msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 6/8/2011 5:27:47 AM ET 2011-06-08T09:27:47

A former governor was arrested Tuesday on suspicion that he embezzled more than $9 million (about 100 million pesos) in federal disaster fund money meant to rebuild hurricane-struck zones in southern Mexico.

Pablo Salazar, formerly governor of Chiapas, was detained in the airport of the Yucatan resort of Cancun by Chiapas state police, said Raziel Lopez, the state attorney general. Police flew him to Tuxtla Gutierrez, capital of Chiapas, Tuesday night to be presented before a judge.

Lopez said Salazar used relief money offered by the federal government to enrich himself instead of rebuilding Indian villages that were destroyed in 2005 by Hurricane Stan. Then President Vicente Fox had offered $780 million (8.5 billion pesos) in federal disaster fund money for Chiapas.

Authorities initially said Salazar was charged with stealing $90 million (1 billion pesos), but later revised the number downward.

Lopez said Salazar faces charges of embezzlement and conspiracy, which carry a sentence of between six and 24 years in prison. Lopez warned that more public officials are being investigated in the case.

The 56-year-old Salazar, also an evangelical pastor, governed Chiapas between 2000 and 2006 as part of a historic six-party coalition. Before that, he served as a senator for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which held power for 70 years.

Months after the October 2005 hurricane struck coastal towns, killing 71 people in Chiapas and damaging hundreds of homes, victims marched to protest the lack of progress in efforts to rebuild hard-hit communities.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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