In what is shaping out to be one of the most prominent investigations ever into a Mexican politician’s alleged links with criminal groups like the Zetas, a judge issued an international arrest warrant for former Tamaulipas governor Tomas Yarrington.
Attorney General Marisela Morales said that Mexico had issued an Interpol alert, which would allow the police organization to look for Yarrington in some 190 countries.
Yarrington is under investigation by the Attorney General’s Office (known as the PGR) for allegedly taking bribes from the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas. He served as governor of border state Tamaulipas between 1999 to 2004, an area which is the traditional stronghold of the Gulf Cartel. Yarrington was expelled from his party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) earlier this year due to the criminal investigation against him.
In May, a Texas court filed proceedings that would seize a 46-acre property in the US that was allegedly owned by Yarrington and bought with drug money.
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The fact that Mexican prosecutors enlisted Interpol is one indication that they believe Yarrington may no longer be in the country. Yarrington’s last prominent media appearance was in June, when he appeared on a news show and, unsurprisingly, denied the accusations made against him. The last Tweet from Yarrington’s official account was on May 23, when he wrote, “I haven’t been arrested. I’m not facing any criminal charge in the US. I am very calm.” According to El Universal, Yarrington was last thought to be in a European country, although Morales stated that his current whereabouts are unknown.
Arguably, the last corruption case of this stature involving a Mexico governor was Mario Villanueva, former governor of Quintana Roo state who was extradited to the US in 2010 for his links to the Juarez Cartel. In Mexico, governors wield significant authority over budgeting at the municipal level, as well control over the police force, which makes them vulnerable to corruption by organized crime.
The Attorney General’s Office may have been considering for some time to issue an Interpol alert against Yarrington: as investigative website Reporte Indigo reported in June, one opposition party member said she’d petitioned the office to enlist the Interpol's help in tracking Yarrington down. It is unclear why prosecutors waited until now to issue the international warrant, but the Attorney General's Office has in general moved slowly on this case. He was out of political office for eight years before the Attorney General's Office announced the investigation. Yarrington himself has argued that there are political motivations behind the case, and that ruling party the National Action Party (PAN) wanted to paint PRI politicians as corrupt during a presidential election year. The PRI had a strong performance during the July elections, with candidate Enrique Peña Nieto winning the presidency, while the PRI and its allies won 241 out of the 500 seats in the lower house of Congress.