Governor resigns in Mexican state ravaged by drug violence

MEXICO CITY Wed Jun 18, 2014 4:45pm EDT

Michoacan's Governor Fausto Vallejo (C) walks surrounded by the media while visiting a townhouse in Apatzingan January 14, 2014. REUTERS/Jorge Dan Lopez

Michoacan's Governor Fausto Vallejo (C) walks surrounded by the media while visiting a townhouse in Apatzingan January 14, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Jorge Dan Lopez

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The governor of the western Mexican state of Michoacan resigned on Wednesday, citing poor health, as the government struggles to improve security amid a continuing battle between vigilantes and drug traffickers.

Fausto Vallejo, a member of President Enrique Pena Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), stepped down for health reasons, the president's office said in a statement.

Vallejo, 65, has been at the center of a growing political storm following allegations his son is linked to a top gang leader and after the arrest of two top officials from his party.

Vallejo had put an interim governor in place for several months last year as he recovered from liver transplant surgery. The interim governor, a top PRI official, was detained in May for links to organized crime.

That followed the arrest in April of the mayor of the Pacific port of Lazaro Cardenas after he was accused of participating in a kidnapping and extortion ring.

Michoacan has been ravaged by the Knights Templar drug cartel, which had controlled much of the state until an uprising by armed vigilantes that began early last year.

Pena Nieto sent in military forces in January to restore order in the state. Troops have captured and killed several leaders of the Knights Templar after forging an alliance with the vigilantes.

Vallejo was under growing political pressure since a photo surfaced this week allegedly showing his son Rodrigo Vallejo together with Knights Templar leader Servando "La Tuta" Gomez.

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

(Reporting by Anahi Rama; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)