GUATEMALA CITY – Guatemalan authorities mounted additional security for a hearing on Wednesday on the extradition of a Mexican politician facing corruption charges in his homeland.
Javier Duarte, former governor of the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, was wearing a bullet-proof vest as he entered the courthouse amid a phalanx of heavily armed officers.
The fugitive ignored shouted questions from the dozens of reporters who gathered to await his arrival from the Matamoros military garrison in the capital, where he has been held since his arrest last Saturday.
Guatemalan Interpol agents detained the 43-year-old Duarte at a luxury hotel in Panajachel, a lakeside resort town southwest of Guatemala City.
The Mexican politician was the subject of an international arrest warrant.
He stepped down from the Veracruz governorship in October after being charged with corruption and racketeering. The state legislature allowed him to leave with six weeks left in his term so he could focus on his legal defense.
But Duarte disappeared a week after handing over the reins to an interim governor.
Authorities now suspect that he has been in Guatemala since then, benefiting from a clandestine network of individuals and companies who have provided him with safe houses in various parts of the Central American nation.
The Mexican government offered a reward of 15 million pesos ($730,000) for information leading to Duarte’s capture.
Duarte is considered responsible for bankrupting the Veracruz state government, whose debt increased by $1.4 billion during his 2010-2016 tenure as governor.
The Mexican Attorney General’s Office alleges that Duarte misappropriated large sums of public funds between 2012 and 2015, using the money to buy real estate in Mexico and abroad.