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U.S. judge orders extradition of ex-Chihuahua governor to Mexico on corruption charges

Ex-Chihuahua Gov. Cesar Duarte.
AP file photo
Ex-Chihuahua Gov. Cesar Duarte.

MIAMI, Florida -- A federal judge in Miami certified the extradition of former Chihuahua governor César Duarte, accused in Mexico of corruption for embezzling millions of dollars of public funds, and ordered that he remain in detention while the U.S. State Department makes a final decision.

"There is probable cause to believe that César Horacio Duarte Jaquez ... committed the crimes of conspiracy and embezzlement of government funds, according to the accusations he faces in Mexico," said Judge Lauren Louis.

"The government's request to order the certification of the extradition of César Horacio Duarte Jaquez is granted," he said in a 24-page written ruling in which he ordered that his decision be communicated to the State Department.

The judge's order came almost 10 months after the last hearing, in which Louis said he would study the evidence to determine whether or not they met the requirements of the extradition treaty with Mexico.
Although the judge ruled in favor of extradition, it is Secretary of State Antony Blinken who now has the last word. The magistrate's order cannot be appealed, but Duarte could file a writ of amparo alleging that his detention in the United States is illegal in order to delay the process.

There is no specific time frame for Blinken to make a decision.

Duarte's attorneys did not immediately return messages from The Associated Press seeking comment.

In keeping with its longstanding policy, the State Department told the AP it does not comment on extradition requests. The authorities also do not offer details about asylum requests like the one made by Duarte shortly before his arrest in Miami in July 2020.

For now, neither the defense of Duarte nor the administration of President Joe Biden have said what their next steps will be. The government of Mexico did not make a public statement either.

To substantiate the extradition request made by the Mexican government, the US prosecutor's office assured that there is evidence that Duarte committed the crimes he faces in his country and that therefore he must be extradited. The defense of the former governor of the northern state of Chihuahua, on the other hand, said that it is about political accusations.

In her ruling, the judge said that "there is no type of evidence that the alleged crimes were politically motivated, much less that they were committed in the course of a political act." Therefore, said Louis, “the court will not deny the extradition request.

Mexico requested the extradition of the former governor of the Institutional Revolutionary Party at the end of 2019. The former official, who served as governor between 2010 and 2016, is accused of embezzlement and illicit association to embezzle millions of dollars of public funds.

Duarte came to the United States with his family in 2016 seeking medical treatment after a helicopter accident.

The former governor alleges that he was unaware of the accusations he faced in Mexico before coming to the United States and that he led a public life without hiding from anyone.

The judge's decision was welcomed in Mexico.

Javier Corral, former governor of Chihuahua of the National Action Party and who helped uncover the alleged corrupt acts involving Duarte, said through his Twitter account that “a long fight against corruption and impunity today has another decisive advance in the demand for justice for Chihuahua and that one of the biggest robberies against the people be punished ”.

Corral ended his term in September.

Associated Press

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