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Fugitive Mexican governor Javier Duarte arrested in Guatemala

Javier Duarte, a former Mexican state governor who has been on the run for six months, has been arrested. He was detained in Guatemala on suspicion of corruption, involvement in organized crime and embezzling millions.

Mexican authorities have confirmed that Javier Duarte, the former governor of Veracruz state, was found and detained on Saturday in a hotel lobby in the town of Panajachel on the shore of Lake Atitlan in the Guatemalan highlands.

Duarte's arrest was a joint operation between Interpol and Guatemalan police, Mexico's attorney general said. The 43-year-old is expected to be extradited to Mexico at a later date.

The former governor is wanted on suspicion of having siphoned off at least 645 million Mexican pesos (33 million euros, $35 million) of public money that was put into a series of shell companies.

Former governor denies allegations

Duarte resigned from office to face corruption allegations in October last year but disappeared soon afterwards. At the time he denied having links to phantom businesses that allegedly won state contracts, insisting he had not stolen a single peso of state money or diverted government funds overseas.

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"I don't have foreign accounts," he said last year. "I don't have properties anywhere."

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Authorities believe Duarte entered Guatemala by land in November or earlier, and traveled between the city of Antigua and other provinces
where he had properties.

"The network of accomplices and strawmen" who helped Duarte must be brought to justice, said Alberto Elias Beltran, the deputy legal
prosecutor for international affairs at Mexico's Attorney General's Office.

Punished in an exemplary fashion

Following his arrest on Saturday, Duarte's former party and Mexico's ruling Institutional Revolution Party (PRI) sought to distance itself from Duarte and applauded the arrest.

"The PRI calls for all the relevant investigations to be carried out and, respecting due process, for the ex-governor of Veracruz to be punished in an exemplary fashion, as well as anyone who is confirmed to have taken part in his criminal ring," the party said in a statement.

Deadly violence in Veracruz

During his six-year tenure as governor, Duarte was widely criticized for the violence which rampant in the state. Drug cartels warred for territory and thousands of people were killed or disappeared into clandestine graves in cases that mostly remain unsolved. 

Read: Mexico - 'Politicians are involved in the massacre'

The state of Veracruz also became Mexico's most dangerous region for journalists, with 17 killed during his time in office.

Four journalists covering organized crime in Mexico have been killed over the last six weeks, according to officials and media groups. The most recent case was 71-year-old Maximino Rodriguez Palacios who was shot and killed outside a supermarket in Baja California.

ksb/jm (AFP, Reuters)

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