.
“This is a plus for Pena Nieto because it goes against the accusation that he and (Interior Secretary) Osorio Chong were really fine with Duarte fleeing, hiding and not knowing anything about him,” said Lorenzo Meyer, a political scientist and historian at the National Autonomous University.