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Tuesday, October 8, 2013 - 5:43pm
(CNN) -- — More than half of the suspects Mexican authorities arrested in the bust of an alleged kidnapping gang were active-duty federal police officers, a top official said Tuesday.
"It is unfortunate that among those who have the high honor of serving citizens, some commit acts of treason against the citizens who they swore to protect," government security spokesman Eduardo Sanchez told reporters.
The 18 suspects arrested, including 13 federal police officers, are connected with at least seven homicides and four kidnappings in Guerrero state, Sanchez said.
If convicted, he said, the federal police officers could face sentences of up to 70 years in prison for each alleged kidnapping offense.
Sanchez said the arrests showed the government's commitment to cracking down on any corruption within its ranks.
But the bust was the latest public relations blow for the port of Acapulco, where Sanchez said the alleged crimes had been committed.
The Pacific resort city and surrounding towns were battered by Tropical Storm Manuel last month and made global headlines with the alleged rape of six Spanish tourists there earlier this year.
Sanchez said a citizen's tip helped authorities uncover the criminal group and arrest the suspects in an operation earlier this month.
He declined to provide details about the victims and said authorities were still investigating to determine whether the suspects were connected to crimes in other parts of Mexico.
Since President Enrique Peña Nieto took office in December, 81 federal police officers have been accused of committing crimes, Sanchez said.
"So the message is very clear," he said. "We are not going to tolerate any act of corruption from any public servant."
For years Guerrero state, which includes Acapulco, has ranked among the Mexican states with the highest homicide rates, a crime statistic regularly used by officials and analysts when discussing the overall security situation.
Figures released by Mexico's National Statistics and Geography Institute last week painted a grim picture of kidnapping throughout the country.
A survey revealed that there were more than 105,000 kidnappings nationwide last year, the institute said, but only about 1,300 of them were reported to authorities.
CNNMexico's Lizbeth Padilla Fajardo contributed to this report.