Mexican prosecutor denies political charges against governor

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexican Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero denied Wednesday that corruption accusations against the opposition governor of the border state of Tamaulipas are politically motivated, but did not specify what is behind the case.

The attorney general’s office filed a request Tuesday to Congress to remove the governor’s immunity from prosecution, equivalent to a kind of impeachment proceeding.

Gov. Francisco Garcia Cabeza De Vaca is accused of organized crime, money laundering and tax evasion. He has denied any wrongdoing and claimed the accusations are politically motivated.

Local media have reported that some of the accusations are related to movements of millions of dollars between front companies. Other accusations may be related to bribes that were allegedly paid to lawmakers in 2013 to approve an energy sector reform that Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador opposes. Garcia Cabeza De Vaca was a senator at the time.

But Gertz Manero did not confirm any of those accounts Wednesday. Asked about the nature of the accusations, he said he could not comment because it was an ongoing legal case.

“There cannot be anything like this being revenge, nor any type of a political thing,” Gertz Manero said, adding that lawmakers will be presented with the evidence against the governor, and will be able to judge for themselves whether the accusations justify putting him on trial.

López Obrador said “we do not persecute anyone.”

Garcia Cabeza De Vaca, from the opposition National Action Party, sent a tweet insisting he was innocent and complaining of a political attack.

In his official Twitter account, he called the accusations “once again a partisan use of justice where there is no crime. A political attack is being organized.” He added, “I have never violated the law.”

The governor travelled to the Congress building in Mexico City to try to get a copy of the case against him, saying he doesn’t know what exactly the government is accusing him of.

But Garcia Cabeza de Vaca speculated that his brushes with the federal government had angered López Obrador’s administration. He is among the National Action Party governors who have staked out opposition policies on the coronavirus pandemic and other issues.

He noted that his Gulf coast state is a leading site of wind farms, an energy source that López Obrador has proposed reducing, in favor of fossil fuels.

“They must be very upset over the way we publicly exposed them,” the governor said, referring in an incident in December when the federal power utility — a pet agency of the president — acknowledged it had falsified a document to excuse a massive blackout that month.

The Federal Electricity Commission denied the Dec. 28 outage was the result of incompetence. Instead, it said, a brush fire in Tamaulipas had caused a kind of short-circuit that led to a two-hour blackout that affected one-fourth of the country’s customers.

The company published a supposed report of a brush fire in an area beneath power pylons that it claimed caused the blackout. But Tamaulipas officials maintained that the document, purportedly issued by a state civil defense office, was forged. The federal commission at first denied, but later admitted that it was.

Garcia Cabeza De Vaca has governed the state, just across the border from Texas, since 2016. Organized crime groups have long had deep roots in the state and numerous politicians have been implicated in dealings with them.

Former Gov. Tomás Yarrington of the Institutional Revolutionary Party was extradited to the U.S. from Italy in 2018 to face drug trafficking charges. U.S. officials also have tried to extradite the governor who succeeded Yarrington in 2005, Eugenio Hernández, to face money laundering charges.

The leading candidate to follow Hernández in 2011, Rodolfo Torre Cantú, was assassinated while campaigning for office.

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