Mexican state attorney general Edgar Veytia arrested in San Diego on drug charges
Mexican Attorney General Edgar Veytia (Photo: screen capture)

The attorney general of Mexico's Pacific coast state of Nayarit, hard hit by drug cartel violence in recent years, has been arrested in San Diego on U.S. narcotics trafficking conspiracy charges, federal officials said on Wednesday.

Edgar Veytia, 45, who has served as the top law enforcement officer of Nayarit since 2013, was charged in a seven-page, three-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury on Monday in the New York borough of Brooklyn and unsealed on Tuesday.

He was taken into custody on Monday in San Diego by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration and Homeland Security Investigations, acting on an arrest warrant, an FBI spokeswoman in San Diego said.

The arrest is another blow for Mexico President Enrique Pena Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party, which governs Nayarit and is reeling from corruption scandals that have led a number of former governors to flee criminal charges.

Veytia was arraigned in U.S. District Court in San Diego on Tuesday, the FBI spokeswoman, Davene Butler, told Reuters. No further details of his arrest or court appearance were immediately released.

Veytia is accused of plotting with unnamed conspirators in the United States to manufacture, import and distribute unspecified quantities of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana between January 2013 and February 2017.

The nature and scope of the alleged conspiracy were not specified in the indictment.

The governor of Nayarit, Roberto Sandoval, said the state government would cooperate with the investigation in Mexico and the United States and said he did not know details of the accusations against Veytia.

"I want to be very clear to the people of Nayarit, men and women, that I will personally take responsibility for the state,” Sandoval said. “We will not lower our guard, we will continue to be one of the safest states.”

The tiny, largely agricultural state, which encompasses a scenic stretch of beaches known as the Riviera Nayarit, has been the scene of increased narcotics-related bloodshed in recent years.

Mexican media have long alleged links between Veytia and the fast-growing Jalisco New Generation cartel.

Mexican marines used a Black Hawk helicopter in February to kill eight suspected cartel members in Nayarit, including the reputed head of the Beltran-Leyva gang, a rival of the Sinaloa cartel formerly run by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

An armed group attacked Veytia in 2011, but he was not injured in the resulting shootout.

(Reporting and writing by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Lizbeth Diaz and Frank Jack Daniel in Mexico City; Editing by Leslie Adler)