The governor of Mexico's southwestern state of Michoacan has resigned, marking the end to a term during which both state and local officials have been accused of colluding with and facilitating the activities of organized crime.
On June 18, Michoacan Governor Fausto Vallejo announced he was resigning for health reasons, reported CNN. Since taking office in February 2012, Vallejo had been granted medical leave on three separate occasions, the longest of which was a six-month absence between April and October 2013 for liver surgery.
His announcement came just four days after a picture began circulating on social media sites of Vallejo's son Rodrigo together with Knights Templar cartel leader Servando Gomez, alias "La Tuta."
Although Vallejo promised to investigate the source of the photo, he has not yet revealed any further details, reported AFP.
In the wake of the scandal unleashed by the picture, the federal government maintained that the governor's resignation was motivated by health problems and released a statement saying Vallejo's medical issues required "permanent and continued treatment."
InSight Crime Analysis
During Vallejo's time in office, Michoacan authorities have been the subjects of numerous accusations of ties to the Knights Templar cartel, which has its hub of operations in that state. Former Government Secretary Jesus Reyna -- who was left in charge during Vallejo's prolonged absences -- was sent to federal prison earlier this year on accusations he colluded with the Knights Templar.
In April, the mayor of Michoacan's principal port city, Lazaro Cardenas, was also arrested for alleged Knights Templar ties. His arrest came shortly after that of another Michoacan mayor accused of working with the cartel.
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In addition to these accusations, Vallejo's government has largely failed to address the activities of this criminal organization in the state, leading federal authorities to step in. In November 2013, the national government sent troops to Michoacan to seize control of Lazaro Cardenas, from where the Knights Templar trafficked drugs and exported illegally mined minerals. It is also mainly the federal, rather than state, government that has worked to institutionalize the operations of self-defense forces that sprung up in Michoacan with the purported goal of fighting the Knights Templar.
If it is true that Vallejo or his family have Knights Templar links, the governor's resignation could signal the end of an era of government cooperation for the cartel, which has relied greatly on official corruption for its operations.