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Loophole Means Governor Who Resigned Over Missing Students Could Return to Office

Angel Aguirre stepped down six months ago after mounting protests over the missing 43. Now, in a political loophole, he could return to office on Friday night.

by Melissa del Pozo
Apr 23 2015, 4:45pm

Imagen por Eduardo Verdugo/AP

Angel Aguirre, the shamed former governor of Mexico's state of Guerrero, could return to his post this Friday if he doesn't renew his petition for a leave of absence — despite the climate of protests and indignation over his handling of the case of the 43 missing students.

Aguirre left his post on October 23 by submitting a leave request, a formality for a resignation in Mexico's political structure. At the time he said he was stepping aside to help "ease the investigations on the Ayotzinapa case."

The leave was granted for six months, which ends tomorrow. The "licencia" rule is rarely, if ever, flaunted by having a damaged political figure return to office after a licencia period is finished.

"There are two possibilities, if Aguirre abides to the law, he could announce his return to his post," Guerrero state congressman Héctor Apreza told VICE News. "Or, he could ask for a new six-month leave of absence, which would leave Guerrero's interior secretary in charge of the state, while the [state] congress appoints a substitute."

After Aguirre, Guerrero's congress appointed interim governor Rogelio Ortega, an academic from the Guerrero state university, to the office. But Ortega also stumbled early on in his handling of the case, leading mourning parents to ultimately reject his government.

Related: Mexico Crisis Deepens as Guerrero Governor Resigns Over Missing Students.

Protests erupted in Guerrero against former governor Angel Aguirre. (Photo by Hans-Maximo Musielik/VICE News)

The idea of Aguirre's possible return to office was first floated this week by Ortega himself. He said he had information the former governor was planning on returning to the post this Friday night. Ortega also claimed that Aguirre was considering appointing a controversial loyalist as interior secretary, thereby reestablishing his direct influence over the state government.

Ortega's interim term as Guerrero's governor ends at midnight on Friday. If Aguirre fails to send a new request for leave to the congress, technically, he'd be governor again.

That possibility at least pumped his name back into news headlines across the state, which is considered a PRD bastion. Elections for governor and mayors in Guerrero are scheduled on June 7.

Aguirre was one of few governors in Mexico belonging to the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution, or PRD in Spanish. But he's also closely identified with the nationally ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, and is known to be a friend of President Enrique Peña Nieto.

But Aguirre sought to deny the claims on Tuesday, saying he had no interest in returning to office. "I have not been, nor will I be, involved with the elections," Aguirre told Milenio.

Related: Protesters Vow to Burn 43 Buildings in Guerrero.

The parents of the students have called on federal officials to investigate Aguirre and his possible role into the attack on the young men from the Ayotzinapa Normal School. Aguirre never formally testified to investigators in the case.

"It's unbelievable how this murderer can do as he wants without any consequences," said Epifanio Álvarez, father of Jorge, one of the missing.

'Regardless of who is the governor in charge, we will become more radical, until our sons return home.'

While Aguirre has remained free of any charges, several people in his inner circle are either facing investigations or considered fugitives of the law. In February, former attorney general Jesús Murillo Karam acknowledged that nine of Aguirre's relatives and collaborators had been arrested for various corruption-related charges.

Aguirre's brother Carlos Mateo Aguirre and his nephew Luis Angel Aguirre were detained and charged with mismanaging public funds to the tune of $18.7 million. Karam also said authorities were looking for another Aguirre brother and a nephew.

Eighteen former members of Aguirre's government, five of which are fugitives, are under investigation for money laundering and misusing public funds between 2012 and 2014.

"I can't picture Aguirre's return as governor, but it's as equal a possibility as the confirmation of Ortega, or the appointment of someone else," Bernardo Ortega, president of Guerrero's congress, told VICE News. "Nothing has been decided."

"Regardless of who is the governor in charge, we will become more radical, until our sons return home," said Álvarez, the mourning father.

Related: The Missing 43: Mexico's Disappeared Students (Watch the Full-Length Documentary).

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