Mexican prosecutors have filed charges against six military officers for crimes linked to drug trafficking, officials said.
A federal judge issued an order late on Tuesday to imprison the men — four army generals, a lieutenant colonel and a major — for organized crime under retired division commander general Tomas Angeles Dauahare, former assistant secretary of national defense from 2006 to 2008.
Others charged included Brigadier General Roberto Dawe Gonzalez, retired general Ricardo Escorcia Vargas, retired lieutenant colonel Jesus Hernandez Soto and Major Ivan Reyna Munoz.
Brigadier General Ruben Perez Ramirez was also ordered to prison for related charges.
They were the highest-ranking Mexican army officials to be jailed for drug trafficking violations since 1997, when general Jesus Gutierrez Rebollo, head of the national counternarcotics agency at the time, was arrested. He was later sentenced to 40 years behind bars for his role in organized crime.
The latest group of men was transferred to the Almoloya high-security prison outside Mexico City. They had been in temporary detention since May and the charges were filed based on statements from two former Beltran-Leyva cartel members who accuse them of having links to the drug gang.
The judge has between 72 and 144 hours to decide whether to formally charge the group or keep them behind bars.
Although prosecutors did not provide further details about the charges, US-born drug trafficker Edgar Valdes Villarreal — a former Beltran Leyva cartel member known as “La Barbie” — was also charged in the same case, along with two other jailed members of the cartel.
Lawyers for Angeles, 69, blamed the charges on political maneuvering during campaigning for the July 1 presidential elections that saw the Institutional Revolutionary Party win back power for the first time in 12 years. Angeles was a close aide to Guillermo Galvan, the current secretary of national defense.
Mexican media noted that Angeles had criticized President Felipe Calderon’s nationwide crackdown on organized crime during a forum organized by the PRI, saying the campaign had been marred by human rights violations.
The judge’s order came amid a major dispute over who will assume leadership of the army under the new government led by Enrique Pena Nieto, which takes office on Dec. 1.
The army has gained sweeping power in recent years thanks to the war on drugs launched by Calderon that has left over 50,000 people dead since December 2006.