Former state lawmaker arrested in western Mexico

Mexico City, Jul 23 (EFE).- A transportation industry regulator and former state legislator was arrested in the western Mexican state of Michoacan for allegedly having ties to drug traffickers, officials said.

Jose Trinidad Martinez Pasalagua was the subject of an arrest warrant executed on Tuesday by the Attorney General's Office, Government Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio said Tuesday.

Martinez Pasalagua worked directly with Caballeros Templarios drug cartel boss Servando Gomez Martinez, an AG's office spokesman said.

The former lawmaker collected "payments from operators of routes" monthly and handed the money over to Gomez Martinez, Criminal Investigations Agency director Tomas Zeron said in a statement.

"For at least eight months, Martinez Pasalagua was the head of the transportation sector in Michoacan, bringing pressure to bear so the transportation regulatory commission would grant franchises and routes to people close to his and the criminal organization's interests," Zeron said.

The suspect "used threats and the heavy-handed pressure of the criminal organization to influence the appointment of public servants close to his interests in the transportation sector in Michoacan state," Zeron said.

The AG's office investigated Martinez Pasalagua and presented the evidence to a judge, who issued the arrest warrant, Zeron said.

The evidence gathered by prosecutors "showed probable cause that the now accused was a member of a criminal organization operating in the state of Michoacan and was involved" in drug trafficking," Zeron said.

Martinez Pasalagua was arrested in Morelia, the capital of Michoacan, the Criminal Investigations Agency director said.

The suspect had been summoned to give a statement in April by federal prosecutors as part of the investigation of a meeting he allegedly attended in 2011 with Caballeros Templarios cartel leaders, Zeron said.

Former acting Michoacan Gov. Jesus Reyna, currently jailed for his alleged links to the cartel, also attended the meeting.

Martinez Pasalagua was allowed to remain free after giving a statement three months ago, but federal prosecutors said at the time that the investigation would continue.

The suspect was serving as the director of the Michoacan Transportation Regulatory Commission, or CRTM, and controlled 80 percent of the industry in the western state.

The Caballeros Templarios cartel, which deals in both synthetic and natural drugs, commits murders, stages kidnappings and runs extortion rackets that target business owners and transport companies in Michoacan.

Servando Gomez Martinez took over the Caballeros Templarios cartel's leadership earlier this year.

Federal security forces killed the cartel's two top leaders, Nazario Moreno Gonzalez and Enrique Plancarte Solis, in February and March, respectively.

Moreno and other members of the Familia Michoacana gang formed the Caballeros Templarios organization after he was reported killed by the government in 2010.

The federal government is offering a reward of 30 million pesos (about $2.3 million) for information leading to Gomez Martinez's arrest.