Mexican judge orders trial in Gordillo case

Mexico City, Mar 5 (EFE).- Former teachers union boss Elba Esther Gordillo will go to trial on embezzlement and racketeering charges, judicial officials said.

Judge Alejandro Caballero accepted a motion from federal prosecutors to try Gordillo, who allegedly embezzled $157 million in union funds.

Caballero refused to accept defense attorneys' arguments that the documents provided by the Finance Secretariat to support the charges against Gordillo were invalid because they were not certified by the financial institutions that executed transactions for the disgraced union chief.

The 68-year-old Gordillo was the president of the SNTE teachers union, the largest union in Latin America, and was considered the most powerful woman in Mexico.

Gordillo was arrested on Feb. 26 along with three close associates for allegedly using union funds to pay personal expenses.

The suspects have been denied bail because of the seriousness of the charges against them.

Gordillo, once described by scholar M. Delal Baer as "Jimmy Hoffa in a dress," used union funds to pay credit card bills, make purchases at luxury stores, have cosmetic surgery, purchase real estate and cover other spending, prosecutors allege.

The former union boss was expelled from the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, in 2006 for helping create the New Alliance Party, or PANAL, which tried unsuccessfully to form a coalition with Enrique Peña Nieto, who won last year's presidential election.

Gordillo, who reportedly suffers from high blood pressure, chronic hepatitis C and kidney problems, among other ailments, was moved late last week to a prison with better medical facilities.

The SNTE's No. 2 official, Juan Diaz de la Torre, was named as the new head of the 1.2-million-member-strong union last Thursday.