A former interim governor of the southwestern Mexican state of Michoacan arrested two weeks ago for alleged underworld ties took part in a 2011 meeting of several politicians with the leader of the Caballeros Templarios drug cartel, a one-time member of the state legislature said Thursday.
A video of kingpin Servando “La Tuta” Gomez Martinez’s 2011 encounter in the town of Tumbiscatio has been circulating this week on the Internet, but the images are not clear enough to conclusively identify Jose Jesus Reyna Garcia as one of the participants.
But former lawmaker Jose Martinez Pasalagua, who was himself present, said Reyna was there.
Martinez Pasalagua, who insists he was forcibly dragged to the session with La Tuta, said he doesn’t know whether Reyna attended voluntarily or under duress.
Reyna, a member of Mexico’s governing Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, served as Michoacan’s interim governor when Fausto Vallejo took a six-month leave of absence for health reasons in April 2013.
The 62-year-old Reyna has been in custody since early this month on charges of colluding with organized crime. He denies the allegations.
Opposition Sen. Luisa Maria Calderon, sister of former Mexican President Felipe Calderon, was the first to denounce La Tuta’s meeting with several prominent Michoacan politicians, including Reyna, Martinez Pasalagua and the-then mayor of Tepalcatepec, Guillermo Valencia.
Of those named by Sen. Calderon, only Reyna and Valencia denied taking part in the discussions with La Tuta Gomez.
The drug lord wanted the politicians to help him place his allies as candidates for mayoralties and city council seats in municipal elections, Martinez Pasalagua said.
Reyna, according to Martinez Pasalagua, told La Tuta that what he wanted wasn’t possible, as the composition of the PRI ticket was controlled by the party’s national committee.
Federal security forces have occupied parts of Michoacan since mid-January in a push to take down the Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar) and bring under control the armed militias that formed to defend communities from the cartel.
La Tuta Gomez is the only one of the Templarios reputed top leaders who remains at large.