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Former Mexico City Mayor Extradited from Nicaragua - 2001-08-11


A former mayor of Mexico City who most recently served as Mexico's Secretary of Tourism, Oscar Espinosa Villareal flew back to his homeland from Nicaragua Friday in custody of Mexican federal agents.

In completion of the extradition process that ended this week with a ruling by a Nicaraguan judge, authorities in Managua, the Nicaraguan capital, escorted Mr. Espinosa to the airport. There, he boarded a special plane sent by the Mexican Attorney General's office and was flown back to Mexico to face corruption charges.

If Mr. Espinosa was upset by the turn of events, he did not show it. Dressed in a light-colored business suit, he stepped out of his home in Managua and greeted reporters before leaving for the airport. He thanked the people of Nicaragua who, he said, had been very understanding. He also thanked the news media for the work they have done covering his stay in Nicaragua.

After arriving in Mexico, Mr. Espinosa appeared before a judge, paid a bail, equal to about $470 ,000 and then went to his home in a fashionable Mexico City neighborhood. Most legal experts believe it is unlikely this highest-ranking Mexican official ever to be charged with corruption will end up being convicted. The Mexican legal system allows for many maneuvers and delays by those who know how to work it and Mr. Espinosa has hired some of the country's top attorneys.

The Espinosa case began in March 2000 when the Mexico City Prosecutor accused him of having diverted $45 million during the time he served as the city's chief of government, 1994 to 1997. He also faces a separate, federal charge for alleged misuse of public funds when he was Secretary of Tourism, from December, 1997 until he resigned in August of last year and fled to Nicaragua. He has said he is innocent and that there are political motives behind the charges against him.

Mr. Espinosa is a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which ruled Mexico uninterrupted for 71-years until Vicente Fox, of the National Action Party, was elected president last year.

Until 1997, the Mexico City mayor was appointed by the president, but the job is now an elected position and is currently held by the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution.

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