MEXICO CITY — Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Wednesday that those responsible for the murders of a federal judge and his wife in the western state of Colima will be punished, and a senior official said the judge was apparently killed because of his work.
López Obrador said there will not be impunity for the killings of District Court Judge Uriel Villegas Ortiz and his wife, Verónica Barajas. He spoke during an appearance in the central state of Puebla.
Interior Secretary Olga Sánchez Cordero said that she knew Villegas personally and that his murder was particularly difficult for her.
“He died for doing his job and he was doing it well,” she said. She noted that some of his cases involved organized crime figures.
A federal official confirmed that Villegas had been handling cases involving drug cartels. The dominant cartel in Colima is the Jalisco New Generation Cartel.
Villegas had handled some appeals filed by Ruben Oseguera, alias “El Menchito,” the son of Jalisco cartel boss Nemesio Oseguera, who wanted to be returned to a prison in Jalisco state. However, the official, who was not authorized to be quoted by name, said Villegas had not ruled against the younger Oseguera.
“El Menchito” was arrested in 2015 and spent several years filing legal appeals, fighting his extradition to the United States. He was finally extradited in February, and has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to distribute large quantities of cocaine and meth, and use of a firearm in commission of a drug trafficking offence.
While it is unclear whether the Oseguera case could have been a motive in the killing, the cartel is known for hyperviolent tactics and its willingness to directly attack police, soldiers and marines.
Killings of federal judges are rare in Mexico, but the Pacific coast state of Colima has Mexico’s highest homicide rate. In part that is because drug cartels value, and fight over, the seaport of Manzanillo, which they use as a hb for trafficking drugs and precursor chemicals.
Federal judges in Mexico hear many of the most serious cases, like drug trafficking and weapons possession.
On Wednesday, a senator for the opposition National Action Party, Guadalupe Murguía, said that Villegas had been given security protection because of drug cartel threats but that it had been withdrawn.
Murguía said 303 judges nationwide had reported receiving threats, and 79 had been granted security measures, which often include a couple of bodyguards and a bullet-resistant vehicle.
Mark Stevenson, The Associated Press