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Incoming governor García and relatives of missing persons. Incoming governor García and relatives of missing persons.

New state government will declare humanitarian crisis in Veracruz

Incoming administration says insecurity and embezzlement justify the move

The incoming federal government has announced it will fully support a decision by the new Veracruz government to declare a humanitarian crisis in the state.

Cuitláhuac García will make the declaration after he is sworn in on December 1, citing insecurity in the Gulf coast state and the embezzlement of public funds during successive administrations as justification for the move.

García, who will govern Veracruz under the banner of president-elect López Obrador’s Morena party, will also request humanitarian aid from the United Nations (UN) and other international organizations.

López Obrador will also take office on December 1 but he will travel to Veracruz the following day with members of his cabinet to meet with García and formally announce the new government’s support for the declaration.

Alejandro Encinas, who will serve in the Interior Secretariat as human rights undersecretary, told the newspaper Milenio that the incoming government has already held discussions with García about the situation.

“We have been speaking with the governor-elect about the whole human rights violation issue and the humanitarian crisis that exists in the state,” he said.

“There has to be a special treatment for Veracruz and other states,” Encinas added.

Veracruz was governed between 2010 and 2016 by an Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) administration led by former governor Javier Duarte.

The Duarte administration is considered by many as the most corrupt government in Mexico’s history. The Federal Auditor’s Office (ASF) said in 2016 that the irregularities in the use of public funds during Duarte’s governorship were the most it had even seen.

In addition to the embezzlement of millions of pesos from state coffers during the six-year period, thousands of people disappeared in Veracruz, hundreds of bodies were found in mass graves and at least 17 journalists were murdered.

A federal court sentenced Duarte in September to nine years in prison for money laundering and criminal association. He must still face charges at the state level.

López Obrador labelled the criminal case against Duarte a circus and a sham and declared that the punishment he received — widely considered as overly lenient — is indicative of entrenched corruption in the political system.

The federal Attorney General’s office (PGR) has recovered almost 1.4 billion pesos (US $69.3 million) through the seizure of bank accounts held by Duarte and real estate he owned.

High levels of violent crime and the discovery of mass graves have continued during the governorship of Miguel Ángel Yunes Linares, who assumed office for the National Action Party (PAN) in December 2016.

Since 2010, 364 hidden graves have been found in the state.

Most recently, authorities exhumed at least 166 skulls and other human remains from 32 clandestine graves believed to be located near the sleepy fishing village of Arbolillo.

According to Lucía Díaz, founder of the Solecito Collective — a group made up of family members of missing persons — some of the recently-exhumed human remains belong to people who have disappeared during the administration of Yunes Linares.

All told, there are 15,000 missing persons’ cases in Veracruz, according to non-governmental organizations, although state authorities only have 3,600 cases open.

There are also claims that the current state government has acted corruptly.

The Veracruz Auditor’s Office (Orfis) said last month it had detected the probable embezzlement of more than 338 million pesos (US $16.7 million) from state coffers during 2017, Yunes’ first full year in office.

Encinas said the request for humanitarian aid will be directed not just to the UN but also to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the International Red Cross, both of which will be asked to assist in the search for missing people.

By formally requesting humanitarian aid, the international organizations “can help to confront the humanitarian crisis,” he explained.

The new state government also hopes to attract greater funding for the identification of human remains found in hidden graves.

Any new resources will either be made available to the State Search Commission or placed in a fund to finance missing person investigations.

Encinas stressed that the new federal government will pay particular attention to the situation in Veracruz, adding that “we are going to work very closely with the new [state] government; there is already an agreement.”

Source: Milenio (sp) 

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