Former Veracruz Gov. Javier Duarte

New details have surfaced relating to the alleged embezzlement of fugitive former Veracruz Gov. Javier Duarte, highlighting a lack of institutional capacity to prevent and punish corrupt politicians in Mexico.

After investigations of Duarte for suspected corruption, the Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República - PGR) recovered 421 million pesos (more than $20 million at current exchange rates) that had allegedly been siphoned off from the Veracruz treasury by two ghost companies.

The head of the federal auditing agency, Juan Manuel Portal, revealed earlier this month that there are 54 allegations against Duarte, El País reported. The alleged amount of public money embezzled from Veracruz by Duarte -- some 35 billion pesos, or about $1.7 billion -- is the highest ever registered by Portal’s agency, the Superior Auditor of the Federation (Auditoría Superior de la Federación - ASF).

The Superior Audit Body (Órgano de Fiscalización Superior - ORFIS) of Veracruz documented a financial loss to the treasury of more than 16 billion pesos (about $830 million) in 2015. Five departments, 15 public bodies and six trusts had irregularities in their expenditures, according to El País.

Duarte has been on the run since he resigned from his post as governor of Veracruz on October 12 after a string of allegations against him regarding theft of public money during his six years in office. Duarte also allgedly had links to drug cartels and to the murder of a journalist in Veracruz last year.

In a recent survey, a staggering 42 percent of Mexican citizens saw the federal government as having the highest level of corruption out of all branches of government. However, when asked about recent cases of corruption, 14 percent of participants mentioned Duarte's alleged state-level graft.

InSight Crime Analysis

The new allegations against Duarte underscore the systematic problem of corruption among political figures in Mexico and show a lack of institutional capacity to prevent and punish corrupt politicians.

The Mexican government has long struggled to tackle corruption among the political class. Few politicians accused of corruption ever face justice for their alleged crimes, implying an inability or unwillingness on the part of Mexican authorities to bring justice to corrupt members of the political elite and suggesting that these powerful figures may sometimes be protected by other actors in the political realm. This notion is reinforced by allegations that Duarte fled Mexico on October 15 in a helicopter provided by the current interim Gov. Flavino Ríos.

SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profiles

According to El País, acting Attorney General Raúl Cervantes said the government is continuing to combat corruption. However, the scale of alleged corruption under Duarte’s administration -- and the challenges authorities have faced in bringing him to justice -- suggest the government is far from eradicating this problem.

Investigations

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