Public reaction to the arrest in Guatemala of Javier Duarte, the fugitive ex-Governor of Veracruz, has abounded in skepticism, with more than a million postings on each of Facebook and Twitter in Mexico. He has become “the El Chapo of the PRI,” as columnist Carlos Marín noted. One reporter twittered ironically about the self-congratulatory messages the PRI establishment sent out: “This is PRI-istas applauding PRI-istas for the arrest of a PRI-ista who diverted public moneys for PRI-ista election campaigns.”
Many have called the arrest a “negotiated surrender.” They say that Duarte agreed to give himself up and stay silent about the many politicians complicit in his crimes, in return for a light sentence and protection from prosecution for his wife and other family members. They cite the bizarre smile on Duarte’s face in the custody of the Guatemalan authorities and the fact that his wife, who was clearly involved in many of the transactions to divert public funds, was not arrested. “This is nonsensical, to say the least,” comments Marín. “The same people who were saying the government was protecting him a few days ago are now saying that the whole thing was a charade.”
One of these was Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who was also roundly mocked for calling Duarte a “scapegoat,” implying of course that Duarte was innocent.
Others saw the arrest as a ploy by the Government to boost the PRI’s chances in the June gubernatorial elections, by ending the embarrassing six-month disappearance of Duarte.
The best explanation of the circumstances of the arrest is that it was the work of a 10-person group inside the PGR, working in complete secrecy to avoid leaks, that has been following cell phone leads and surveilling Duarte’s relatives. When his three young children in the care of a maternal aunt took a private flight from Toluca to Guatemala City on Good Friday, the agents had the final piece of evidence needed to locate him definitively and seek an arrest warrant from Guatemalan authorities.