A former Mexican governor captured in Italy faces extradition to the United States and Mexico, which may spark new tensions between the neighboring countries.
Italian authorities have to decide where to extradite Tomás Yarrington, as Mexico and the United States have both asked to prosecute the former Tamaulipas governor captured in Florence on April 9, reported Excelsior.
In Mexico, Yarrington is accused of crimes related to drug trafficking. In the United States, the former governor is accused of importing and distributing drugs, money laundering, bank fraud and illicit money operations, crimes allegedly perpetrated between 1998 and 2013.
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Yarrington could be sentenced to up to twenty years in prison in Mexico, but faces two life sentences and another 90 years in jail in the United States, Excelsior said.
In a statement released April 12, Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la Republica – PGR) said it was “working with” the US Department of Justice on their “judicial strategies,” with regards to the Yarrington case.
The PGR and the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) have been after Yarrington since 2012. And both Mexico and the United States had issued an Interpol red alert against him.
But the extradition treaties signed with Italy leave it up to Italian authorities to evaluate and ultimately decide where to extradite Yarrington, a senior official at Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office said during a news conference.
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The case may potentially open up more wounds in US and Mexican relations. Breitbart News, the rightwing outlet formerly run by President Donald Trump’s strategic advisor, Stephen K. Bannon, reported that Mexican officials told US officials that they were willing to allow Yarrington’s extradition to the US. Now, Breitbart claims that Mexico is “saving face” by requesting information on Yarrington’s whereabouts and claiming to have engineered his arrest in Italy.
US officials are already worried about what might happen to Yarrington in Mexico. The co-conspirator on the indictment, Fernando Alejandro Cano Martínez, was arrested in Mexico in February but later released on bail.
Mexico has already extradited several members of organized crime groups to the United States. Arguably the most notable example was that of legendary drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, extradited to the United States in January 2017, after the former head of the Sinaloa Cartel escaped prison twice in Mexico.
In a sense, El Chapo’s extradition was a tacit admission of the difficulties Mexican authorities face when prosecuting criminals. The decision that will be taken by Italian authorities is thus a de facto evaluation of the justice systems in the two countries.
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The awaited decision from Italy also comes at a time when US-Mexican relations are at a low point, following US President Donald Trump’s campaign to build “a wall” along the border of the two countries and have “Mexico pay for it.”
The Trump administration has remained quiet about the wall in recent weeks, and as Trump reverts to the mean on other foreign policy issues such as US-China and US-Russia relations, there is a faint hope that his rhetoric towards Mexico may soften.