A Mexican former state governor accused of ties to drug cartels denied the allegations and said they were aimed at discrediting his party ahead of the July 1 presidential election.
The administration of lame-duck President Felipe Calderon is “trying to stigmatize the PRI as a party of criminals,” Tomas Yarrington told MVS radio.
The PRI’s candidate for president, Enrique Peña Nieto, enjoys a wide lead in the polls.
Yarrington, who governed the northern state of Tamaulipas from 1999-2004, said Calderon’s government is pressuring the judiciary to issue a warrant for his arrest on the eve of next month’s balloting.
U.S. federal prosecutors on May 22 filed forfeiture cases involving two properties in Texas - which borders Tamaulipas - they say Yarrington purchased via front men using bribes from drug cartels.
The U.S. Justice Department subsequently requested information from Mexico about Yarrington’s net worth.
“In my persecution they are not seeking justice, there is deception,” Yarrington said. “I don’t have any relationship with organized crime, I haven’t received bribes, have not provided protection to any criminal nor have I carried out money laundering activities.”
The former governor also reiterated earlier affirmations by his U.S. lawyer that he does not own the Texas properties targeted in the forfeiture cases.
The Mexican Attorney General’s Office has had Yarrington’s bank accounts frozen and is aggressively investigating both him and his successor in Tamaulipas, Eugenio Hernandez.
“Maliciously, they have been leaking that the assets and firms of Tamaulipas businessmen belong to me, with the intent of leaving the impression that I have immense net worth, which is absolutely false,” Yarrington told MVS.
“In their desperation to boost (ruling party) candidate (Josefina Vazquez Mota), they slander and hurt people and firms in the state of Tamaulipas,” he said.
The Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, governed Mexico without interruption from 1929-2000 and is expected to regain the presidency in next month’s vote, ending 12 years of rule by the rightist National Action Party.
Last October, Calderon suggested in an interview with The New York Times that some PRI members would be susceptible to making deals with organized crime if the party returned to power.
It is generally accepted that PRI administrations brokered agreements among rival drug cartels to prevent bloody turf battles of the kind that have become routine in Mexico over the last five years.
Peña Nieto’s frontrunner status in the presidential race is due in part to Mexicans’ frustration over persistently high levels of drug-related violence throughout Calderon’s term.
Calderon militarized the struggle against Mexico’s heavily armed, well-funded drug mobs shortly after taking office in December 2006, deploying tens of thousands of troops across the country.
The strategy has led to headline-grabbing captures of cartel kingpins, but the accompanying violence has claimed more than 50,000 lives.