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Michoacán’s absent governor hands in his resignation

Fausto Vallejo cites health reasons, but opponents point to his son’s ties with Mexican drug cartels

Fausto Vallejo (left) informs President Enrique Peña Nieto of his decision.
Fausto Vallejo (left) informs President Enrique Peña Nieto of his decision.EFE

Fausto Vallejo, the governor of the troubled Mexican state of Michoacán, has resigned because of unspecified health reasons.

A member of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Vallejo traveled to the capital to announce that he can no longer carry on with his official duties.

“I was received by President Enrique Peña Nieto,” he wrote on Twitter. “I have informed him that I am resigning from government to take care of my health.”

The president’s office issued a release stating that “Vallejo has manifested his desire to leave the governorship to take care of his health, which will require permanent and continued treatment.”

Vallejo traveled to the United States to undergo a liver and kidney transplant

The announcement comes five months after the federal government launched a strategy to mitigate rising violence in the state of Michoacán, in the south of the country, where the drug cartel Los Caballeros Templarios (The Knights Templar) has laid waste to the region.

The 65-year-old politician became governor in February 2012. Since then, a disease that he has yet to discuss in public has been visibly undermining his health. He has lost a lot of weight and his ankles were almost permanently swollen at every official event he attended.

In April 2013, the man who ended 10 years of rule by the left-leaning PRD in Michoacán sought a 90-day sick leave. Three months later, he renewed the request, this time for 180 days. During that time he traveled to the United States to undergo a liver and kidney transplant.

Upon his return, Michoacán had turned into a battle ground pitting drug traffickers and the self-defense vigilante groups.

There are no criminals in my family” Fausto Vallejo, Michoacán governor

Despite his six-month absence, Vallejo attempted to be a strong man in a state where authority was otherwise conspicuously absent. In a telephone interview last May, he stated that his “political desire” to remain at the helm of the state was still “firm and strong.” In early June he told journalists that he was tired of all the speculation regarding his illness.

But now the outgoing governor of Michoacán has another reason to feel pain. For the last few days, a poor-quality picture of his son Rodrigo has been circulating in the social networks, showing him in the company of Servando Gómez, aka “La Tuta,” the last remaining head of the Caballeros cartel still at large.

“There are no criminals in my family,” retorted Vallejo after he was asked about the matter.

A photograph of Rodrigo Vallejo (sitting) and La Tuta (wearing hat)
A photograph of Rodrigo Vallejo (sitting) and La Tuta (wearing hat)Twitter

But the case might be more relevant than the ex-governor would admit. PRD deputy Silvano Aureoles, who lost the 2011 state election to Vallejo, says the resignation is tied to suspicions that Rodrigo Vallejo may indeed have some involvement with the drug leader.

“I am certain that the governor must have top-level information,” he said. “It would have been a scandal for a probe to be launched against his son for ties to crime while still in office himself,” he told the media.

Central authorities have said that “there will be no impunity in the case of Michoacán” and that every lead is being followed.

Jesús Reyna, the man who sat in for Vallejo while the latter was on sick leave, is in prison on charges of having links to the drug cartels. Public opinion now wonders whether Vallejo’s son will suffer the same fate.

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