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Former Mexican governor indicted for drug trafficking in New York
( 2001-05-26 11:40 ) (7 )

A former governor of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo was indicted Friday by a federal court here for trafficking drugs to the United States and could be sentenced to life in prison if he is found guilty, authorities said.

"(Mario) Villanueva Madrid participated in a conspiracy to import into the United States and distribute approximately 200 tonnes of cocaine from 1994 through 1998," Mary Jo White, US attorney for the southern district of New York, and Donnie Marshall, director of the US Drug Enforcement Agency, said in a statement.

On the run since March 1999, Villanueva was arrested late Thursday in Cancun on Mexico's Caribbean coast.

Marshall congratulated Mexico on its arrest of Villaneuva following a long investigation by US and Mexican authorities.

Mexican anti-narcotics agents say that during Villaneuva's 1993-1999 term as governor, Quintana Roo state was a revolving door for drug shipments to the United States, particularly for cocaine coming from South America.

Villanueva received approximately 500,000 dollars for each shipment of cocaine that passed through Quintana Roo, which lies just north of Belize on Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, the US indictment said.

Villanueva + a member of the PRI party which ruled Mexico for 71 years until this year's election of President Vicente Fox + disappeared after being questioned on the drug charges, only days before his term ended in April 1999.

If found guilty in the United States, he may face life in prison and an eight million dollar fine.

In Mexico City, Attorney General Rafael Macedo said the former governor could be extradited if the US authorities request it, though there was no word yet on that eventuality from the United States.

Villanueva's arrest was a major victory for Fox, who has vowed to fight corruption in Mexico and to strengthen cooperation with the United States on the fight against narcotics trafficking.



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