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Mexico Dismisses Judge who Freed 'Michoacanazo' Officials

Michoacan judge Efrain Cazares Lopez Michoacan judge Efrain Cazares Lopez

A judge who freed 12 of the 35 officials arrested during the "Michoacanazo," a 2009 mass arrest of Michoacan state and local officials suspected of involvement with organized crime, has been removed from his post due to judicial misconduct.

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On October 24 the Federal Judiciary Council (CJF) ruled to remove Efrain Cazares Lopez, a district judge in Michoacan, due to "serious offenses" committed during his tenure, reported El Universal. The judgement is not final, pending a possible appeal by the Supreme Court.

Cazares was the judge who freed 12 out of the 35 state and local officials arrested on suspicion of involvement with organized crime during the 2009 mass arrest known as the "Michoacanazo."

During his time as a judge, Cazares also ruled in favor of former congressman and current fugitive Julio Cesar Godoy Toscano, the brother of then-governor Leonel Godoy, who the Attorney General's Office has publicly accused of having links to Caballero Templarios leader "La Tuta" and accepting large sums of money from the Familia Michoacana.

According to EFE, these suspicious rulings led the Attorney General's Office (PGR) to lodge several administrative and criminal complaints against Cazares, resulting in him being suspended in June of this year. Currently the PGR is investigating Cazares for links to organized crime and money laundering, though no criminal charges have yet been filed.

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It remains to be seen how the removal of Cazares, and possible future criminal charges against him, will affect the cases he presided over, particularly the "Michoacanazo."

The operation that was initially hailed as a historic step forward in fighting official corruption, but fell apart when by 2011 every official had been released due to lack of evidence.

The series of arrests was one of several high-profile attempts to strike blows to politicians with links to organized crime that resulted in embarrassing failures for the Calderon administration. Another was the arrest of former Tijuana mayor Hank Rhon who was detained last year for weapons possession and then released after being formally charged with murder. 

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