Mexico ruling party official arrested on suspicion of gang links

MEXICO CITY Wed May 7, 2014 8:38pm EDT

Interim governor of Michoacan, Jesus Reyna Garcia, gives a speech at the Michoacan state congress in Morelia April 22, 2013. REUTERS/Alan Ortega

Interim governor of Michoacan, Jesus Reyna Garcia, gives a speech at the Michoacan state congress in Morelia April 22, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Alan Ortega

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - A top ruling party politician in the troubled Mexican state of Michoacan was formally arrested on Wednesday for alleged links to organized crime, an official from the attorney general's office said.

Jesus Reyna Garcia, a member of President Enrique Pena Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party, became interim governor of the western state last year, stepping in for the incumbent Fausto Vallejo when he fell ill.

Reyna was first detained in April and ordered held for 40 days while authorities investigated him for alleged links to organized crime.

"While he was being held, it was discovered that Reyna had had various meetings with members of criminal groups," Rodrigo Archundia, the head of Mexico's specialist organized crime investigative unit, or SEIDO, told reporters.

Michoacan has been ravaged by the Knights Templar drug cartel, which had an iron grip on much of the state until an uprising by armed vigilantes earlier this year.

Archundia did not say which group Reyna was involved with, but federal officials have previously stated the former acting governor of Michoacan had dealings with the Knights Templar.

When fighting broke out between the gang and the vigilantes, the government sent in reinforcements to pacify Michoacan. In ensuing weeks, it captured and killed several leaders of the Knights Templar after forging an alliance with the vigilantes.

More than 85,000 people have died in drug-related killings in Mexico since 2007, when former President Felipe Calderon sent in the army to bring the cartels to heel.

(Writing by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Tom Brown)