MEXICO CITY — The director of a maximum-security federal prison notorious for the escape of Mexico's top kingpin was arrested for alleged ties to drug gangs, authorities said Friday.
Francisco Javier Gomez Meza was arrested Thursday on suspicion of links to organized crime while he was a top official at the federal Attorney General's Office, according to a statement from the Public Safety Department. It did not elaborate on the allegations or give any indication that Gomez engaged in corruption as director of the Puente Grande prison in the western city of Guadalajara.
Between 2001 and 2008, Gomez was in charge of police deployments at the Federal Investigative Agency, a now-defunct police force tied to the Attorney General's Office. Before that, he was in charge of arrests and federal prison transfers.
An official at the Attorney General's Office said Gomez left the agency in 2008 because he was under investigation as part of "Operation Clean House," a sweeping corruption probe that led to the arrest of several top security officials for allegedly protecting the Beltran Leyva drug cartel. It was not clear if Gomez, who had not been charged at the time, resigned or was fired.
The official, who was not authorized to comment publicly about the case and spoke on condition of anonymity, said Gomez was appointed director of the Puente Grande prison in early 2010.
Officials at the Public Safety Department – which oversees the federal prisons – declined to comment on how Gomez was named to such a high-profile post.
Puente Grande has in the past been notorious for scandals including the 2001 escape of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, the leader of the powerful Sinaloa cartel. Guzman, one of the world's most powerful drug traffickers, broke out of the prison by hiding a laundry truck. Several guards have been convicted of helping him.
The prison holds several infamous inmates including Rafael Caro Quintero, a drug cartel leader who is serving a 40-year sentence for the torture-murder of a Drug Enforcement Administration agent.
Corruption at all levels has been a relentless obstacle in Mexico's drug war, despite continuous attempts to purge municipal, state and federal police forces.
President Felipe Calderon replaced the Federal Investigative Agency with the 30,000-member Federal Police in an attempt to create a new, better-trained force.
Some 3,200 federal police have been dismissed this year for failing routine background checks and other tests designed to detect corruption, and the government touts the firings as evidence that it is rigorously trying to keep the new force clean.
The agents are barred from taking jobs in any other security forces.
Gomez's arrest came at the end of a particularly violent week in Mexico's drug war. More than 50 people were killed in five apparently unrelated massacres, including the shooting of six young men in a gritty Mexico City neighborhood – an attack that fueled fears of the capital falling prey to the cartel-style violence has terrorized other parts of the country.
The bloodshed continued Friday with the discovery of a man shot to death and left in the Pacific resort city of Acapulco, according to a police report. He was found with a threatening message – two days after Mayor Jose Luis Avila Sanchez warned people to stay indoors after dark because of rising violence in Acapulco.
Six people were killed in the city Wednesday, including three men and a woman found with their hands bound and tied.
Authorities in Acapulco are also investigating the disappearance of a Canadian businessman who disappeared there last week.
In western Michoacan state, meanwhile, soldiers arrested five people traveling in two cars with weapons and marijuana. Among those detained was the former mayor of the town of Tzitzio. A Defense Department statement said they are suspected of having ties to La Familia drug cartel.
Associated Press writers Arturo Perez in Guadalajara, Sergio Flores in Acapulco and Gustavo Ruiz in Morelia contributed to this report.