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MEXICO UNDER SIEGE

Ex-mayor of Cancun released as case appears to collapse

A judge had dismissed charges of drug trafficking and money laundering against Gregorio 'Greg' Sanchez. Mexican prosecutors say he may yet be charged with smuggling undocumented Cubans.

July 21, 2011|By Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times
  • Former Cancun Mayor Gregorio Sanchez, accompanied by his lawyers, leaves the Office of Special Investigations in Mexico City.
Former Cancun Mayor Gregorio Sanchez, accompanied by his lawyers, leaves… (Alex Cruz / European Pressphoto…)

Reporting from Mexico City — Yet another high-profile drug-prosecution case in Mexico careened toward collapse Wednesday when federal officials were forced to release the former mayor of Cancun, arrested 14 months ago for allegedly consorting with violent cartels.

Gregorio "Greg" Sanchez, toting a red Bible, walked out of a jail cell into the summer light around midday and proclaimed, again, his innocence.

But federal prosecutors said they planned to charge him with the smuggling of undocumented Cubans. Cancun is the piece of Mexican territory that juts out closest to Cuba.

And in a novelty for Mexico, federal authorities ordered Sanchez to wear an electronic ankle bracelet so they could track his movements.

That was necessary, said the head of the attorney general's organized crime unit, Patricia Bugarin, because prosecutors could not immediately find a judge willing to issue an arrest warrant for Sanchez on the new charges. Several judges declined for jurisdictional reasons, and a higher court that could have decided the matter is on summer vacation.

Last week, a judge dismissed the drug-trafficking and money-laundering charges against Sanchez and ordered him freed.

Bugarin said federal prosecutors continued to investigate drug-trafficking allegations against Sanchez and might charge him again.

Some observers see the attempted prosecution as political persecution. Sanchez was arrested in May 2010 as he campaigned for governor of his state for the leftist Democratic Revolution Party, an opposition force.

"This is all a juridical hoax," the party's president, Jesus Zambrano, said Wednesday.

Last month, authorities arrested the powerful former mayor of Tijuana, Jorge Hank Rhon, on weapons and drug-trafficking charges but released him days later.

wilkinson@latimes.com

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