By Michael O'Boyle and Miguel Gutierrez
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Two Mexican generals, including the former deputy minister of defense who helped lead the escalation of the country's war against drug gangs, are being investigated for ties to organized crime, the attorney general's office said on Wednesday.
Mexican soldiers on Tuesday detained Tomas Angeles Dauahare, who served as the army's second in command until 2008, and Roberto Dawe Gonzalez, who led an elite unit in the state of Colima, and turned them over for questioning to the country's organized crime unit, military and government officials said.
"The generals are making a statement because they are allegedly tied to organized crime activities," an official at the attorney general's office said, on condition of anonymity.
The charges, if proven true, would mark the highest case of military corruption since President Felipe Calderon sent the army to fight the country's drug cartels at the beginning of his term in late 2006.
Calderon named Dauahare as deputy defense minister upon taking office and the general retired in March 2008, according to a military spokesman.
The attorney general's office said both generals had been arrested, but the military spokesman said they were only being questioned at this point.
Mexico's army crackdown on drug gangs has failed to curb spiraling violence that has killed around 55,000 people in the past five years and has eroded support for Calderon's conservative National Action Party, or PAN, ahead of a July 1 presidential vote.
Opinion polls show Calderon's party is trailing by double digits opposition candidate Enrique Pena Nieto from the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which says the government's drug war has failed.
A recent series of increasingly brutal massacres, like the discovery of 49 headless bodies on a highway in northern Mexico over the weekend, could sway voters.
The military has been seen as less susceptible to cartel bribes and intimidation than badly paid local and state police forces easily swayed by drug gang pay offs.
But there have been cases of military corruption in the past. Dauahare himself oversaw the landmark trial of two generals convicted of working with drug gangs in 2002.
(Reporting By Michael O'Boyle, Veronica Sparrowe and Miguel Angel Gutierrez; Editing by Vicki Allen and Jackie Frank)