August 18, 2017 / 3:54 AM / 2 years ago

Jailed former Mexican governor starts hunger strike over 'witch hunt'

Javier Duarte, former governor of the Mexican state of Veracruz, reacts while escorted by police before being extradited to Mexico, in Guatemala City, Guatemala, in this handout photograph released by Guatemala Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINEX) on July 17, 2017. MINEX/Handout via REUTERS

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Former Mexican governor Javier Duarte, in jail awaiting trial on graft charges, has embarked on a hunger strike to protest the “witch hunt” against him, according to a letter he wrote that was published by local TV on Thursday.

Javier Duarte, who until last year governed the Gulf coast state of Veracruz for President Enrique Pena Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), is suspected of siphoning off millions of dollars during his tenure.

Duarte, who was extradited last month from Guatemala where he had fled to, has denied any wrongdoing.

“I have taken this decision in order to stop the political persecution and witch hunt being conducted against me and my former colleagues in the state of Veracruz,” Duarte wrote in the letter sent to Mexican TV news host Ciro Gomez Leyva and read out on his show.

Reuters could not independently verify the veracity of the letter.

Mexico’s interior ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Mexico City’s prisons department did not immediately respond to a request for comment, although Gomez Leyva reported it was aware of Duarte’s hunger strike.

Corruption scandals have hounded Pena Nieto’s government, playing into the hands of leftist opposition candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who is preparing for a third run for office next year.

Roberto Borge, who was the PRI governor until last year of the state of Quintana Roo, the home to tourist resort Cancun, is currently in Panama awaiting his extradition to Mexico where he is wanted on corruption charges.

Reporting by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Michael Perry

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