A former governor of Veracruz has been sentenced by a federal judge in Mexico to nine years in prison after pleading guilty for the crimes of criminal association and money laundering.
The court also fined Javier Duarte 58,890 Mexican pesos ($3,123) on Wednesday and seized 40 properties that, according to authorities, he acquired with resources from the state.
The former governor had already been in jail awaiting trial and the court has counted the time he already served towards his nine-year sentence.
“It is impressive that Mexico is going through this, a huge country as it is, with a strong economy we live in an obscurantism,” Lucy Diaz, leader of the Colectivo Solecito of Veracruz, an organisation that works to find disappeared people in Veracruz, told Al Jazeera
Duarte served as the governor of Veracruz from 2010 to 2016, was considered a luminary of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), President Enrique Pena Nieto referring to him as an example of a “new generation”.
However, he soon became a symbol of corruption and disappointment.
In October 2016, Duarte was forced from office, two months before the end of his six-year term, on accusations of money laundering, corruption and mismanagement.
The party expelled him and a judge issued an arrest warrant. He fled using a government helicopter, which prompted Interpol to issue an international arrest warrant against him.
A reward of 15m pesos ($730,000) was also offered for his capture.
The governor was captured in Guatemala in 2017 and was extradited to Mexico three months later.
During his time in office, gang violence and kidnapping increased in Veracruz and the state’s debt doubled. Two former state police chiefs were also charged with running squads that allegedly killed opponents during his administration.
Veracruz also became one of the most dangerous states for journalists as well as a hub for organised crime. It first became a stronghold for the Gulf cartel and later for the Zetas, who broke away from the Gulf cartel in the late 2000s and moved into the state.
Some 3,600 people have gone missing in Veracruz since 2006, and families are still exhuming mass graves to find their loved ones.
“This is catastrophic, this touches all areas in people’s lives, families have been destroyed, there are grandmothers that have to raise and take care of grandsons after their parents disappeared,” said Diaz.
“When somebody disappears there are no records, there is no death certificate, the chapter is not closed, you are not allowed to touch bank accounts, you are not allowed to move schools. It’s a huge puzzle, and takes a great toll on people.”