(Reuters) A Mexican judge who tried high-profile drug smuggling cases has stepped down a year after his predecessor was murdered, a court official said on Tuesday, with one media report blaming the resignation on death threats.
Gerardo Garcia, whose court judged the leader of the powerful Gulf Cartel and recently handed a long prison sentence to another narcotics kingpin, has moved to a quieter regional tribunal, a spokesman for the judicial system said.
"People don't stay in posts like this for long," the spokesman said, asking not to be named and declining to confirm why Garcia had moved from the court in the city of Toluca , near Mexico's main high security jail.
A report in the El Universal newspaper said the judge had resigned for security reasons after receiving death threats.
Mexico's wealthy and powerful drug traffickers are responsible for shipping huge quantities of cocaine, marijuana and amphetamines to the United States. They often kill or corrupt authorities who stand in their way.
Last year, Garcia's predecessor Rene Nieto was gunned down after just four months in the post. Nieto handled cases involving members of the Tijuana, Gulf and Juarez cartels.
Garcia recently sentenced Benjamin Arellano Felix, the leader of a smuggling clan in the border city of Tijuana, to 22 years in prison. His court also handled cases involving Osiel Cardenas, the feared Gulf Cartel leader extradited to the United States in January.
In another headline-grabbing case, Garcia presided over trials connected to Chinese-born Mexican Zhenli Ye Gon , the owner of $206 million of presumed methamphetamine smuggling cash found in a Mexico City mansion this year.
President Felipe Calderon has sent thousands of soldiers to regain territory from the drug gangs, earning praise from Washington, which says the flow of cocaine into the United States has slowed as a result.
Last week, police arrested Sandra Avila, known as the "Queen of the Pacific" and accused of being a link between Mexican smugglers and Colombian cocaine gangs.