Governor in Mexico’s troubled Michoacan state steps down

Michoacan state Gov. Fausto Vallejo, left, leaves a meeting in Apatzingan in January 2014. Vallejo is stepping down, citing health reasons.
Michoacan state Gov. Fausto Vallejo, left, leaves a meeting in Apatzingan in January 2014. Vallejo is stepping down, citing health reasons.
(Eduardo Verdugo / Associated Press)

Days after photos appeared purportedly showing his son meeting with a top drug trafficker, the governor of the beleaguered Mexican state of Michoacan resigned Wednesday, citing poor health.

Fausto Vallejo presented his resignation in person to President Enrique Peña Nieto in a meeting at the chief executive’s residence in Mexico City, his office announced. Both are from the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.

Vallejo’s health “requires a permanent and continuous treatment and for that reason he did not want to be an obstacle to the development of Michoacan,” the statement said.

It is true that Vallejo has long been ill, having previously temporarily stepped down to pursue a kidney transplant and announcing last month he would go to the United States for further treatment. The exact nature of his illness was never revealed in detail.


But as recently as the start of this week, he was insisting he would not resign.

Vallejo has been widely blamed for allowing the western agriculturally rich state of Michoacan to fall further into the hands of dominant drug cartels such as the notorious, cult-like Knights Templar. Only in recent months has that tide been turned when civilians took the law into their own hands, arming themselves and fighting back.

Under Vallejo and some of his predecessors and associates, drug traffickers infiltrated police departments and city halls across Michoacan. Unlike in other parts of Mexico and with other cartels, the Michoacan gangs seemed as interested in participating in political power as in making millions from the production and export of methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana.

During Vallejo’s previous leave of absence, another official, Jesus Reyna, filled in. Reyna is now in prison, accused of ties with the Knights Templar.

Add to that a photograph published in social media over the weekend that appeared to show Vallejo’s son Rodrigo meeting with Servando Gomez Martinez, alias La Tuta, a former teacher who is leader of the Knights Templar.

The Michoacan government sought to downplay the importance of the photo, saying that Rodrigo Vallejo was not an elected official.

The federal government, however, has said La Tuta is a high-value target whom authorities hope to capture as part of a broadened operation involving the military and national police.

Michoacan under Vallejo became one of several states where violence, killing and extortion are so rampantly out of control that the federal government has set up a kind of outside administrator, sidestepping officials such as Vallejo.


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