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Old 09-02-09, 07:41 PM   #1
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Post Gunmen kill top state security officer in Mexico (AP)

AP -

MORELIA, Mexico – Gunmen in cars chased down and killed the No. 2 security official in the home state of President Felipe Calderon, where drug cartels are waging their biggest offensive yet against Mexico's government. Three others died in the ambush Wednesday.

Attackers drove up alongside a car being driven by Michoacan deputy public safety director Jose Manuel Revuelta and opened fire, state Attorney General Jesus Montejano said.

Revuelta tried to speed away, but only made it a few blocks before he was intercepted by two vehicles. Six gunmen got out and sprayed Revuelta's car with bullets, killing him, two bodyguards and a truck driver caught in the crossfire, Montejano said.

Revuelta had held the post less than two weeks in the western state, the cradle of the ruthless La Familia drug cartel, which has been blamed for a string of assassinations of federal police and soldiers in recent weeks. Revuelta is the highest-ranking government official killed in the wave of violence sweeping Michoacan.

An AP reporter at the scene saw the bodies of Revuelta and his bodyguards in the car, which had at least 15 bullet holes in the front windshield. Soldiers and federal police rushed to the site — just three blocks from the headquarters of the Michoacan Public Safety Department — and a helicopter circled overhead.

Calderon first launched his crackdown against drug cartels in Michoacan, sending thousands of federal police and soldiers to his home state after taking office in late 2006. Tens of thousands more have since been deployed to drug hotspots across Mexico.

The government intensified its fight against La Familia since accusing the cartel in a series of deadly attacks across Michoacan in July. In the worst attack, 12 federal agents were slain and their tortured bodies piled along a roadside as a warning for all to see. It was the boldest cartel attack yet on Mexico's government.

Authorities say La Familia was retaliating for the arrest of one of its top members. The cartel controls illicit trades in Michoacan ranging from drug trafficking and methamphetamine production to kidnapping and extortion.

Last week, soldiers captured another suspected La Familia leader, Luis Ricardo Magana, who is alleged to have controlled methamphetamine shipments to the United States for the gang.

Days before his capture, prosecutors detained the mother of reputed La Familia leader Servando "La Tuta" Gomez despite his threat to retaliate if police bothered his family. The woman was released after two days "for lack of evidence" of involvement in the cartel.

Drug gang violence has surged under Calderon, claiming more than 13,500 lives, including more than 1,000 police.

Calderon, whose National Action Party lost big in July legislative elections because of public unease with the violence and an economic recession, defended his battle against drug trafficking in a speech to Congress on Wednesday. He said the government has taken on the cartels as no previous Mexican administration has dared to do.

"As never before, we have weakened the logistical and financial structure of crime," the president told legislators.

In a report submitted to Congress, Calderon said his government has seized 90 tons of cocaine, 5,000 tons of marijuana and some 50,000 illegal weapons. It also said authorities have detained more than 80,000 people linked to organized crime, although it did not specify how many were part of the drug trade.

Mexico also has a major problem with kidnapping gangs and other criminals.

Also on Wednesday, police arrested three men who allegedly kidnapped and killed Raul Mandujano, a government official in southern Chiapas state who had fought to stop migrant smugglers. Prosecutors said Mandujano, whose tortured body was found in a makeshift grave Tuesday, might have been killed by a gang of human traffickers.

The federal Attorney General's Office, meanwhile, announced the arrest of its two top officials in Quintana Roo, a state on the Yucatan Peninsula, for allegedly protecting the Gulf and the Beltran Levya drug cartels.

Officials provided no further details on the allegations against the prosecutors, who were ordered jailed by a court Wednesday pending the investigation.

Hundreds of police officers and government officials have been arrested or fired for alleged ties to drug traffickers since Calderon began his campaign against the cartels. The president has acknowledged corruption pervades all levels of Mexico's government and has vowed to crack down.


Associated Press Writers Manuel de la Cruz in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas, and Alexandra Olson in Mexico City contributed to this report.


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