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Mexican president draws the U.S. into a dispute over governor

A Mexican judge has issued an arrest order for the governor of the northern border state of Tamaulipas on organized crime charges.

Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador Photo: — Agencia de Noticias ANDES. (CC SA 2.0)
Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador Photo: — Agencia de Noticias ANDES. (CC SA 2.0)

A Mexican judge has issued an arrest order for the governor of the northern border state of Tamaulipas on organized crime and money laundering charges. But President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador made it very clear at his Thursday news conference that the U.S. had better stay out of Mexico’s business.

A federal official said Wednesday that the arrest order for Gov. Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca was requested by Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office. It should also be noted that Cabeza de Vaca is an outspoken critic of AMLO, and has denied the accusations in the arrest warrant.

PBS.org is reporting that Lopez Obrador said that any diplomatic documents the United States sends to Mexico are at risk of being published by the president himself.

The situation over the arrest of the governor is further complicated over a dispute between the federal government and the Tamaulipas State Legislature. The two government bodies have been in a standoff over whether Cabeza de Vaca can even be prosecuted, according to the Border Report. 

Meanwhile, Mexico’s Supreme Court has declined to get involved in that dispute, which appears to leave the governor in a situation of retaining his immunity only while he remains within Tamaulipas, and this is what set Lopez Obrador off Thursday morning.

Pedestrian and cyclist trail in Parque Periférico in Matamoros, Tamaulipas. Image- MX, CC SA 4,0

Lopez Obrador was so eager to have the governor arrested that he displayed a copy of a May 4 letter sent by the U.S. Embassy’s legal attache asking for information on Garcia Cabeza de Vaca as part of a U.S. money laundering investigation, according to CTV News Canada.

AMLO said he would do it again, too – even if the communication contained “sensitive material.”

“Just so everyone knows, if my administration gets a document, with all the implications it might have … independently of whether it is legally correct or not, I am going to make public right now a letter sent by the United States Embassy,” the president said.

It boils down to the fact that if the governor sets foot outside Tamaulipas, he will be arrested. If federal police try to arrest him inside the state, they could face resistance from the sizable state police force.

Cabeza de Vaca is a prominent figure in Mexico’s embattled conservative opposition, which claims the charges against him amount to political persecution. However, AMLO says this is a classic case of the corruption he has promised to root out.

However, publishing the U.S. request for legal assistance takes the dispute to a new level. The problem is that it is a crime to name suspects of an allegded crime unless they are convicted. Technically in Mexico, releasing files from any ongoing case or investigation is itself a crime.

Actually, it should also be pointed out that with Tamaulipas being a border state, it has deep roots with organized crime, either through drugs or weapons, and Lopez Obrador is angry because most of the cases involving organized crime end up being prosecuted in the U.S. – which is where corrupt politicians in Mexico usually stash their cash. 

This also means that U.S. prosecutors get to keep any seized cash, something that really angers Lopez Obrador.

Written By

Karen Graham is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for environmental news. Karen's view of what is happening in our world is colored by her love of history and how the past influences events taking place today. Her belief in man's part in the care of the planet and our environment has led her to focus on the need for action in dealing with climate change. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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