Federal forces will guarantee the public safety in areas of the southwestern Mexican state of Michoacan that have been rocked by clashes between drug traffickers and vigilante groups, Government Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong said Monday.
Osorio Chong made the announcement after meeting with state officials, including Gov. Fausto Vallejo, in Morelia, the capital of Michoacan.
The federal official also called on members of community self-defense groups to “return to where you came from and go back to your daily activities.”
“The institutions will be completely in charge of your communities,” Osorio Chong said.
“There will be no tolerance for anyone caught with firearms” without legal authorization, Osorio Chong said.
Vallejo said Monday that he planned to work out of Apatzingan, a city in the Tierra Caliente region considered the main stronghold of the Caballeros Templarios drug cartel.
“As an emergency measure, I am informing you as state chief executive that, as of now, I will work on a recurring basis in Apatzingan and the entire region, as much as necessary, until its people feel safe and their lives return to normal,” the governor said in a press conference.
Vallejo signed an agreement Monday with the federal government to end the violence in the Tierra Caliente region, where vigilante groups took control of several cities from the Caballeros Templarios.
The Tierra Caliente region straddles Michoacan, Guerrero and Mexico states.
State and municipal police are responsible for law enforcement in Michoacan, but federal security forces patrol some highways and operate in certain areas, as well as in the port of Lazaro Cardenas, the most important in the region.
The violence in Michoacan intensified after masked men set fire Friday to businesses, seven vehicles and two municipal offices in Apatzingan.
Some Mexican analysts say Michoacan is close to becoming a failed state because some areas are ungovernable due to the presence of drug traffickers and the emergence of vigilante groups.
Community self-defense groups occupied two more towns in Michoacan over the weekend.
Vigilantes entered El Ceñidor, a town outside the city of Paracuaro, and occupied it, a Federal Police spokesman said.
Paracuaro is one of the more than one dozen cities and towns where self-defense groups have been formed to fight the Caballeros Templarios drug cartel.
Vigilantes also took control of Zapotan, a coastal community outside the city Coahuayana.
Los Caballeros Templarios, which was founded in December 2010 by former members of the 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.
The community self-defense groups emerged in Michoacan in February 2013 to fight the cartel.
Community self-defense groups and community police forces have been formed in 15 of Michoacan’s 113 cities.