MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – A senior aide to Mexico’s Senate has been arrested for suspected involvement in the killing of a mayoral candidate competing in midterm elections in June this year, authorities in the eastern state of Veracruz said on Wednesday.
Jose Manuel del Rio Virgen, technical secretary of the Senate leadership body that oversees the parliamentary agenda, was arrested on suspicion of involvement in the death of a candidate from the center-left opposition Citizens Movement (MC) party, state prosecutors and officials in Veracruz said.
Ricardo Monreal, Senate leader of the ruling leftist National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), said the charges were false in a video address in which he mounted a vigorous defense of del Rio Virgen and slammed the authorities in Veracruz.
“We’re certain he will overcome this illegal act against him in that state,” Monreal said, saying Veracruz was enduring abuses of power and political persecutions.
Del Rio Virgen, who was not immediately reachable for comment, retweeted Monreal’s video defense of him.
The incident laid bare apparent rifts in the ruling party, because Veracruz is also governed by MORENA, which, along with its allies, controls both the upper and lower houses of Congress.
Veracruz Governor Cuitlahuac Garcia denied the arrest was politically motivated, and said the state attorney general’s office was acting independently in pursuing the case.
According to state authorities, MC politician Rene Tovar, a mayoral candidate in Veracruz, died after being shot by assailants two days before the June 6 elections.
Del Rio Virgen, a former federal congressman, is also a member of MC. The party’s leadership condemned his arrest on Wednesday and called for his immediate release.
Other suspects have already been arrested over Tovar’s death.
(Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Peter Cooney)