MEXICO CITY — Mexican federal authorities have detained the interior minister of Michoacan state after determining that he has "possible contacts with criminal organizations," according to a statement released by prosecutors Saturday night.
The aggressive action against Interior Minister Jesus Reyna, is a sign that the federal government, which has struggled for months to control the drug-plagued state, is considering the possibility that the influence of narcotics trafficking has spread nearly to the pinnacle of state government.
The federal detention order, called an arraigo, allows prosecutors to hold Reyna in custody for 40 days for further investigation.
Reyna also served as the interim appointed governor of the western state from April to October of last year. He was ordered to the attorney general's headquarters in Mexico City on Friday afternoon to give testimony as part of a federal investigation, but had not been identified as a suspect.
Reyna, who filled in for the then-ailing governor, Fausto Vallejo, a fellow member of President Enrique Peña Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party, has strenuously denied drug cartel links.
An uprising by armed citizen militias against a drug cartel called the Knights Templar has resulted in a tangle of accusations, counter-accusations and suspicions about the motives of government officials and militia leaders.
In late July, a prominent self-defense group leader named Jose Manuel Mireles, in a radio interview, accused Reyna of being a Knights Templar member, alleging that Reyna was one of a host of corrupt officials who had given the vigilante groups no choice but to rise up and defend themselves.
The state government at the time issued a statement saying it "categorically" rejected the accusations against Reyna.