Photo: Mexican Police
The Federal Police, marine corps and army launched a series of operations along the coast and in the Tierra Caliente region of Michoacan, a state in western Mexico plagued by drug-related violence, a state official said.
Bus companies said Monday they were suspending service to the Pacific coastal and Tierra Caliente regions, where the Caballeros Templarios drug cartel operates.
The move left hundreds of men, women and children stranded at bus stations in Michoacan, whose forests and mountains are used by drug traffickers to grow marijuana and produce synthetic drugs.
The Federal Police reopened a highway that had been blocked since Saturday by suspected drug traffickers in response to the operations of vigilante groups.
Vigilantes clashed with gunmen suspected of being on the payroll of Los Caballeros Templarios over the weekend in the city of Paracuaro, leaving a self-defense group member dead.
Self-defense groups now control 13 cities and a community in Michoacan.
Cartel gunmen blocked the Cuatro Caminos-Apatzingan highway, the main road in the Tierra Caliente region, with two buses, an Apatzingan municipal police department patrol car and three private automobiles, all of which were torched, after vigilantes entered Paracuaro.
The Tierra Caliente region straddles Michoacan, Guerrero and Mexico states.
Cartel gunmen also forced dozens of merchants and bus operators to protest against the self-defense groups, which were formed by civilians attacked and harassed by drug traffickers.
Michoacan Gov. Fausto Vallejo said Monday he planned to meet with the federal Security Cabinet to discuss the law enforcement strategy in his state.
“In light of how delicate of a problem crime is, what we should do is take action, but the previous administration should not try to evade the responsibility it bears, starting out with a declaration of war, and now we see the results with thousands and thousands of dead,” Vallejo said.
Los Caballeros Templarios, which was founded in December 2010 by former members of the La Familia Michoacana cartel, deals in both synthetic drugs and natural drugs.
The gang commits murders, stages kidnappings and runs extortion rackets that target business owners and transport companies, affecting everyday life.
The cartel uses Michoacan’s 270 kilometers (168 miles) of coastline to smuggle chemical drug precursors for the production of synthetic drugs into Mexico.
Self-defense groups have been formed in the cities of Buenavista Tomatlan, Coalcoman, Aguililla, Tepalcatepec, Los Reyes, Chinicuila, Aquila, Paracho, Cheran, La Huacana, Tancitaro, Churumuco and Paracuaro, as well as in a community outside the city of Apatzingan, to fight drug traffickers.