Mexico arrests 35 police for suspected links to drug gang

MEXICO CITY Mon Sep 24, 2012 3:55pm EDT

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MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The Mexican navy has arrested 35 members of the federal police force on suspicion of working for one of the country's most notorious drug gangs, the Zetas.

The navy said on Monday the suspects had been arrested in the eastern state of Veracruz and neighboring San Luis Potosi, areas where the Zetas have established a strong foothold.

Four of those arrested were women and all belonged to the federal police in Veracruz, a state which President Felipe Calderon last year said had been "left in the hands" of the Zetas.

Government officials and police are prone to corruption by gangsters due to the financial muscle of the cartels. Gangs can often pay much more than officials earn in their jobs.

Veracruz has acquired a reputation as one of the most corrupt states in Mexico and is a bastion of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which will retake the presidency in December when Enrique Pena Nieto takes office.

Once working as hired guns for the Gulf Cartel, the Zetas split from their former employers in 2010 and supplanted them as the dominant gang in northeastern Mexico.

Today the Zetas are arguably one of the two most powerful crime syndicates in Mexico and are accused of carrying out many of the worst atrocities in the violence caused by warring drug gangs and their clashes with the state.

Separately, the government of Guerrero, home state to beach resort Acapulco, said on Monday units of the army and federal police had arrested 18 local police from the city of Taxco, also on suspicion of links to organized crime.

Around 60,000 people have died in the drug violence since Calderon took office six years ago. (Reporting by Dave Graham; Additional reporting by Luis Enrique Martinez; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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