Mexican mayor held in drug cartel bastion

April 17, 2014 - 7:04:58 am

MORELIA, Mexico: The mayor of a western Mexican city once considered a drug cartel stronghold has been arrested on suspicion of forcing town councillors to pay off crime lords, authorities said.

Uriel Chavez is accused of pressuring councillors to donate $1,500 of their salary to support the Knights Templar drug cartel in Apatzingan in the western state of Michoacan, the state prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

Chavez was arrested Tuesday on extortion charges.

Three of the alleged victims filed a complaint on March 6, saying the mayor took them to a rural area where heavily armed men who said they belonged to the cartel told them the payoffs were needed to buy weapons. The state prosecutor did not say how often the councilors made the alleged payments.

So-called self-defense groups that took up arms against the cartel in February 2013 have claimed Chavez is related to the cartel’s slain leader, Nazario Moreno, known as “El Chayo.”