11/20/13 (written by petrichk) — The outgoing mayor of Alvarado, Veracruz, Sara Luz Herrera Cano, has been accused of orchestrating the murder of her personal secretary, Michel Martinez Corro. Martínez was reported missing on July 29, 2013, and was found less than a week later in a shallow grave on August 4 in the town of La Loma, a suburb of Boca del Río, Veracruz. Authorities reported that he was beaten to death with a blunt object and some reports have said the body of another man referred to as “Nicolas N” was also found at the site. Three people have been arrested in conjunction with the crime, one of whom—Luz del Carmen Santiago Garcia—is a city employee that confessed she had followed instructions from the mayor to hire two hit men—Luis David Pérez Cruz and Jordy de Jesús Sedano García. The Attorney General of Veracruz, Amando Flores Espinoza, requested that Congress also begin an open trial against Mayor Herrera, nicknamed Sarita, on the basis that she ordered the killing. He cited an unnamed city employee as bearing witness to the fact that Herrera not only hired the two assailants, but that she also had arranged for Martínez to run an errand for her during which the assailants picked him up.
Herrera not only employed Martínez for ten years as her secretary, but he had also been living with her during that time. She acknowledged that they had a very close relationship and that she thought of him as family, but she denied allegations that they were seeing each other, especially given his sexuality. “I respected him, he was coworker, but we were not a couple” the mayor said. “Here in Alvarado we all knew that he was gay.” Instead Herrara insists the accusations and ongoing investigation into her administration and the murder are a result of a political onslaught by the Veracruz Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduria General de Justica Estatal, PGJE). “Even a blind person could see that this is all political,” she argued. On October 24, the PGJE requested that Congress strip the mayor of her right to avoid criminal charges while in office (desafuero), the grounding and evidence for which has not been released to the public.
Outside of her alleged involvement in her secretary’s murder, Herrera has also been in the news since Alvarado’s mayor-elect, Octavio Ruiz Barroso, announced that upon taking office he would order an official audit of his predecessor’s administration, though he insists the investigation will not be a political witch-hunt. Critics have argued that Herrera has abused her office and embezzled millions of pesos to fund personal elective plastic surgery, buy real estate for friends and family, and take expensive vacations to Las Vegas and Europe.
The transition process to bring in the new mayor has been complicated by both Herrera’s reluctance to cede power as well as a gap in the legislative sessions of Congress that delayed the appointment of an hearing committee to review the PGJE’s request. Herrara’s term runs through December 31 of this year, and she has been adamant about not leaving office early despite the allegations.