Mexico mayor arrested for murder, extortion for drug cartel

Mexico mayor arrested for murder, extortion for drug cartel
PHOTO: The Straits Times

MORELIA, Mexic - The mayor of a small city in western Mexico was arrested Thursday on charges of murder and extorting money for drug cartels, the Michoacan state prosecutor said.

Dalia Santana Pineda, mayor of Huetamo, a small city of 41,000 people, is accused of ordering the killing of Antonio Granados Gomez in April.

She also "charged 20 per cent salaries of municipal employees, money that ended up in the hands of Servando Gomez," leader of the Knights Templar cartel, state prosecutor Jose Martin Godoy Castro said.

Pineda was arrested after a judge ordered a warrant for the murder of Granados Gomez, who was ordered to be killed because of personal differences with the mayor.

In recent years, drug cartels have penetrated into the highest levels of power in Michoacan state.

In April, the state number two, Jesus Reyna, was also arrested for ties to the Knights Templar. And a few weeks ago, the son of former governor Fausto Vallejo was arrested.

And the former municipal president of Lazaro Cardenas, a major Pacific port, was recently detained for links to the cartel.

Last week, a video revealed possible ties with another mayor to the drug gang.

Michoacan, on Mexico's Pacific coast, is a key trafficking area in the drug trade to the United States.

Farmers and other civilians in the state took up arms in February 2013 claiming that the local police was too incompetent or corrupt to protect them from local criminal gangs, especially the cult-like Knights Templar.

In response to the security crisis as violence escalated, the Mexican federal government deployed some 10,000 federal police and troops in the state since late 2013.

The larger force has helped clamp down on the Knights Templar, but has so far failed to stamp them out.

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