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A restaurant belonging to a witness burns Monday morning in Nayarit. A restaurant belonging to a witness burns Monday morning in Nayarit. Firefighters said it was deliberately set.

Protection sought for witnesses who testified against former Nayarit governor

State officials accused of attempting to silence witnesses who may implicate them

The federal Attorney General’s Office (FGR) has offered to provide protection to 10 witnesses who testified against former Nayarit governor Roberto Sandoval and his attorney general Édgar Veytia.

A restaurant owned by one of the witnesses was torched early Monday morning in an apparent act of revenge.

Sandoval, governor between 2011 and 2017, is sought by Mexican authorities on charges of embezzlement and wrongful performance of duty. He is also accused by United States authorities of corruption and receiving bribes from drug cartels.

Veytia was sentenced in 2019 to 20 years in jail in the United States on drug trafficking charges.

The 10 witnesses accused the former governor and attorney general of orchestrating and participating in kidnappings and torture while they were in office. Since speaking to federal authorities last December they have been victims of reprisals, including fabrication of crimes and the arson attack.

The newspaper Milenio reported that the FGR wrote to the 10 witnesses on Thursday to seek their authorization for the government to provide security to them.

One of the witnesses is Agustín Magallanes, who alleges he was abducted and tortured by Veytia, nicknamed “The Devil,” in 2013. He also says the state government dispossessed him of a parcel of land and imprisoned three of his sons on fake charges.

In the early hours of Monday morning, Magallanes received a telephone call alerting him that a restaurant he had recently finished refurbishing and was about to open was on fire.

Located in Nayarit beside the Tepic-Puerto Vallarta highway, the restaurant “was completely roasted,” he told Milenio, adding that firefighters told him that the blaze was deliberately lit.

Magallanes said he was expecting to be targeted in one way or another as a result of the accusations he made last December. “It was for what happened on December 16,” he said.

On that date, the witnesses told the FGR what they knew about the cases of 39 people who disappeared in Nayarit during the government led by Sandoval. Seven of them said they had been abducted by state police and taken to Nayarit Attorney General’s Office facilities where they were beaten and tortured, including by Veytia himself.

roberto sandoval
Sandoval is wanted for embezzlement but his whereabouts are unknown.

Rodrigo González Barrios, president of the Nayarit Truth Commission and one of the 10 witnesses, told Milenio that ever since they spoke to the FGR, the Nayarit Attorney General’s Office, headed by Attorney General Petronilo Díaz Ponce, has been opening investigations against them for fabricated crimes.

He said there are people within the Nayarit Attorney General’s Office who worked closely with Veytia and are afraid that they could be implicated in his crimes by the declarations the 10 witnesses made to the FGR.

González said the arson attack on Magallanes’ restaurant, the imprisonment three weeks ago of another witness on fabricated kidnapping charges, and the issuance of arrest warrants against the witnesses’ lawyers for alleged involvement in the torture committed by former government officials “are directly related to Roberto Sandoval, Édgar Veytia and a group of people in the [Nayarit] Attorney General’s Office who are criminalizing us.”

The reprisals are due to the fact that the witnesses have shown that the Nayarit police committed kidnappings and took victims to state government buildings where they were tortured by Veytia and other officials, he said.

González had already filed several complaints against Sandoval and Veytia prior to speaking to FGR officials in December, and has been the target of three attacks as a result.

The FGR’s security offer comes after the United Nations last month urged the government to provide protection to witnesses who testified about abuses committed in Nayarit during the 2011-2017 administration led by Sandoval.

González said the witnesses were invited to meet with federal Interior Ministry officials on Friday to discuss the security and protection measure the government will offer them.

Source: Milenio (sp) 

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