Mexican lawmaker to face drug charges

2010-12-15 11:01

Mexico City - For the first time in Mexican history, a lawmaker was stripped of his immunity on Tuesday to face charges of having links to organised crime, in a decision by the Chamber of Deputies.

"It has been decided that court proceedings can take place against public servant Julio Cesar Godoy Toscano," said chamber president Jorge Carlos Ramirez, after the resolution passed by a 384-2 vote.

The unprecedented move, according to the chamber's press office, comes amid a major government crackdown on drug traffickers and criminal gangs whose growing rivalry and bloodshed since 2006 have killed more than 28 000 people across the country.

Godoy, stepbrother to the governor of western Michoacan state, where La Familia drug cartel is headquartered, will now have to face criminal charges that he offered government protection to drug cartel members.

That is, if he turns up to be arrested.

A member of the leftist opposition Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), Godoy was elected to his seat in July 2009 and a few days later was charged by federal prosecutors of alleged dealings with drug traffickers.

Nowhere to be seen

He promptly disappeared from view, only to turn up in Congress in September, after eluding police checkpoints around the building, to be sworn in and benefit from immunity from prosecution as a member of Congress.

Godoy was nowhere to be seen in the National Assembly when he was stripped of his immunity on Tuesday.

PRD deputy Alejandro Encinas publicly exhorted him to "go before the authorities, face the music..." and clear the party from any wrongdoing.

Godoy and other PRD leaders claim the accusations against him stem from conservative President Felipe Calderon's political persecution of his opponents in Michoacan, his own birth state.

Since May of last year, around 30 current and former Michoacan state government officials, most of them belonging to the PRD, were arrested for alleged links to drug traffickers. All but one have since been freed by judges for lack of evidence.

A major police-military offensive last week in Michoacan killed 11 people, including one of La Familia's top leaders, Nazario Moreno, whose body, however, was apparently whisked away by his men when as they fled into the mountains.