Mayor suspected of drug ties

2009-09-05 09:01

Morella - Federal police detained a small-town mayor on Friday on suspicion of aiding drug traffickers in the same western Mexico state where eight other city chiefs have been arrested since May on similar charges.

Armando Medina, the 49-year-old mayor of Mugica in Michoacan state, was taken into custody at city hall. Michoacan is home to La Familia drug cartel, which has sought to corrupt local officials and has launched attacks on federal police.

The federal Public Safety Department said Medina would be taken to a prison in the neighbouring state of Jalisco to face charges of aiding in drug trafficking. The statement did not say which cartel he is accused of helping, or how.

Mexico has tried to purge corruption from law enforcement and government as part of an offensive against drug cartels launched by President Felipe Calderon after he took office in 2006. Surging gang violence has claimed 13 500 lives since then.

In the northern state of Durango, two gunmen were killed on Friday in a shootout with federal police in the city of Gomez Palacio. Six officers and two assailants, including one identified as a municipal policeman in neighbouring Torreon, were wounded.

Authorities said the gunmen were travelling in a pickup when they spotted a police truck on patrol, then opened fire on the officers while trying to flee. Police said they seized four assault rifles and two grenades.

Also Friday, the federal government auctioned off property seized from drug traffickers, smugglers, money launderers and tax evaders, including a DC-9 jet that was used to transport 5.5 metric tons of cocaine in 2006.

The DC-9 fetched $242 000 and was the biggest plane ever sold in such an auction, said Eduardo Garcia, director of Mexico's Service of Property Administration and Sale. Other items linked to the drug trade included nine smaller airplanes, several vehicles and two boats.

The agency did not disclose the identity of winning bidders. While there is no mechanism to prevent traffickers from repurchasing property, Garcia noted that "in the end, if they buy it, they are going to pay a good amount of money for it".