CRIME

Mexican judge who blocked extradition of ‘El Chapo’ to US shot dead

Magistrate had been involved in a number of high-profile cases, including the Ayotzinapa killings

The crime scene in Metepec.
The crime scene in Metepec.Sergio Castro / Agencia Reforma

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Mexican Judge Vicente Antonio Bermúdez Zacarías was killed by a gunshot wound to the head on Monday. Bermúdez was approached from behind as he left his home to go out for a run. The assailant shot him in the back of the head from less than 30 centimeters away. Then he and another individual ran from the scene. Bermúdez died hours later in hospital.

The 37-year-old judge tried some of the most famous cases in Mexican history. In March, he ordered a 40-day remand for Abigael “El Cuini” González Valencia, one of the bosses of Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG). He also blocked a request for the extradition of Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán to the United States.

One of his last cases involved the suspected ringleader thought to be responsible for the disappearance of 43 student teachers in Ayotzinapa

One of his last cases involved Gildardo “El Gil” López Astudillo, the suspected ringleader of the hitmen thought to be responsible for the disappearance of 43 student teachers in Ayotzinapa. Judge Bermúdez dismissed the defendant’s petition for a transfer.

Bermúdez served on the bench in Mexico state for three years. The León (Guanajuato state) native specialized in criminal law and, as a judge, he focused on constitutionality issues, remand and search orders.

As authorities removed the body from the crime scene, colleagues from the International Union of Magistrates held their annual meeting some 60 kilometers away. The judges denounced threats made against their counterparts in Venezuela and Turkey. Mexico’s representatives, including Attorney General Arely Gómez, joined in the general outcry.

In the wake of Bermúdez’s death, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto had to modify a speech he was giving. While addressing a gathering, he gave the Attorney General’s Office orders to investigate the murder. Mexican Supreme Court Justice Luis María Aguilar Morales said the state must guarantee “security and peace” in order to ensure the independence of judges.

In less than a month, three Mexican judges have been killed in cold blood

Pablo Escudero Morales, Mexico’s Senate president, insisted and demanded that inquiries began “now.” Escudero also asked the government to evaluate whether to provide security protection to judges.

In less than a month, three Mexican judges have been killed in cold blood in two of the nation’s most dangerous states: Guerrero and Mexico. It had been six years since a federal judge was killed in the country.

English version by Dyane Jean François.

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