MONTERREY, Mexico – Ramon Ayala, a famed Mexican singer and leader of the norteño band Los Bravos del Norte who is currently under investigation for alleged drug ties, said he will explain his presence at a party attended by cartel members in the central state of Morelos.
Ayala, who was being held under a form of house arrest before being released this week for health reasons, said Thursday that he will offer an explanation to the media once he has recovered.
“When he’s ready and the doctors allow it, the musician will speak to the media,” Serca Representaciones, the company that represents Ayala, said in a statement.
The statement did not indicate the seriousness of Ayala’s health problems; Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office said in announcing the singer’s release that his medical condition was life-threatening.
Ayala’s band performed at the party along with another famous norteño group known as Los Cadetes de Linares, also represented by Serca.
The statement added that Ayala sends his thanks to “all the people who have offered prayers, to his fans and the musicians who have always been looking out for him.”
His agent, Servando Cano, said that hours after Ayala was released for health reasons he returned to the United States, where he lives, to get together with his family.
Ayala, who was arrested on Dec. 11 while performing at the party attended by members of the Beltran Leyva drug cartel, had been ordered held for 40 days while authorities investigate his alleged links to drug trafficking.
The singer – a four-time Grammy winner known as the king of the accordion – was arrested in Tepoztlan, a town in the central state of Morelos, after marines raided the house where the party was being held, prompting a shootout with Beltran Leyva enforcers.
Three suspected criminals were killed in the fight and 11 others were arrested, while another 26 people were taken into preventive custody, including several musicians.
Last Friday, 18 suspects were released and eight were held in custody for 40 days while being investigated “for their purported responsibility” in organized crime, drug trafficking, money laundering and other offenses.
The arrests made in the raid helped investigators locate the cartel’s top leader, Arturo Beltran Leyva, who was killed along with six of his enforcers at an apartment complex in Cuernavaca, Morelos’ capital, on Dec. 16.
A Mexican marine was killed in that same operation and four members of his family were subsequently slain by suspected Beltran Leyva hit men in a revenge attack.
Some norteño singers sing what are known as “narcocorridos,” ballads that recount the exploits and travails of drug kingpins, and these artists have occasionally been targeted by the drug gangs over the songs.
In recent years, several Mexican artists have come under suspicion of links to organized crime after performing at parties organized by drug cartels.
Two years ago, Tatiana, a singer of children’s music, was performing at a party in the city of Reynosa when army soldiers raided the premises and arrested several drug traffickers at the event.
Another female singer, Paquita la del Barrio, acknowledged in recent days that she has performed at several “narcofiestas.”
Meanwhile, Fernando Rodriguez Mondragon, son of convicted Colombian drug trafficker Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela, wrote in his book that singer Juan Gabriel, actor Roberto Gomez Bolaños, known as “Chespirito,” and actress Florinda Meza performed or attended parties organized by his father.
Mexico has been plagued in recent years by drug-related violence, with powerful cartels battling each other and the security forces, as rival gangs vie for control of lucrative smuggling and distribution routes.
Armed groups linked to Mexico’s drug cartels murdered around 1,500 people in 2006 and 2,700 people in 2007, with the 2008 death toll soaring to more than 6,000.
The death toll from drug-related violence, according to press tallies, stands at more than 7,500 this year.
Since taking office in December 2006, President Felipe Calderon has deployed more than 45,000 soldiers and 20,000 federal police officers across Mexico in a bid to stem the wave of violence unleashed by drug traffickers.
The anti-drug operation, however, has failed to put a dent in the violence due, according to experts, to drug cartels’ ability to buy off the police and even high-ranking prosecutors. EFE