Mexico's top organized crime investigator steps down

MEXICO CITY Thu Nov 15, 2012 10:46pm EST

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MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The head of Mexico's organized crime unit stepped down on Thursday, just weeks after announcing that members of his team had been charged with having links to the nation's most powerful drug cartel.

Jose Cuitlahuac Salinas, head of the unit in the attorney general's office, resigned for "personal reasons," a spokesman for the office said.

Attorney General Marisela Morales has accepted his resignation, which was effective immediately, he added.

Salinas will be replaced by Rodrigo Archundia Barrientos, an expert on kidnappings at the organized crime unit, Morales said in a statement.

On October 17 Salinas said the Mexican government had charged seven officials, including three members of his unit, with passing information on government raids and investigations to the Sinaloa cartel of Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman, Mexico's most-wanted man.

Salinas himself was not being investigated, the spokesman at the attorney general's office said.

Mexico's powerful drug cartels are suspected of spending millions of dollars a year to corrupt officials, but charges are not common and convictions are few and far between.

President Felipe Calderon, who leaves office at the end of the month, staked his reputation on bringing the drug gangs to heel. But his offensive against organized crime coincided with a sharp increase in drug-related violence in Mexico.

More than 60,000 people have been killed in clashes between the gangs and their battles with security forces since Calderon took office six years ago.

This month Mexico charged 14 federal police officers with the attempted murder of two CIA operatives after the U.S. agents' vehicle was sprayed with bullets in a daylight attack that security officials suspect was ordered by a drug cartel.

(Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Xavier Briand)

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