Mexico police official resigns after Texas properties worth millions discovered

Arturo Bermdez Zurita, public security secretary of Veracruz, and his wife purchased five properties with a combined value of $2.4m despite $3,200 salary

A senior Mexican police official has been forced to resign after investigative journalists revealed that he and his wife had built up a property empire incompatible with his humble public-sector salary.

Arturo Bermdez Zurita, the public security secretary of the violence-wracked state of Veracruz, stood down on Thursday after reports emerged that he and his wife had purchased a string of properties in Texas worth millions of dollars.

His resignation is a rarity in a country where public officials often accumulate fabulous personal wealth, yet accusations of wrongdoing rarely bring serious consequences.

But analysts say that Bermdezs fate may have less to do with serious attempts to tackle Mexicos entrenched corruption than with shifting political winds following recent regional elections in which the ruling Institutional Revolutionary party (PRI) lost power in Veracruz and six other states.

Bermdez resigned after the online news outlet Aristegui Noticias revealed that he and his wife had purchased five properties in suburban Houston with a combined value of $2.4m even though he made a mere 59,500 pesos a month ($3,200), according to government transparency records.

Announcing his resignation on Twitter, Bermdez denied any wrongdoing, saying he had always acted within the law. The Veracruz government issued a statement, saying Bermdez was resigning to clarify the origin of his personal patrimony and defend himself.

The revelations mark yet another scandal for the outgoing state governor, Javier Duarte, who leaves office in December after a six-year term tarnished by spiraling violence, financial mismanagement and the murders of 19 journalists.

Frustration with Duarte and other powerful state governors led to an electoral rout for the PRI in Junes regional elections, which is now under pressure to show it is cracking down on corruption, analysts say.

The PRI on the national level needs to vindicate itself and will likely do so by throwing someone in prison, said Miguel ngel Daz, founder of the Veracruz publication Plumas Libres. With scandal after scandal and the murders of so many journalists, Veracruz is an ideal place for scapegoating.

Under Duarte, Veracruz became one of the countrys most violent states, and state police officials were often implicated in murders and forced disappearances.

During these five years, it was a period of terror and silence, Daz said. The police were kidnapping and extorting and disappearing people. Few media outlets dared to publish anything and those that did publish did so with fear.

The incoming governor, Miguel ngel Yunes, won office on an agenda of cleaning up Veracruz. But he was embarrassed earlier this year by a leaked recording in which he can be heard hashing out details of bidding for a $58m New York apartment. Yunes says he never purchased the property.

Analysts say allegations of widespread corruption in state governments are the consequence of political decentralisation over the past 20 years. Over that time, governors who previously served at the presidents pleasure gained autonomy and received increased federal funds to spend with little oversight.

According to Federico Estvez, a political science professor at the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico, corruption by governors depended on political backing from the national government. Now, the money is sent to them automatically and there are no countervailing powers, he said.

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