MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - One of the top ruling party officials in the troubled Mexican state of Michoacan has been held for 40 days while he is investigated for possible links to criminal organizations, the attorney general’s office said on Saturday.
Jesus Reyna Garcia, a member of President Enrique Pena Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), became the interim governor of Michoacan last year stepping in after Governor Fausto Vallejo fell ill.
The western state of Michoacan has been the epicenter of fighting between the Knights Templar drug cartel and a complex, increasingly fractured, vigilante movement that sprang up last year against the gang, which it accuses of staging an endless series of kidnappings and extortion.
The PRI government has had a number of recent successes against the Knights Templar cartel, killing or capturing many of its top bosses.
The vigilante movement, which the government tolerated and later co-opted, has become more unstable in recent weeks, after one of its leaders was arrested on suspicion of murder.
Garcia presented himself to authorities and is now being investigated for “possible contact with criminal groups,” the attorney general’s office said.
At least 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.
Pena Nieto has had a number of high-profile successes such as the February capture of No. 1 drug lord Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman, but the murder rate remains stubbornly high, while extortion and kidnapping rates have risen sharply.
Reporting by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Simon Gardner and Ron Popeski