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Drug cartel meddled in Mexican election

The Americas Post - Not even government "Wanted" billboards are safe from the Knights Templar

Another Mexican official on Friday accused drug traffickers of attempting to influence elections in the western state of Michoacan, a charge previously leveled by some candidates and party leaders.

Outgoing acting interior secretary Juan Marcos Gutierrez claimed a drug cartel conducted “boldfaced interference” in last Sunday’s state elections.  Although he declined to name the group, a single cartel called The Knights Templar now dominates most of Michoacan after breaking off from competing gang “La Familia”.

“We cannot allow such organized crime to even begin trying to influence the results,” he said. “We have the obligation to bulletproof ourselves against this kind of bold-faced interference.”

Gutierrez said traffickers attempted to intimidate voters to cast ballots a certain way.  He also said that a local newspaper, in a city whose mayor was shot to death before the election, was forced to run an ad that threatened to kill anyone who voted for the mayor’s party.

Like President Felipe Calderon, that mayor was a member of the conservative National Action Party.  Calderon’s sister ran for governor in the Michoacan elections, but lost to a candidate from the former ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

Gutierrez called the threats from traffickers “extremely worrisome.”

Gutierrez served just a single week as interim interior secretary before passing the torch to Alejandro Poire on Thursday. In Mexico, the interior department is responsible for domestic security and helps organize elections.

In his first speech upon taking office, Poire said “We will not permit criminals of any kind to interfere with our right to freely elect our representatives.”

Also Friday, the Mexican army announced seizure of a $350,000 radio communications network, operated by the Zetas drug cartel in the northern state of Coahuila.  The Defense Department said the hardware consisted of 122 radio sets, mostly hand-held, used by the Zetas for internal communications and monitor law enforcement agencies.

The Mexican navy also reported detention of 14 alleged Zetas members in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, where drug gang violence has raged in recent months.   The Veracruz state government reported that four people were killed in a shootout with authorities near the state capital, as well.